Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Paul Ricard, 2019

Why Hamilton expects “lots of lift-and-coasting” in the French GP

2019 French Grand Prix Friday practice analysis

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Hot weather plus new asphalt laid at Paul Ricard just two weeks ago created challenging track conditions for drivers on the first day of practice for the French Grand Prix.

The soft (C4) compound struggled especially on track temperatures which nudged towards 60C, the highest seen so far this season, and over the recently-laid sections of asphalt.

The new patches of track are very different to the other sections, as Pirelli motorsport director Mario Isola explained. “We have a circuit with three different types of asphalt,” he said. “Not very usual. One is from last year, one is from the winter, one is from two weeks ago.

“What happened is they resurfaced all the circuit in 2018. Then after the Blancpain [Endurance Series] and probably also the grand prix there were some damages in some corners. So they put patches in a lot of places. We came here in February to measure the roughness of the patches to understand if they were different from the original Tarmac.”

“But then – I’m not one hundred percent sure – it probably happened after the Blancpain this year that was three weeks ago, they put some other patches of Tarmac mainly in the centre of the corner. And this asphalt is quite different.

“It is a lot smoother than the other one with more bitumen and more oil. So I believe the level of grip on the latest Tarmac compared to the other two is different. It’s less grippy than the rest of the circuit.”

The soft tyre grained quickly on the low-grip sections of track. Any drivers who start on it are likely to pit early in the race. However, as was the case last year, the drivers in the quickest cars will most likely be able to get through Q2 using the middle compound, giving them a strategic advantage.

Other factors are likely to push drivers towards single-stop strategies, such as the lower speed limit in Paul Ricard’s tight pit lane, as Lewis Hamilton explained.

Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Paul Ricard, 2019
Red Bull expect race pace gains from new Honda
“The tyres, even though we’ve got the soft, they’re pretty hard. For a single lap, they’re really, really hard. They’re still not easy to get right in the working range for all the corners. But then on a long run they don’t like the heavy car, the soft tyre, they grain quite heavily, quite easily. So I don’t think you’ll be going very far with those tyres.

“But then the medium and the hard look quite resilient to that. The track was like 55 to 60 degrees which is the highest we’ve seen so far this year so I would hope that would mean that we can do more stops but these tyres are so damn hard that we’ll just end up doing a one stop for sure.

“Plus the pit lane is so slow at 60kph, no one wants to lose 27, 28 seconds, whatever it is, in the pit lane, so they’ll eke out out those times. So I’m not expecting to see the most exciting of duels out there because people are trying to make the tyres go as far as possible. So there’ll be lots of lift-and-coasting.”

Mercedes have begun the weekend in good shape at a track which, on paper, looked likely to suit them. The track characteristics are similar to the Circuit de Catalunya, where the silver cars had their biggest lap time advantage since 2016.

Ferrari and Red Bull have brought upgrades this weekend. Red Bull’s new Honda power unit is expected to deliver greater benefits in the race than in qualifying, while some of Ferrari’s new parts may return to the shelf until a later date. That points towards a Hamilton-versus-Valtteri Bottas fight for overall honours.

Longest stint comparison – second practice

This chart shows all the drivers’ lap times (in seconds) during their longest unbroken stint. Very slow laps omitted. Scroll to zoom, drag to pan, right-click to reset:

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Combined practice times

PosDriverCarFP1FP2Total laps
1Valtteri BottasMercedes1’32.8071’30.93754
2Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’32.7381’31.36146
3Charles LeclercFerrari1’33.1111’31.58652
4Sebastian VettelFerrari1’33.7901’31.66554
5Lando NorrisMcLaren-Renault1’34.1101’31.88254
6Max VerstappenRed Bull-Honda1’33.6181’32.04949
7Carlos Sainz JnrMcLaren-Renault1’34.2611’32.43253
8Pierre GaslyRed Bull-Honda1’34.0911’32.44849
9Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’35.5221’32.67756
10Kevin MagnussenHaas-Ferrari1’35.4101’32.78949
11Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo-Ferrari1’36.1021’32.97356
12Daniel RicciardoRenault1’34.5401’33.02052
13Alexander AlbonToro Rosso-Honda1’34.8041’33.02360
14Nico HulkenbergRenault1’34.8101’33.08157
15Daniil KvyatToro Rosso-Honda1’35.3261’33.25461
16Sergio PerezRacing Point-Mercedes1’34.8091’33.30051
17Romain GrosjeanHaas-Ferrari1’37.6201’33.59136
18Lance StrollRacing Point-Mercedes1’35.0631’33.88454
19George RussellWilliams-Mercedes1’34.61433
20Robert KubicaWilliams-Mercedes1’37.1721’35.19559

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2019 French Grand Prix

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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12 comments on “Why Hamilton expects “lots of lift-and-coasting” in the French GP”

  1. It is simply the slowest way to go faster.
    If managing tyres is bad, just pick the two stop strategy.
    Oh, the two stop strategy is not quicker all around.
    Then lift-and-coast is the fastest way.

    1. As you used to hear a lot from drivers in the 1950’s-80’s ‘The object of an F1 race is to win at the slowest possible speed’.

      1. @peterg, winning at the slowest speed then was all about making sure the engine made it to the finish line. Pre ECU they only had one engine mode, “party mode” and it was up to the driver not to overuse it.

        1. Not true, they had engines just for qually, they also had fuel mixture knobs and boost controllers. You are talking nonsense.

          1. @megatron, 1950’s to 80’s, boost ? Think again youngster.

  2. Even with “lift and coasting”, Mercedes were faster than last year and ahead of all competitors. It seems all others could be doing “lift and brakes” then..

  3. If this is going to be a homecoming parade pace, it may make sense for RBR to send gasly out as a rabbit to test the nerve of Ferrari or even on Mercedes and their faith in their models. Tempt them to cover an early stop.

    1. I agree. It’s about time someone in one of the top teams tried doing a two (or ever 3) stop race and pushed flat out if for no other reason than to cause a bit of panic among the strategists.

      That being said Ferrari would be bound to fall for it…..

    2. @dmw, the problem there is that strategy would rely on Gasly being fast enough to be seen as a credible threat, and he just hasn’t been fast enough.

      In practise, rather than presenting a threat to those in front, he has looked more under threat from the midfield pack behind him, and he’s also just come off the back of a Canadian GP where he was fairly comfortably beaten by the two Renault drivers as well. Trying that strategy would rely on Gasly being able to either keep clear of the midfield pack, or being able to cut his way through the midfield pack quickly – and I’m not sure if they would be confident on backing him to do that.

      1. Yep, if any of the Red Bull do it, it will have to be Verstappen – maybe if there’s some sort of start mayhem that might make it useful; otherwise, I suppose Leclerc will be put onto that strategy to put him behind Verstappen?

  4. Mclaren the only team to go faster than last year! That’s pretty impressive. Mclaren has made some steady improvements on the chassis side, as did Renault with the power unit. It’s looking good for a best of the rest finish for them this weekend.

    Red bull.. The team that’s most off the pace from last year’s time. I thought Honda put a new spec power unit in the back of their car… Apparently with a performance gain. If there is progress on the Honda unit, then Red bull should be in better shape than they were on Friday.

    Maybe another typical Honda update? Where there’s a certain amount of progress that can be never be proven?

    1. No, I think by now it is quite clear the Red Bull chassis isn’t as good as last year – Verstappen said on Thursday (I think?) that the new front wing rules made them lose a lot of their outwash, which cost them a lot, so I guess they haven’t recovered as much as Ferrari and Mercedes (or lost more, I suppose) @todfod

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