Can Leclerc disrupt Mercedes’ bid for another one-two?

2019 French Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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In Canada Charles Leclerc was six-tenths of a second off pole position and very unhappy with his performance. In France he is again six-tenths off pole but is pleased with the step forward he’s made.

That tells you everything you need to know about Ferrari’s expectations heading into the French Grand Prix at a track which was likely to suit Mercedes much better. While Vettel took pole in Canada, Leclerc is their leading driver on the grid this weekend, but the red cars couldn’t tough their silver rivals.

This has set up a similar grid to last year. Hamilton leads another Mercedes one-two followed by a single Ferrari – Leclerc instead of Vettel this time – with the second SF90 pushed off the second row.

Twelve months ago Vettel, from third on the grid, started very well but was effectively pinned in place by the Mercedes pair and bumped into Valtteri Bottas, earning himself a penalty. Leclerc could find himself in the same predicament, particularly as the long run to turn one will give the Ferrari chance to stretch its legs.

However even if he can get ahead of one or – the dream scenario for Ferrari – both of the Mercedes, he will face a challenge to stay there. “Their race pace on Friday was very, very, very strong,” Leclerc pointed out after qualifying. “I think a good start will be very important and then we’ll see what happens. Obviously if we’re in front at the start it will be easier – but it’s not going to be easy.”

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Paul Ricard, 2019
Hamilton is seeking his sixth win of the season
Losing pole position to Hamilton in Q3 was a major blow for Bottas, who had looked the quicker of the two until the pole position shoot-out. He badly needs to finish in front of Hamilton to stem the loss of points in the championship chase.

Having qualified only seventh on the grid, Vettel’s chances of finishing higher than fourth seem slim. Ahead of him he has the two McLaren drivers, who will no doubt want to get stuck into Max Verstappen ahead of them but will also be keen to do as Renault did in Canada, and successfully keep the other Red Bull behind them.

Their cause will be aided by the fact Pierre Gasly, following another underwhelming qualifying performance, will be one of two drivers starting the race on the soft compound tyres. The other is his former Prema GP2 team mate Antonio Giovinazzi.

There’s little reason to expect the remaining drivers will deviate from the preferred single-stop medium/hard tyre approach; the soft tyre has been too fragile in the hot conditions seen so far at the track, and Sunday is expected to be hotter still. While the prospects of anyone taking the fight to Mercedes seem remote, Leclerc has a chance and for one should not have to worry about the close proximity to his team mate, whom Ferrari have seldom passed up a chance to favour so far this year.

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Qualifying times in full

Driver Car Q1

Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1’30.609 1’29.520 (-1.089) 1’28.319 (-1.201)
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1’30.550 1’29.437 (-1.113) 1’28.605 (-0.832)
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1’30.647 1’29.699 (-0.948) 1’28.965 (-0.734)
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 1’31.327 1’30.099 (-1.228) 1’29.409 (-0.690)
5 Lando Norris McLaren 1’30.989 1’30.019 (-0.970) 1’29.418 (-0.601)
6 Carlos Sainz Jnr McLaren 1’31.073 1’30.319 (-0.754) 1’29.522 (-0.797)
7 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1’31.075 1’29.506 (-1.569) 1’29.799 (+0.293)
8 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1’30.954 1’30.369 (-0.585) 1’29.918 (-0.451)
9 Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1’31.152 1’30.421 (-0.731) 1’30.184 (-0.237)
10 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1’31.180 1’30.408 (-0.772) 1’33.420 (+3.012)
11 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso 1’31.445 1’30.461 (-0.984)
12 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1’30.972 1’30.533 (-0.439)
13 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1’30.865 1’30.544 (-0.321)
14 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1’30.964 1’30.738 (-0.226)
15 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1’31.166 1’31.440 (+0.274)
16 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1’31.564
17 Romain Grosjean Haas 1’31.626
18 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1’31.726
19 George Russell Williams 1’32.789
20 Robert Kubica Williams 1’33.205

Sector times

Driver Sector 1 Sector 2 Sector 3
Lewis Hamilton 21.951 (1) 27.300 (1) 39.005 (1)
Valtteri Bottas 22.046 (2) 27.493 (4) 39.066 (2)
Charles Leclerc 22.184 (3) 27.434 (3) 39.215 (3)
Max Verstappen 22.279 (5) 27.652 (9) 39.455 (5)
Lando Norris 22.369 (6) 27.631 (7) 39.407 (4)
Carlos Sainz Jnr 22.254 (4) 27.648 (8) 39.611 (6)
Sebastian Vettel 22.370 (7) 27.388 (2) 39.675 (7)
Daniel Ricciardo 22.514 (8) 27.630 (6) 39.725 (9)
Pierre Gasly 22.523 (9) 27.880 (13) 39.685 (8)
Antonio Giovinazzi 22.667 (13) 27.745 (10) 39.996 (13)
Alexander Albon 22.570 (10) 27.863 (12) 39.857 (11)
Kimi Raikkonen 22.651 (12) 27.754 (11) 39.940 (12)
Nico Hulkenberg 22.610 (11) 27.583 (5) 40.128 (15)
Sergio Perez 22.815 (16) 28.038 (15) 39.808 (10)
Kevin Magnussen 22.791 (14) 27.921 (14) 40.105 (14)
Daniil Kvyat 22.929 (17) 28.196 (18) 40.439 (17)
Romain Grosjean 22.804 (15) 28.183 (17) 40.562 (18)
Lance Stroll 23.164 (18) 28.150 (16) 40.412 (16)
George Russell 23.220 (19) 28.491 (19) 41.078 (20)
Robert Kubica 23.566 (20) 28.649 (20) 40.990 (19)

Speed trap

Pos Driver Car Engine Speed (kph/mph) Gap
1 Daniel Ricciardo Renault Renault 342.5 (212.8)
2 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Ferrari 341.8 (212.4) -0.7
3 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Ferrari 341.2 (212.0) -1.3
4 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari Ferrari 340.3 (211.5) -2.2
5 Alexander Albon Toro Rosso Honda 340.2 (211.4) -2.3
6 Charles Leclerc Ferrari Ferrari 339.8 (211.1) -2.7
7 Sergio Perez Racing Point Mercedes 339.7 (211.1) -2.8
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault Renault 339.5 (211.0) -3.0
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes Mercedes 338.6 (210.4) -3.9
10 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 337.1 (209.5) -5.4
11 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes Mercedes 336.9 (209.3) -5.6
12 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 336.6 (209.2) -5.9
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point Mercedes 335.9 (208.7) -6.6
14 Carlos Sainz Jnr McLaren Renault 335.4 (208.4) -7.1
15 Max Verstappen Red Bull Honda 333.9 (207.5) -8.6
16 Robert Kubica Williams Mercedes 333.3 (207.1) -9.2
17 George Russell Williams Mercedes 331.5 (206.0) -11.0
18 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Honda 331.4 (205.9) -11.1
19 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 330.3 (205.2) -12.2
20 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso Honda 329.4 (204.7) -13.1

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Drivers’ remaining tyres

Driver Team Hard Medium Soft
New Used New Used New Used
Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1 0 1 1 0 3
Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1 0 1 1 0 3
Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1 0 0 2 1 2
Charles Leclerc Ferrari 1 0 0 2 1 2
Max Verstappen Red Bull 1 0 1 1 0 3
Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1 0 0 1 0 4
Daniel Riccairdo Renault 1 0 0 1 0 4
Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 0 0 1 2 3
Kevin Magnussen Haas 1 0 1 0 1 4
Romain Grosjean Haas 1 0 1 0 3 2
Carlos Sainz Jnr McLaren 1 0 0 2 0 3
Lando Norris McLaren 1 0 0 1 0 4
Sergio Perez Racing Point 1 0 1 0 1 4
Lance Stroll Racing Point 1 0 1 0 3 2
Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo 1 0 0 1 1 4
Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 1 0 1 0 0 4
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1 0 1 0 2 3
Alexander Albon Toro Rosso 1 0 1 0 1 4
George Russell Williams 1 0 2 0 1 3
Robert Kubica Williams 1 0 2 0 1 3

Over to you

Share your views on the French Grand Prix in the comments.

2019 French Grand Prix

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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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13 comments on “Can Leclerc disrupt Mercedes’ bid for another one-two?”

  1. Long run to turn 1 could be messy. Lec would be trying to get 1 Mercedes at the start and Vettel out of position.
    Gasly has been a disappointment so far especially when he looked so promising last year.

    1. I think we can now safely say that last year’s Toro Rosso was a pretty good car. That car didn’t deserve to be only 9th in the championship. Even with two Gaslys they would have been very close to McLaren for sixth, and with two top drivers they would have defeated the other midfield teams quite easily I reckon.

  2. OK so it’s going to be hot, but is it likely to be windy? That could be a real factor in the race on this track where the cars are really on the limit in a lot of corners. Bottas looked deflated after qualifying, but whoever leads after the first corner has a real race advantage, we could be in for the first bit of real friction between the Mercedes drivers. What really intirgues me, though, is Verstappen, Leclerc and the two McLarens, should be a good race between them. Also, safety car, definitely.

  3. WOWEE ! When was the last time a Renault engine headed the speed-trap, I’m thinking maybe the 1.5L turbo era ?
    Consequentially there has to be a downforce deficit so DanRic must be hustling and glad there is so much runoff.

    1. @hohum In the race in Monza in 2016 maybe in 2014 as well.

      1. @jerejj, really, silly me, I was forgetting Team Renault, thinking only of RBR. I guess in their situation low drag was, and apparently still is, the low budget way to go.

  4. How have the Ferrari-drivers managed to save one entirely fresh set of the softest compound for the race, unliker the rest of the other Q3-runners?

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      23rd June 2019, 7:53

      @jerejj Because nobody expects to use soft during the race? Mercedes even expended a set doing a run on softs (not going across the finish line) at the end of Q2.

      1. @f1osaurus That isn’t what I meant, though. I thought they had used all of their soft-sets in qualifying so that like the rest of the Q3-runners, they’d only have softs left as ‘used’ for the race. You are the 2nd person who’s misinterpreted my wording, LOL.

        1. F1oSaurus (@)
          23rd June 2019, 16:14

          @jerejj Not sure this is about misinterpreting words.

          They only go out twice in Q3. Mercedes did a third run on softs in Q2. So Merc used 3 and Ferrari 2?

  5. F1oSaurus (@)
    23rd June 2019, 7:59

    Last year Hamilton and Bottas worked together amazingly to box in Vettel on the much faster tyres. It frustrated Vettel so much that it didn’t end well for Bottas, but still they would have both been behind Vettel otherwise.

    I wonder/doubt if they will collaborate like that still tough. Bottas and Hamilton will probably be more interested in going into turn 1 in front of the other Mercedes. This could end up in a “two dogs fighting over a bone” routine that the Ferrari drivers showed in Monza last year. Ending up giving the win to Hamilton instead of scoring a 1-2 themselves.

  6. It’s time Lewis and Valtteri clash in the first corner and open up the race for the rest. Bottas looked frustrated after q3 and his chances are dwindling fast.
    So he had to take some corrective measures. His contract still is not signed, so he had to show he had balls to oppose Lewis.

    1. F1oSaurus (@)
      23rd June 2019, 16:15

      That’s such a lame comment. What would that even do? The race would have been just as boring.

Comments are closed.