Formula 1 | Peaks, flops and questions after the French Grand Prix

After each Grand Prix, Nextgen-Auto.com invites you to find the tops and flops identified by the editorial staff. Who deserves to be applauded? Who, on the other hand, should be criticized? Finally, what are the question marks or ambiguities to follow with interest during the next Grand Prix? Check it out below!

Tops.

Top n ° 1: Hamilton shines, double podium and double hopes for Mercedes F1

Last year it was hard to imagine Lewis Hamilton so happy with a 2nd place duel with Max Verstappen. Also on Saturday evening, after qualifying, we had the same difficulty imagining the optimistic and relieved Mercedes F1, while the performance in one lap, on this circuit, which was supposed to be more favorable than Paul Ricard, had been disappointing, with almost a second behind poleman Charles Leclerc. Yet on Sunday evening, the Mercedes clan was ecstatic and Lewis Hamilton confided it to them “I couldn’t be happier. “

But what happened in the meantime? The race, go! The Mercedes have in fact had a very satisfactory pace in the long stints, to the point of being able to regularly beat Sergio Pérez’s Red Bull (Max Verstappen is out of reach for the moment). In truth, the developments or characteristics of the Paul Ricard circuit have accentuated Mercedes’ strengths and weaknesses: the German team seemed even further away in qualifying, and even closer in the race. What remains is the excellent reliability that allows Mercedes to return to 44 points behind Ferrari in the constructors’ classification.

While morale, deflated on Saturday evening, returned on Sunday, a special mention must still be attributed to Lewis Hamilton. Not only did the seven-time world champion dominate George Russell for the whole weekend (3 tenths apart in qualifying in particular). But he still sees himself rewarded for his irreproachable attitude and for all his substantial work on the settings. Work that will perhaps bear fruit next year … with a car more tuned to the wishes of Chief Engineer Hamilton?

Top n ° 2: Verstappen controls the race and the championship

The battle with Lewis Hamilton seems to have made Max Verstappen grow and mature: calmer, more composed, more serene, the Dutchman has established himself as the undeniable boss of this year. The statistics still show it: 7 wins in 12 races, he is unstoppable and allows the Red Bull driver to have a padded mattress on his head (63 points advantage). It is therefore this solidity, this calm, this serenity, this implacable constancy of the Red Bull driver that we would like to emphasize here.

His performance at Paul Ricard also illustrated what makes Max Verstappen strong this year. When he’s unable to get Charles Leclerc in pure speed, the Dutchman now knows how to be patient, making him Auguste’s motto: Festina Slow, Hurry Slowly. Max Verstappen applied a strategy of wear and patience, believing he should have saved his tires more than trying to overtake Charles Leclerc at the start of the race. This cautious strategy, aimed at maximizing the intermediate points, is paying off this year, especially as Ferrari crashes into the wall of reality. In short, Max is never as strong as when he’s not crazy …

Top n ° 3: Fernando Alonso collects, collects, collects …

When the black cat is absent, the mouse Fernando Alonso dances! At the beginning of the season, and even on some occasions lately, the Alpine Spaniard was like the victim of a curse: only 2 points in 6 races. Since then, he has had solid results almost every weekend, effectively demonstrating that when luck returns, the results come back with it. The consequences are also immediate for Alpine, which now precedes McLaren in 4th place in the constructors’ classification.

This Grand Prix at Paul Ricard proved it again. Without having the pure speed of Lando Norris in qualifying (5 tenths of difference all the same), on Sunday Fernando Alonso did Fernando Alonso: fox, trickster, very efficient trickster at the start, he was already ahead of the McLarens at the end of the first lap, also proposing himself George Russell’s Mercedes. He then easily checked the gap on Norris… and the expert Fernando Alonso, as proof of his motivation and confidence in him, also wanted the McLarens to come back to him so as to wear out their Pirellis!

It is therefore a new final weekend for Fernando Alonso, who also put team mate Esteban Ocon in check, who suspects a problem with the chassis of his car. Two years of possible extension at the Alpine may seem long for a forty-year-old, but with a forty-year-old like this, the future has no age.

The flops

Flop n ° 1: Ferrari abuses Ricard

When everything goes well, it means that soon everything will go wrong for Scuderia Ferrari… This is the feeling that Maranello has given for several races. For the third time this year, Charles Leclerc then retired while driving a Grand Prix. For once (unlike Barcelona, ​​Monaco or Baku for example, but like Imola), Charles Leclerc doesn’t have his team to blame: but himself for the mistake made on lap 18. He did not hesitate elsewhere not after his arrival, finding words that even his most avid detractors, compassionate at that moment, had not dared to imagine. The parallels with Sebastian Vettel’s mistake at Hockenheim in 2018 have been drawn and probably have their validity; the explanations on Charles Leclerc’s excursion, perhaps guilty of having pulled too much on the rear axle (but isn’t this also what makes it strong?), will multiply; the perennial themes, ‘can you be a champion if you make too many mistakes?’ will return, while the answer has been known since 1950. Of course, Charles Leclerc knows that he must not make such mistakes in the future and obviously holds the potential of a future world champion. Success never happens all at once.

Also, Charles Leclerc shouldn’t take 100% responsibility for his potential failure this year against Max Verstappen (a failure taking shape 63 points behind in the standings now). Ferrari also accumulates errors this year. Still with Carlos Sainz in strategy: despite an excellent pace (the Spaniard had perhaps his best weekend of the year), Sainz had to deal with a lack of strategy at Ferrari. The Scuderia stopped him too late for his last stint as a medium to bear fruit. Talking to him on the radio in the midst of a superb battle with Sergio Pérez’s Red Bull! And while he fooled him about his 5-second penalty for unsafe release, the pilot himself had to correct his track engineer on the radio, to remind him it wasn’t a stop-and-release-go …

Finally, reliability continues to be a concern for Ferrari: this time it was Guanyu Zhou who suffered an obvious Ferrari engine failure, which went a little unnoticed due to the events. The fact is that this year the Scuderia proves that it is not always ready to fight against a car like Red Bull. It’s a bit the same refrain from 2017 and 2018: the riders aren’t faultless, but basically they follow the example set by their team … This refrain was worrying, then haunting, now it’s scary.

Flop 2: Pérez wasn’t really there

Sergio Pérez was a bit of a shadow of himself this Sunday at Paul Ricard. His only hope for him was certainly placed at the right moment, in Q3, because he finished only 1 tenth and a half behind Max Verstappen after being dropped by his teammate in free practice. In the race, of course, Sergio Pérez paid the price for this weekend’s poor preparation. Seeing his team-mate win as he was beaten by the Mercedes at a pure pace (and no matter how bad the virtual safety car was, George Russell was still very close)… could weigh on the Mexican’s morale.

For the rest, Sergio Pérez supported his own troubling remarks, when he stated that the development of the car was more in the direction of Max Verstappen than in his direction. After this weekend in France, we want to believe it, and it’s also hard to see how to prove Milton Keynes’s technical team wrong. Brilliant second or good second, Sergio Pérez remains a second. Also, when we see the Ferraris, Max Verstappen may no longer need Checo to win the title …

Flop n ° 3: Pierre Gasly’s weekend: developments on Friday, regression on Saturday, disappointment on Sunday

When things don’t go well… Free practice was still promising for AlphaTauri and Pierre Gasly: ​​thanks to the latest but apparently effective upgrades, the Italian car seemed to have the potential to compete again with the Alfa Romeos and McLarens. Then: crash, as too often this year. In qualifying, unable to get enough pace from his AlphaTauri, and particularly struggling with his rear axle, Pierre Gasly suffered his fourth elimination in Q1 (none last year). When his teammate reached Q3. The observation is therefore all the more bitter for the Norman when he sees Yuki Tsunoda make more use of the car, thus starting to bite his reputation as well as his morale.

In the race it was very difficult for Pierre Gasly to feel comfortable enough to hope for points. A symbol of his frustration was perhaps a failure to overtake Alexander Albon’s Williams: Pierre Gasly then had to keep going, losing a handful of positions on the occasion. Pierre Gasly has however moved up to 12th place to give himself a little hope for the second half of the season: under normal circumstances, these developments bring something and the rest of the Hungaroring should be better suited for the AlphaTauri. Hope, Gasly needs it just when his season, like his career, seems to stutter. Probably very unfairly.

We want to see…

A final French Grand Prix soon?

Are we not ready to see the French Grand Prix again? Officially nothing is done yet for next year: the calendar has not been announced and the hope remains with Eric Boullier, the boss of the Grand Prix. But these attitudes can only be lavish: it is too late to snatch a contract for next year, especially when such prestigious and, let’s face it, perhaps more glamorous Grand Prix, like in Las Vegas, or more symbolic, like in South Africa, knocks on the brings.

The Paul Ricard, however, has also shown that he knows how to make a good impression: especially with the skirmish between George Russell and Sergio Pérez. The level of safety also remains very good, with large gradients reported but at least not full of curbs or treacherous gravel as in Silverstone. The organizational hiccup remains (caps still present, little water in the circuit despite the oppressive heat …), but we are far from the 2018 fiasco.

But Paul Ricard could struggle against a bigger opponent, the dynamics of F1 globalization. What can Beausset do against Las Vegas? Signals in front of Singapore and Shanghai? The Southern Region in front of the State of Qatar? This is why Christian Estrosi asked for a restart from the Head of State, after having done so much with his own weapons it is true: “We are in the middle of an argument, I have not resigned myself, while I have allowed our country to regain its French Grand Prix, this magnificent sporting event, this magnificent popular event. It is also positive if the Head of State and France say through his government that we want Formula 1, that we want to have one of the most popular sports in our country. The president confirmed it to me, now I see in what conditions we will not be, the communities, alone as we have been for five years to carry this on our shoulders “ he confided to Canal +.

An alternation with the Belgian Grand Prix, therefore every other year, would be a nice rescue for Paul Ricard. A way to perpetuate what could have disappeared a long time ago without the effective mobilization of local authorities.

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