NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Lewis Hamilton Earns Pole For French GP

Qualifying – The French Grand Prix

In a result that shocked no one, Lewis Hamilton claimed his third pole position of the season at Circuit Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix. His total matches that of his teammate Valtteri Bottas, who looked like the favorite for the top starting position after pacing much of practice.  

Of the 15 races at the track, eight times the driver who started first has won. For Bottas, who settled in at around two-tenths behind Hamilton, it means he has work to do if he is hoping to stay with Hamilton and continue fighting for his first title. Right now, Bottas sits 29 points behind, but he is in danger of losing touch with the five-time world champion. Bottas claimed that the shifting winds changed the speed of his lap, which may or may not be a solid excuse, but it does show certain elements of perfection that is required to best Hamilton.

While the drivers title looks to be a battle between two Mercedes drivers, there are still 18 other cars on the grid, and occasionally, they put up a fight. Unfortunately, this weekend has not brought much of a fight from the other teams, which could be seen from Charles Leclerc taking third in qualifying but still being nearly seven-tenths (0.689) behind.  Even worse, his Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel boned Q3 and could muster only seventh.

Vettelʻs result is another mark against the German driver in a year that grows more frustrating with each lap he turns. He has struggled in qualifying and races, and his team has certainly done him no favors. But the more he continues to flounder — which is a funny comment to make for a driver sitting third in the standings — the more the whispers will grow louder surrounding his future.

Following Leclerc is Red Bullʻs Max Verstappen, with the unlikely McLaren pair slotting into the next two spots. The performance by McLaren seems surprising given how they have performed over the past three years. With Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz taking fifth and sixth, the Renault team must have grimaced, as they were beaten by their own power supply. In fact, Daniel Ricciardo could manage only eighth, with Red Bullʻs Pierre Gasly taking ninth and Antonio Giovinazzi taking the 10th spot in qualifying.

Full qualifying results are below.

Frustration on Top of Frustration for Vettel

Vettel could do no better than seventh for the start of the French GP, and one has to wonder if he has begun to soak in so much pressure that he drives in a constant red mist in his mind. His job was made no easier when he and Ferrari lost their appeal of the penalty given them at the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

Though the team thought they had brought new evidence to their meeting with the stewards, the result changed nothing and Vettel was still found to be at fault for rejoining the racing surface in an unsafe manner.  

This season is in danger of slipping away for Vettel, and that seems surprising, as there is still more than half a season to go. But if something doesn’t change soon, then there wonʻt be reason for optimism.  

Looking at the French GP

This weekend marks the second year in a row that Formula 1 returns to France, the most popular tourist destination in the world. The series took a 10-year break from racing in the country after financial troubles scuttled the event in 2008. Prior to the eventʻs departure from the schedule, the race had been held at Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours from 1991 onward.  

Two active drivers have won previously at Circuit Paul Ricard, with Kimi Raikkonen doing so in 2007 and Hamilton doing it in 2018.  

In one way, this race is as typical as any, but there is more at stake in France. This event sits as a marker for whether or not F1 can continue to maintain its presence in Europe and bring people to the track, or whether the fees associated with hosting a race have grown so substantially large as to price them out of the series. As the Italian, German, British and Spanish GPs have all incurred financial woes and F1 has moved races elsewhere to milk new markets, those fans who are near or who have access to what might be considered historical tracks or events need to back their words.  

So far, the support for the French GP has been excellent, but there still seems to be nervousness.  

The Race

The French GP is one of the oldest races in the world, having begun in 1906. There have been 86 runnings of the French GP at a total of 16 sites, which is a rather high number, but illustrates the fluctuations in the longevity of the event. The 100th year anniversary in 2008 marked the end of the GP until this running. Racing at Circuit Paul Ricard is visually interesting, as the track features unique black, blue and red striped run-off areas. These areas were constructed in lieu of gravel traps and feature higher abrasion the farther a car slips off the track. The track features a long Mistral Straight at just over one mile in length, and the whole of it, having been built on a plateau, is rather flat. Many teams test at the track because of the numerous configurations that it has, and some drivers have raced on it in other series. 

 

POS NO DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3 LAPS
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:30.609 1:29.520 1:28.319 20
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:30.550 1:29.437 1:28.605 19
3 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 1:30.647 1:29.699 1:28.965 19
4 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:31.327 1:30.099 1:29.409 19
5 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN RENAULT 1:30.989 1:30.019 1:29.418 21
6 55 Carlos Sainz MCLAREN RENAULT 1:31.073 1:30.319 1:29.522 21
7 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:31.075 1:29.506 1:29.799 19
8 3 Daniel Ricciardo RENAULT 1:30.954 1:30.369 1:29.918 20
9 10 Pierre Gasly RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:31.152 1:30.421 1:30.184 19
10 99 Antonio Giovinazzi ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:31.180 1:30.408 1:33.420 17
11 23 Alexander Albon SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:31.445 1:30.461 14
12 7 Kimi Räikkönen ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:30.972 1:30.533 14
13 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:30.865 1:30.544 15
14 11 Sergio Perez RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 1:30.964 1:30.738 15
15 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:31.166 1:31.440 17
16 26 Daniil Kvyat SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:31.564 6
17 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:31.626 9
18 18 Lance Stroll RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 1:31.726 9
19 63 George Russell WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:32.789 8
20 88 Robert Kubica WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:33.205 8

 

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