What the teams said - Friday in France
Finishing on top of both sessions might look like the perfect day for the Silver Arrows, but it wasn't all plain sailing. Hamilton in particular struggled at times, running wide and locking up at what looked like a very tricky track. He was even called to the stewards to explain how he rejoined the track after one such moment, but they took no further action. Bottas also ran wide but managed to avoid taking out a bollard like his team mate, and the two drivers look set for a close intra-team battle tomorrow for pole.
Lewis Hamilton - FP1: 1:32.738, P1; FP2: 1:31.361, P2
"It's been very hot today, but we got through most of the programme. It's been a bit difficult with the balance of the car; maybe that's to do with the new tarmac they have here and the high temperatures, I think the track reached 55 to 60 degrees today. In general, the car pace is really good, we just have to fine-tune the balance. I didn't do a very good FP2 lap, I had a big snap into Turn 3 which I thought was a good catch, but ultimately I had a small issue with the Power Unit afterwards and had to come to the garage. Otherwise it's been a smooth day with no major problems."
Valtteri Bottas - FP1: 1:32.807, P2; FP2: 1:30.937, P1
"It was not easy in the beginning; everyone struggled in the morning because the track was much more slippery than usual. But the track ramped up quickly, I could feel big gains on a lap-by-lap basis, especially in the corners. The more the track improved, the better the balance of the car felt. Despite the balance issues, the car was quick out of the box which is always a good start. We've made good changes between the sessions and I felt much more comfortable in FP2, which is why the lap time was better. It's really warm out there, and it will only get warmer, so tyres are going to be on the limit, especially on Sunday. We still struggle with the balance over the course of the entire lap, so we'll have a good look at the data tonight to see what we can improve for tomorrow."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It's been an interesting day from the point of view of the tyres and the car performance. All the cornering regions of the circuit have been recently resurfaced and it was clear that the Soft tyre was suffering quite badly on the new tarmac. Our pace looked pretty good, but the balance was really messy due to poor grip from the rear tyres. We made some changes over the break to help calm the car down and both drivers felt it was better in the afternoon. Valtteri had a clean session, his pace on low fuel was good and the long run was consistent. Lewis was finding it a bit harder to get the balance of the car in the right place and he made a mistake on his Soft tyre run. We would have continued on that tyre, but we detected a misfire shortly after and brought the car in to investigate. We were able to get back out to do some long run work after fixing the issue and the car looked to be working well for Lewis on race fuel. We have a bit of work to do tonight to see if we can further improve the rear end, but we seem to have a decent car to work with. So, overall we are quite happy."
Ferrari were testing out a new front wing in FP1, choosing to run the new spec on Vettel's car and the older spec on Leclerc's for direct comparison. Roll on FP2 and they did look to set representative lap times, but were a worrying few tenths back on the Silver Arrows. The question now is can the Scuderia close the gap and challenge for pole tomorrow?
Sebastian Vettel - FP1: 1:33.790, P5; FP2: 1:31.665, P4
"I would say we have a lot of work ahead of us since not all the new parts we have here performed exactly as expected. I think we have a lot of data to analyse overnight, to possibly have a bit better performance tomorrow.
"On the Canada matter I would say we felt that we didn't share the opinion of the stewards during the race in Canada and we thought that we could bring something new. It is disappointing that the matter is not going any further but that is what we have now and so we have to move on."
Charles Leclerc - FP1: 1:33.111, P3; FP2: 1:31.586, P3
"I am generally happy with how our sessions went today. The feeling in the car was good and we tested some new parts. We are confident but we still have a lot of work ahead of us to put the car in the best condition for a strong qualifying.
"Our competitors are strong and we must focus on ourselves to really put everything together for tomorrow. It was fun to drive on this circuit again. It is a bit of a different track to the others because the walls are so far away that you can push and try more during practice. I look forward to being back in the car tomorrow morning."
Gasly didn't have an easy time at his home race, spinning in first practice, wrecking a set of tyres in the process. On straight pace, he looks to be in a fight with the McLaren boys to even make the top six. Verstappen also made mistakes on the tricky track, running wide as he struggled for grip. When he did keep the RB15 pointing in the right direction, the Dutchman looked quick and should be in the mix with the Ferrari boys tomorrow.
Max Verstappen - FP1: 1:33.618, P4; FP2: 1:32.049, P6
“We still have some work to do but we looked reasonably competitive against Ferrari. Mercedes are still too quick but we will look at the data and see what we can improve for tomorrow. The tyres are not that easy to predict and it seems that the softest compound is not a lot faster than the medium, which will make things quite interesting in qualifying. All in all, it wasn’t a bad day and we were able to make lots of changes, especially this morning, to fine tune our set up for the rest of the weekend.”
Pierre Gasly - FP1: 1:34.091, P6; FP2: 1:32.448, P8
“Today was good. We tested a lot of new parts on the car and now I need to sit down and analyse with the guys what worked and what didn’t. Regarding the new Honda engine, it’s difficult to say much as I’ve just come out of the car but we will look at everything tonight and push it more tomorrow. The general feeling was good, the reliability was completely fine and in terms of performance, we need to see if it’s delivering what we expected. The conditions and also the tarmac made it difficult with the tyres and grip. In general it’s a bit different to what we expected coming into the weekend but it’s the same for everybody. In FP1, there was less grip initially but this afternoon it seemed a bit better so let’s see if it keeps increasing like this. The soft tyres seemed to fall away so we need to see what’s best in terms of strategy and what we can do for Sunday.”
McLaren had a very good day with both cars finishing solidly in the top 10 in both sessions. They looked comfortably 'best of the rest' but will need to iron out a few niggles overnight - including Norris suffering battery pack charging problems. Fix those, and McLaren could have a very positive qualifying indeed.
Carlos Sainz - FP1: 1:34.261, P8; FP2: 1:32.432, P7
“An interesting day overall with a lot of testing. I think the first question mark was the tyre performance today, as it was quite different to other races and a very different feeling across all three compounds. I’ve been testing some experimental things today and they don't always work to perfection. However, I was still P8, so it shows we have potential for tomorrow.
“Running very different set-ups compared to the other car means we have gathered a lot of valuable data for the future. Tomorrow we’ll go back to more normal settings, take things that we've learned today from Lando’s car, and hopefully have a strong quali for the team.”
Lando Norris - FP1: 1:34.110, P7; FP2: 1:31.882, P5
“It’s been a good day, and to be honest a much better start to the weekend than in Canada for me. It’s a cool track, Turn 11 is the best where I hardly touch the brakes. Position-wise it looks quite promising, although in Canada the car was very quick on Friday, but even though we were still quick, the rest of the weekend we dropped back slightly, so we’re cautious.
“We tried a lot of stuff today and hopefully we can put all of that together on the car tomorrow and we can have a positive day. As a team, we’ve done a good job, the pace looks promising and if we can improve the car a little we should have a good qualifying. There’s a lot of improvements to be made and we just need to keep pushing.”
Andrea Stella, Performance Director
“They were busy sessions today that included lots of testing of car parts and also set-up options. It was hot and windy so it was good to complete plenty of laps to adapt to these conditions, finalise car set-up and to understand tyre behaviour.
“Overall it was a decent Friday but we've already seen many times this season that on Saturday and Sunday, the competition gets tighter. So we keep working and preparing the best we possibly can for what we know will be a close qualifying and race.”
Ricciardo ran a new 'B spec' power unit, with the team holding off giving it to Hulkenberg to avoid grid penalties. The Aussie did get the better of his team mate in both sessions, despite damaging his floor after running over the high kerbs. With both cars suffering smoking cockpits, it seems reliability might be the biggest issue facing the team at their home race.
Nico Hulkenberg - FP1: 1:34.810, P12; FP2: 1:33.081, P14
“It was a solid Friday in the car, we worked through what we needed to and tested out the new parts in the afternoon. It felt positive and encouraging. Conditions were very hot, which meant it was challenging at the wheel. All in all, it was a decent day where we collected a lot of data, especially on the long runs, which were good. We have more work to do on the low fuel pace. This circuit is quite demanding with different corner variations throughout. As ever for practice, we have some things to look at to find that sweet spot.”
Daniel Ricciardo - FP1: 1:34.540, P9; FP2: 1:33.020, P12
“Today was positive, although maybe the timesheets don’t reflect how the car actually felt. Across all our runs today, the car seemed good. Our soft tyre run in qualifying trim was slightly tricky, especially with high track temperatures and maybe we missed out a little there. It didn’t feel that far off, and I’m certainly optimistic for tomorrow. The upgrades seemed positive and we have some data to go through to find further improvements.”
Nick Chester, Chassis Technical Director
“It’s been an interesting first day of running. This morning was productive, but we seemed to lose some pace in the afternoon. While we looked fairly competitive on the longer runs, we have some pace to find on the shorter ones. The deltas between the tyre compounds isn’t quite as expected here – there’s not much between them. We need to look through the data we gathered to evaluate the new upgrades to make sure we get everything to work together tomorrow.”
A day to forget for Grosjean at his home race - he sat out much of first practice due to a water leak, before locking up at the start of FP2 and damaging his only set of hard tyres that he had for practice. The Frenchman swapped to some softs but these proved no easier to handle, as he went wide repeatedly, getting increasingly frustrated on the radio. Magnussen had a quieter day by comparison but still struggled for pace respective to the rest of the midfield.
Romain Grosjean - FP1: 1:37.620, P20; FP2: 1:33.591, P17
“We didn’t start with the best baseline set up, I could feel that in the first run. We then had a water leak and that was the end of FP1. When you’re not starting with a car that’s bang on target, it just puts you a little on the backfoot, it was not ideal. Then in FP2, we had that front lock up on the first attempt, that’s not understandable at the moment. The tyre was damaged, so we had to abort that run. I tried as hard as I could to carry on as I knew I only had one set left after that. We moved onto the soft, and by the end of the high-fuel run we were in a better place. It was a more positive end to the day.”
Kevin Magnussen - FP1: 1:35.410, P15; FP2: 1:32.789, P10
“I think it’s been a pretty good day. It was very hot on the track, so the tyres were getting hot, but the car seemed to be working alright, on both low-fuel and high-fuel. So, that’s encouraging, and we’ll try to build on that, we’ll try to learn why that is today and try and make sure it also works on Sunday. We’re in the mix but it’s the race pace we’re really focussing on.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It’s been a very challenging Friday for us, specifically with Romain (Grosjean) not doing many laps and Kevin (Magnussen) struggling to find a balance in the car. The afternoon went a little bit better, at least for Kevin. Not so for Romain as he flat-spotted his first set of tyres immediately, then he waited until the track got better to go out on his second set. On Kevin’s car, the guys worked on the set up and balance – I think we’re getting there. We still need to make quite a step tomorrow to be competitive over the weekend.”
Alfa have faded of late after a strong start to the season, and certainly looked to be at the back of the midfield based on first practice. But whatever changes they made between sessions worked, with Raikkonen coming home in the top 10 and Giovinazzi not far behind. Can they keep that form going into tomorrow's qualifying though?
Kimi Raikkonen - FP1: 1:35.522, P16; FP2: 1:32.677, P9
“It’s easy to see what the lap times tell, but as usual you cannot read too much into Fridays. In general, I think it was a positive day. We have to keep working to get more out of the car and we’ll see where we end up in qualifying tomorrow.”
Antonio Giovinazzi - FP1: 1:36.102, P17; FP2: 1:32.973, P11
“We can be pleased with our first day on track and with finishing close to the top 10. The midfield is still really tight, so we will need to work a lot tonight and find the last bits of performance, but it was a positive start. Tomorrow is another day so we need to focus, work hard and try to have the best car possible for qualifying. Q3 remains our target.”
Racing Point kept a low profile, with both drivers able to complete a full programme. They struggled slightly more in the hotter afternoon temperatures, which doesn't bode well given they were representative of both qualifying and race conditions. On current form, they look contenders to be in the mix for Q1 elimination, unless the team find something special overnight...
Sergio Perez - FP1: 1:34.809, P11; FP2: 1:33.300, P16
“The new tarmac was very dirty this morning and there was big track evolution during the day. That’s why we saw so many cars struggling this morning and a few spins. We worked on understanding the current package because we don’t have big upgrades for this race. So we just tried to find a balance that I’m happy with and evaluated some of the things we’ve added to the car over the last few events. I can feel the potential in the car and we are making improvements, but we need to make a good step tonight.”
Lance Stroll - FP1: 1:35.063, P13; FP2: 1:33.884, P18
“It was a challenging afternoon and we are further back than we want to be at the moment. Compared to where we were on Friday afternoon in Canada, it looks like we have a lot of work to do overnight to understand where we can make up some ground. This place is a demanding track for the car and the long corners are tough on the neck, but it is what we train for and I am feeling pretty good. We need to find some pace for the performance runs, but the car felt better during the long runs and I’m confident we will be able to push when it counts on Sunday.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“The programme today was focussed on improving the balance of the car and continued evaluation of the aero components we have brought to the car recently – including front wings and floors. That went to plan and we also collected important tyre information with hot track conditions similar to those anticipated for Sunday. There’s a lot of information to digest this evening to ensure we make the correct decisions for tomorrow.”
Kvyat was running the latest spec Honda engine, but instead of laying down the laps, went for an early spin in FP1 instead, flat spotting his tyres. He did atone in second practice, finishing at the top of the lap count with 37. The Russian is carrying a grid penalty due to exceeding his ICE allocation and thus focused on long-run pace. Albon kept his head down, but finished ahead of his team mate in both sessions in what was an encouraging display.
Daniil Kvyat - FP1: 1:35.326, P14; FP2: 1:33.254, P15
“All in all, today wasn’t too bad as we had a productive day. Even though it wasn’t easy to understand everything about the tyres, we still managed to learn quite a lot. FP2 was pretty clean and we were able to get a few things done to see where the car is. For me, the focus was mainly race preparation, but we completed a few short runs as well to see how the car performs in those conditions. I think today we covered everything we needed to, now we need to understand what we can do to improve the car further.”
Alex Albon - FP1: 1:34.804, P10; FP2: 1:33.023, P13
“Today wasn’t the easiest day for us. We made a very good step from FP1 to FP2, although it was hard to get a full understanding of where the tyres were because the track was so hot today. We’ll have a look into the data we gathered and see where we can improve for qualifying. As always, it’s very close in the midfield, so we need work hard to find those extra tenths of a second to get us into Q3 tomorrow.”
Jonathan Eddolls, Chief Race Engineer
“It looks to be a very hot weekend in Paul Ricard and this is not giving the tyres an easy time, which were struggling in the heat and proved to be the main topic of the day. We expected a good chance of high track temperatures and difficulties in getting the C4 to work well here given that it’s a lower working range compound, even over a short run.
“We took the decision to fit the new Spec 3 PU from Honda this weekend on Daniil’s car, which is his fourth PU of the season, so the tyre choice was not ideal since he will be starting from the back of the grid. Both cars struggled for grip and balance at the start of FP1, particularly with the tyres overheating, but we made a number of changes during the session which helped improve the car for FP2. As it’s a less conventional weekend for Daniil, we were able to run two Option tyres at the start of the afternoon session to learn about the car rather than trying to set the ultimate lap time. For Alex, it was a more straight-forward session, and actually, the Prime tyre which has a higher working range, performed as well as the Option over the short run as it was more suited to the conditions in FP2.
“As we say most weekends, it’s looking extremely tight in the midfield again, and every fraction of a second we can find for Qualifying will make a difference. We are a little further back in the classification compared to where we expected to be, so the plan for tonight will be to review all of the data and fine-tune the car for tomorrow and the race.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“Today, we ran the Spec 3 PU on all of our cars with the exception of Albon’s. He continued with the Spec 2 as it was decided not to have both Toro Rosso cars penalised for use of a fourth PU. We experienced no major issues and the day went smoothly, as we worked on finding the best settings for this latest PU update. Now we must study the data in detail overnight, before continuing to fine tune the settings in the final free practice.”
Latifi stood in for Russell in first practice, running wide but keeping the Englishman's car in one piece. Come second practice, Russell reclaimed his cockpit and produced a solid display although he earned the wrath of Vettel for getting in the German's way at one point. Kubica couldn't match his team mate for pace and will need to produce something special tomorrow if he isn't to prop up the field.
Robert Kubica - FP1: 1:37.172, P19; FP2: 1:35.195, P20
"It was a usual Friday, nothing stands out. There were no surprises, so it was okay. We did a lot of work and tested a few data gathering items for aerodynamic purposes. The track was not bad, FP2 it was rubbering in, so the grip increased, and it was quite good fun to drive."
George Russell - FP2: 1:34.614, P19
"Today was as expected and I enjoyed it. Missing FP1 wasn’t ideal but I know the track well, so I got into the rhythm pretty quickly. Circuit Paul Ricard has a nice flow to it and the car felt alright. Overall, I enjoyed the laps out there and the pace was what we expected. We must keep on improving the car balance to make the most out of the package this weekend."
Nicholas Latifi - FP1: 1:37.147, P18
"It was good to have another FP1 session so close to my drive in Canada. I still had the rhythm of a Formula One car and I feel more comfortable. However, this morning the track conditions were tricky making it difficult to maintain consistent grip in the tyres from lap-to-lap. All in all, I was pleased with how today went, I kept it clean and got the car back to George in one piece."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"There have been numerous changes to the circuit since last year. This has included further resurfacing, some of which has been done very recently. This, combined with the hot conditions in FP1, appeared to lead to quite low grip with most cars suffering with an oversteer balance. Both drivers did a good job of completing the programme despite the conditions and we were able to gain some useful data on the Pirelli Soft compound.
"George was back in his race car for FP2 and was pleased with the set-up work that Nicholas had done during FP1. The wind and track temperature both picked-up during the afternoon making conditions more inconsistent. Both drivers enjoyed good long runs on the harder compounds. As always, we have a lot of data to look through to help us set the car up for tomorrow, but, overall, we have had a good, productive, and error-free day."
Mario Isola, head of F1 and Car Racing
"The remarkable thing about today’s session was the fact that Lewis Hamilton set his fastest time on the medium tyre, as opposed to everyone else who set their best time on the softs, as is usual for a Friday. This means that there’s a strong chance of seeing these medium tyres in Q2, with some drivers perhaps using them to start the race on. There was a high degree of track evolution, with the circuit being very slippery this morning. This caused the cars to slide a lot, as a result of which we saw some graining. In warmer temperatures and with more rubber on the track, this phenomenon was progressively reduced, to the extent that the fastest FP2 time was more than 1.5 seconds quicker than last year. We anticipate seeing the lap times get even quicker tomorrow, as they have done throughout the season to date."