What the teams said - Race day in France
Hamilton made a great start and never looked back, leading from lights out to the chequered flag in serene fashion. Bottas likewise seemed assured of second until he struggled to warm up his tyres after a brief late VSC period, allowing Leclerc a glimpse of a chance. Fortunately the chequered flag was only a couple of laps away, so the Finn held on for a sixth Mercedes one-two of the season. The question is, can Bottas get back to his early season winning ways, and prevent his team mate from extending his championship lead next weekend in Austria?
Lewis Hamilton, 1st
"I’ve been racing a long, long time but this just never gets old. It’s always a challenge out there and I just love trying to find the edge, and really being on top of this machine. This is actually an awesome track to drive in the race, there’s some really technical areas. It may look easy from the outside but it wasn’t easy at all, everything’s always on the edge. So, when I could, I was saving tyres, saving the engine, saving fuel. I had quite big blisters on my front tyres which I was a little worried about. But we got to the end and I couldn’t do it without this incredible team. I’m so proud of everyone and so proud to be part of this group of people. This has been the best start of the year so we have got to enjoy it."
Valtteri Bottas, 2nd
"It was a fairly quiet race in the end. The start was my best bet, but Lewis also had a good start, so the opportunity wasn’t there. Lewis was very quick today; I was trying to keep up, but my front tyres were starting to fall into pieces, both on the Mediums and at the end on the Hard tyres towards the end as well. We were concerned with the blistering we saw in the last part of the race, so I had to back off a little bit. There was definitely a bit of margin left, but we wanted to be on the safe side and make it to the end. But ultimately, Lewis had the pace advantage today and kept the tyres in better shape, so it's something for me to have a look at and learn. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done as a team, scoring another 1-2 is a great result."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"In terms of car and driver performance today, that was one of our best of the season. Lewis drove a really good race, he was in complete control at the front and it was a truly faultless performance by him. Valtteri struggled a little in the second stint and he lost a chunk of time under the VSC towards the end, so Charles could get very close in the end. I am really pleased for the team this weekend, it’s been a tough few weeks with a lot of long days, but we are relentless and will continue to push. To score another 1-2 finish is an incredible result and a credit to all the hard work and effort of this team. Now, we look to Austria, which is coming home for me. It’s a power track there and we have been a bit marginal on cooling. It’s meant to be very warm there, so we expect this to be a much harder fight."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"It’s been another very good weekend for the team and well done to Lewis on a very strong performance. We looked to have the better car here today but not by a big margin so both drivers were having to work very hard to build any kind of gap. The track was very hot and it made life quite difficult for the tyres. We were pushing hard in the first stint to try and build a gap to protect against the undercut. That more or less went to plan and by the stops we had managed to get both cars to the position where they were not really under any threat. We’d not run the hard tyre so far this weekend but we seemed to have a good balance on it and once it was up to temperature, it was working nicely. We had a bit of blistering on the front tyres of both cars but it was in an area that doesn’t have to work hard in the corners so it didn’t affect the grip. The least comfortable bit of the race was the last couple of laps with Valtteri when Charles managed to get right onto his gearbox. Valtteri was not close enough to the delta time on the restart and this is what allowed Charles to get close but we need to speak to him to understand what went wrong, we’d told him it would not be a long VSC but maybe we’d not communicated well enough just how brief it was going to be. We also dropped a point with Lewis, we’d not tried hard enough to go for the fastest lap thinking that Sebastian would easily have it, but we should have taken it more seriously. So, bits here and there to improve but well done to the whole team on a great result!"
Leclerc had a quiet race, comfortably ahead of Verstappen in P4 and always looked on course for a podium. He did pressurise Bottas in the late stages after the Finn struggled with his tyres, but ran out of laps to make a decisive move. Vettel had a more eventful race, working his way up to fifth and running a longer first stint to try and jump Verstappen. With fresher tyres, he surprisingly couldn't close the gap to the Dutchman and instead opted for a second late stop to fit the soft rubber, and grab the bonus point for fastest lap.
Sebastian Vettel, 5th
"I had a pretty lonely race, apart from a bit of confusion at the start, given that the timing of the lights going out caught us a bit by surprise. It was fun fighting with the McLarens, first Norris then Carlos. The first stint went pretty well and that meant I could close the gap to Charles and Max. Then in the second one, I had a few more balance problems and I didn’t feel totally comfortable with the car.
"I think today’s fifth place was the most we could have done, given that Charles, Max and me were all running at pretty much the same pace. At least getting the fastest race lap means I get an extra point.
"We still need to understand why Friday was so complicated with some of the parts we brought here not working as we had hoped. Our car is not yet strong enough and it’s down to us to improve. We still don’t have the pace to beat Mercedes, but I know that everyone at Maranello is working with so much positive pressure - and passion."
Charles Leclerc, 3rd
"Overall, this weekend was pretty positive. I’m pleased I was able to fight for second place right at the end, even if I never had a real chance to attack Valtteri. I am satisfied because we managed to maximise the potential of the car.
"It was about time, because after a few so-so weekends, everything went smoothly right from the start of free practice and then in qualifying and the race, where our strategy was perfect both in terms of the timing of the pit stop and our tyre management in the second part of the race. I believe hard work always pays off and I feel we proved that this weekend. Now we go straight to Austria where I hope we can maintain this same good form.”
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"It was rather a straightforward race, the end result being that Charles maintained his start position all the way to the end. Sebastian managed to shake off the McLarens as we had hoped and then ran a strong race, keeping a consistent pace, on a par with those ahead of him. When Verstappen pitted, we kept Seb out for a few more laps, given that the tyres were difficult to manage and were likely to suffer with significant degradation in the closing stages, as we saw on the Mercedes. Therefore every extra lap we stayed out would mean having fresher tyres towards the end and that could have been important in terms of giving us a chance to beat Max.
"In terms of performance, we are not yet where we want to be. We knew this circuit would be tough for us and to finish with Charles right behind Bottas is encouraging. The developments we have introduced since the Spanish GP have allowed us to close the gap and we have shown that we are on the right path. Some of these updates have proved to be very useful, others unfortunately less so, but we know that we have potential to improve significantly. At this point, we are confident, aware that there is still a lot to do, but that we have the ability to develop the car and to be competitive on all tracks."
Verstappen was feisty off the start and nearly overtook Leclerc, but once that door shut he didn't have the pace to really keep up with the Ferrari. The Dutchman had a quiet race, with throttle problems his ocassional companion. Gasly, meanwhile, did well to keep enough life in his soft tyres to make it to Lap 15, but he lost places regardless to those who started on the hard compound and thus had a preferential strategy, and came home outside the points, only to be promoted to P10 due to Ricciardo's penalty.
Max Verstappen, 4th
“The race was a bit lonely at times but it wasn’t boring as I had Charles in sight which was good motivation to keep trying to match his lap times. You have to keep pushing yourself even if there aren’t cars that you are directly fighting. I always want to see how fast we can go and push as much as possible. In the second stint, we were looking quite good but with six or seven laps to go I ran out of rear grip and I couldn’t really rely on the rear tyres anymore. I think it took a bit too much out of my tyres trying to keep up with Charles early in the race but I’m pleased to be in front of one Ferrari and finish fourth on a track that doesn’t really suit us. The target is always to win but it was not possible here today and I got the most out of the package. We have made a small step this weekend but we still need to work on all elements to fight for victories.”
Pierre Gasly, 10th
“It was a long, difficult day and I’m disappointed, especially being here in France. From qualifying, I have struggled for grip and it was the same in the race. At the moment I don’t have the answer but I’m sure we will analyse everything to understand exactly why we lacked pace. I tried to do everything I could inside the cockpit but I could not push the car as I was sliding a lot. I have never really felt the car like this and with Austria next, we will have to quickly work hard with the guys to come back and put everything together for the next race. Honda are pushing hard and for sure they are developing so this is a positive.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“It was a good drive by Max again and splitting the Ferraris was the maximum we could do today. With the heat, the tyres were always going to make for a bit of a marginal one stop race, so Max managed the situation very well to come home in P4, his fifth fourth position of the year. For Pierre, his first stint on the soft tyre was pretty good and he held P8 with relative ease, managing to go longer than anyone expected. The mechanics completed an incredibly fast pit stop which got him back out ahead of Daniel who was trying to get the undercut. Unfortunately, on the hard tyre Pierre just didn’t have any pace and slipped down the order. Finishing P11 is frustrating as we are outside the points, so we will check everything on his car to ensure there are no hidden issues.”
Sainz jumped Norris at the start, with both drivers then predictably losing out to a resurgent Vettel in the opening laps. After that, it looked very much as if they would hold station until the end but for some late mechanical issues for Norris. Managing those, he soon came under attack from Ricciardo and defended hard for a number of laps before being passed by the Aussie and an opportunistic Raikkonen and Hulkenberg. Ricciardo was penalised for the manoeuvre post-race, meaning Norris gained one place back.
Carlos Sainz, 6th
“Very happy after a strong and well-executed race. I made another good start and once I was in P6 I controlled the race, controlled the pace, and drove to the target lap times the team was giving me to manage the tyres. It was a simple race from that point of view and one of those days where everything comes together and produces the maximum result available, so well done to everyone.
“We were definitely the fourth fastest car this weekend – in qualifying and the race – so happy with that. Congratulations to the team for the hard work all weekend and for another double points finish. We just need to keep pushing hard to improve at every race.”
Lando Norris, 9th
“I had a good start, same as the guys ahead of me. Being on the inside, I got boxed in and Carlos managed to go around the outside, which was something I couldn’t have done from my starting position on the inside. The rest of the race was good, I had good pace and was just managing the gap to Carlos to protect my tyres for later in the race.
“A hydraulic issue, around 20 laps from the finish, cost me a lot of time and made the car really hard to drive. The steering wheel went really heavy and I lost the power steering. It was really tough, I did my best not to lose places but it was too much of an issue to hang on as I had lost so much pace. Still, one point, considering everything, is a good result as it could have been much worse. Great job by the team all weekend and everyone back at the factory to give us both such a quick car.”
Andreas Seidl, Team Principal
“Congratulations to our entire team, at the track and back home in Woking, plus of course the drivers. It’s been our best weekend of the season and it was encouraging to see our car performing well from the first practice session until the end of the race. This gives us good momentum to keep pushing flat out as the pendulum of performance swings between teams from circuit to circuit.
“Carlos and Lando both did a great job managing the tyres over the distance. It was unfortunate that Lando lost positions on the final lap but he and the engineers did very well to battle through the second half of the race after a hydraulic issue arose affecting gear shifting, braking and steering.”
Ricciardo was unusually cautious into the first corner, losing places as a result. He worked hard throughout the race to regain lost ground, and in the latter stages was pushing Norris close in the battle for seventh. He made it past the battling McLaren on the final lap, going off track to do so in an incident that was referred to the stewards. They deemed him at fault in both that move and the subsequent battle with Raikkonen, adding two five-second penalties to his race time which dropped him out of the points. Hulkenberg ran a long first stint and showed a good turn of pace when needed to finish in the points at his team's home race.
Nico Hulkenberg, 8th
“We made a good recovery today and it’s pleasing to be in the top ten again. Maybe it could have been a different race had we qualified slightly higher, but thirteenth to ninth is a strong effort. I was pushing all race, but I was stuck in traffic and this place is difficult for overtaking. I had pace in hand today, which shows on race day we’re strong. The last few laps were really fun; it was tight and exciting and I was happy to make up some places there. We’ve demonstrated that our race pace is there, but we have something to find on one-lap pace.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 11th
“It’s clearly disappointing to drop outside the points with a post-race penalty, especially at the team’s home race. The last lap was a lot of fun, we had a fight and I enjoyed it. I’d rather give it a go than not try at all, and I’m sure the French fans and the people at home liked watching. It’s a shame to be penalised for it, but we’ll aim to move on from that as quickly as possible. In terms of the race, I feel like I missed out a little bit at the start, especially after a really good launch off the line. I braked too early for turn one and that was too conservative looking back. That made the rest of the race hard work, but we kept it clean and smooth from there. There are still a lot of positives to take and we’ll be looking for an immediate response in Austria.”
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal
“The Renault-engined cars certainly tried to bring this Grand Prix to life. With P7 and P9, I think we finished in the best positions at the flag considering our starting positions and I am sure that’s what the fans will take away. Daniel didn’t have the best of starts but fought back thanks to a well thought out strategy and aggressive drive. Nico stayed on Kimi’s gearbox throughout the race and was quicker, but not enough to make a move stick. The 10 second-penalty imposed to Daniel means that he dropped out of the points. It is disappointing as it was probably the most thrilling point of an otherwise uneventful race, with four great drivers fighting safely and fiercely in the last corners. With all the challenges to overtake cars on-track it is another demonstration that qualifying is the defining part of the weekend and our focus point for improvement.”
Giovinazzi started on the soft tyres, pitted early to drop down the field and couldn't recover. The Italian did at least pull off some classy overtakes to give the crowd a sense of what might have been. Raikkonen though, with free tyre choice, was able to run a better strategy and extracted enough pace from the C38 to get into the points, before jumping at the opportunity to get involved in the last lap melee at the end. It was the Finn's first points finish since Baku in April.
Kimi Raikkonen, 7th
“I was a bit disappointed to miss out on Q3 yesterday, but we knew it would be much better to start on different tyres than the softs, and so it was. I didn’t make the best start but luckily I didn’t lose too much on the straight and I could fight back in the next few corners. We were in a strong position after the start, on the hard tyres, but I had to hold back Hülkenberg the whole race. It was a great battle with the Renaults for most of the afternoon and in the end I was able to catch up with the cars in front. The last few laps were very intense and it was good fun. It’s really good that we could fight against other cars in the midfield and be up there. We had the speed and we got a good result in the end.”
Antonio Giovinazzi, 16th
“It was disappointing to finish out of the points, but we were up against it when starting on the soft tyres. It was the price to pay for a good performance on Saturday, but it effectively compromised my race before the start. We pitted early as the softs didn’t last, but in the end we had to make another stop in order to finish the race. I can still take some positives from a strong qualifying, and of course it was important for the team to get back into the points. I would have loved to celebrate Alfa Romeo’s birthday with a better result, but we showed to be competitive and hopefully we can carry this form to the next races.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
"It was very good to bring back the team into the points. All weekend, we have showed our fighting spirit and that we can compete with teams like Renault and McLaren. Kimi drove an excellent race, withstanding incredible pressure from Hülkenberg for most of the afternoon and making the most of his opportunities in the final laps to claim some important points. Antonio was unlucky, his race compromised by having to start on soft tyres. He showed good pace in the opening laps, but there was nothing he could do to remain in the points. He should take heart from a strong performance in qualifying.”
Haas in truth haven't been a factor all weekend, both drivers struggling with the balance of the VF-19 and thus to get their tyres working. They made no headway during the race, with Grosjean retiring from his home Grand Prix in disappointing fashion. Magnussen at least made it to the finish, but not before being overtaken by the Toro Rossos and Giovinazzi's Alfa to come home only ahead of the Williams duo.
Romain Grosjean, DNF
“I got the maximum from the car, but it was just not good enough. Even though the balance felt okay, we were just very slow. We need to go back and analyse everything, try and understand it. We’re just really struggling. It’s hard to retire in front of your home crowd, but we’ve saved some parts. We were far from the points anyway. I think it was the right decision.”
Kevin Magnussen, 17th
“There’s not much to tell. I think after Friday we were thinking that qualifying might be difficult, but the race would be strong. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We were fighting at the back the whole race. We were a bit helpless. Obviously our pace is the biggest challenge at the moment. We just lack pace sometimes, and today was one of those days.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“Unfortunately this race weekend was the worst since we started the team. We need to try to find a way out of our issues. This is not where we want to be.”
The team did their best from lowly grid slots, splitting strategies and starting one car on the mediums and one on the hards to maximise their chances. But in a race where only one car retired, there wasn't enough drama ahead for either driver to make it into the points, and Perez wasn't helped after he was penalised for running off track at the start and gaining an advantage. Stroll did make his hard tyres last an impressive 40 laps, though, being the last man on track to stop for fresh rubber.
Sergio Perez, 12th
“I don't understand why I was penalised. I have to look at it properly, but I did what I'm supposed to do, which was to go around the bollards. The rule is that you have to come back on the track as soon as you go through the bollards, which is what I did. I think what they did is wrong, because I stuck to the rules. Whether or not I gained an advantage, for me it was impossible to judge - it was lap one and there were so many cars around. It's supposed to be slower than the racing line so that you don't gain an advantage, but if it isn’t it’s not my fault. The penalty really hurt my race. We had the possibility to score some points today but this ruined it. We were a lot closer in terms of race pace, so that was promising. At the moment we are still struggling in qualifying and that’s where we must focus our attention to see what we can do better next week. Hopefully we can get back into the points in Austria.”
Lance Stroll, 13th
“It was a good race today. The first stint was really strong and we went really long before fitting a fresh set of mediums at the end so that I could push and attack in the final few laps. Unfortunately, I think we stopped a little bit too late because I could feel the tyres dropping off towards the end of my first stint, which cost us some time. There was also some life left in the mediums when I finished the race. Pitting a few laps earlier could have changed our final result, but it’s easy to say that after the race. It was a good team effort today and we showed good pace to move up the order. We will come back in Austria and give it another shot.”
Otmar Szafnauer, Team Principal & CEO
“Opportunities were few and far between today with a one-stop strategy being the only realistic approach for scoring points. We chose to split the strategies again and ultimately there was little to choose between the two with Sergio and Lance ending the race line astern. We came into this weekend aware that this circuit would present us with a tough challenge, but it’s still disappointing to leave empty-handed. We take some encouragement from our competitive race pace, with both drivers happier with the car in race trim compared to yesterday. There’s plenty to learn and analyse so that we can come back stronger in Austria next weekend.”
Albon had a bad start, joining his team mate at the back of the midfield. From there the duo had some entertaining fights, often with each other, but never troubled the top 10. With a grid penalty likely to come for the Thai driver, as he presumably takes the latest spec Honda power unit soon, they could have done with a better result here but it was not to be.
Daniil Kvyat, 14th
“I think the race wasn’t too bad today. In the end, we did the best job possible and we had some good battles on track, I made a nice move on the outside of Grosjean and had an enjoyable battle with Alex towards the end of the race - it was quite fun! I’m not sure where we would have finished if we had of started further up the grid without the penalty, but I think it would have been a bit of a challenge to finish inside the points today. Now we need to analyse everything in order to come back stronger in Austria.”
Alex Albon, 15th
“Unfortunately, our race was compromised from lap one as I went wide into Turn 2 and got boxed out. I didn’t realise how much grip there was on the outside and I lost a few positions. We were quicker than the cars in front but struggled to get past them as everyone was in the DRS train, so I spent most of the race behind another car. We lacked a bit of pace today, so we need to understand why and where we can improve. It was good fun battling with Dany, however, fighting for positions outside of the points is not where either of us wants to be.”
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance
“This is not the race we were hoping for here in Paul Ricard. We were immediately on the back foot after the first lap when Alex lost several positions and Daniil got overtaken by Russell. Daniil was able to recover some ground during his first stint and he successfully challenged Alex towards the end of the race for P14, which offered a good show. All in all, he had a solid race and managed his tyres well.
“Alex went wide in Turn 2 after the start and lost five positions. After having spent 14 laps in traffic, he was able to overtake Magnussen and recover some of the time lost to the train of cars he started with. Unfortunately, it was only enough to clear Giovinazzi after the pit stop. A mistake in Turn 7 meant he lost a place and had to fight again to get his position back. We were then too far away from the cars ahead and the blue flags compromised the last part of his race.
“We only managed to finish P14 and P15 today, which is disappointing after a decent Qualifying and the reasonable pace we had on Friday. We will analyse all of the data and prepare for the next race as best as possible to hopefully get a better result in Austria.”
Toyoharu Tanabe, Honda F1 Technical Director
“This was a tough race for us, but as usual, Max drove a strong race to finish where he started, with the three cars ahead of him also finishing in grid order. Although all our cars took the chequered flag, our other three drivers had a more difficult afternoon. Our new Spec 3 PU performed as expected, but there is still room for improvement, and we will continue to work on that immediately to try for a better overall result next weekend in Austria.”
Kubica finished ahead of Russell for the first time this season, but not before the two clashed on track when the rookie tried to overtake his team mate. Kubica gave him no quarter in a 50/50 incident that can be seen both ways, causing Russell to drive through a lap board marker. The Englishman later had to pit for a new front wing due to the damage sustained, but fortunately didn't seem too disheartened by the result.
Robert Kubica, 18th
"The tyres lasted better than expected so it was less painful as they behaved very well. My first lap was good, I made some correct decisions without risking too much. The rest of the race was alright, I struggled with the rear tyres in certain moments of the race, but I kept them under control, so it was ok. The battle with George was good experience for when the car gets quicker, which will hopefully pay off in the future."
George Russell, 19th
"With my first attempt to overtake Robert around the outside, I ran wide and hit the polystyrene board. We thought that wasn’t too much of an issue but then we found that damage to the front wing worsened. For safety reasons we decided on the change. The pace seems strong, but it was an expected day. We need to be patient, learn as much as we can and then hopefully in a number of races time start the battle. Overall, not satisfied, not disappointed just normal."
Dave Robson, Senior Race Engineer
"We continued today in the way we have all season, maximising the package available to us. We executed our planned one-stop strategy well across both cars, and then managed the traffic as best we could to not minimise any damage to ourselves whilst not impeding the front runners. We had an issue on George’s car after damage sustained early in the race when he hit a marker board running wide at T10. The damage unfortunately worsened to the point we needed to box him for a second time for a front wing change. Our pitstops were also good, once again reinforcing that we continue to work as racers even though we don’t have the performance to compete with the rest of the field at present."
Mario Isola, Head of F1 and Car Racing
"The French Grand Prix was a demonstration of the impressive way that all the cars have gained speed compared to last year, in track temperatures that were among the hottest that we have raced in. Nonetheless, the majority of drivers stopped only once, with the medium-hard strategy that we predicted as fastest proving to be the most popular choice. The tyres stood up well to what were extremely challenging conditions, not just because of the high temperatures but also because of the extensive track evolution over the course of the weekend. Now we head straight to Spielberg in Austria for the first back-to-back race of the season."