What the teams said – Race day in France
Verstappen trailed Leclerc off the line, but was tucked up behind the Ferrari through the opening stages, and it looked like it might come down to strategy between the two. But the Dutchman inherited the lead when his championship rival crashed, and from there looked supremely comfortable as he drove to a relatively straightforward win. Extending his championship lead in the progress, it was nigh on the perfect result for Verstappen. Perez though had a much harder afternoon. A sluggish start saw him lose out to Hamilton, while he was then embroiled in a close fight with both Sainz and Russell, in the end losing out to the Mercedes in the closing stages.
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Max Verstappen, 1st
“We had really good pace from the start, although following around here, the tyres overheated a lot so I couldn’t really go for a move but I stayed calm and stayed close. It was really unlucky for Charles and I’m glad he’s okay, it could have been a really fun race because both cars were so quick! From there I just concentrated on my own race and looked after the tyres. The pit lane is so long here so that prevented us from having another pit stop. Today was a great day but there are plenty more races ahead of us and I just always aim for the most points possible, the fight is nowhere near over.”
Sergio Perez, 4th
“It was a difficult one out there today, I was off the pace and unfortunately wasn’t able to get the podium we wanted. I struggled with tyre management and it was tough to get on top of it. I had a close battle with George but it was a good one, I wish we could have pushed for a 1-2 but Mercedes were very strong and it was difficult to overtake them. There are some bits for us to analyse and hopefully I will recover my pace and come back stronger for Hungary.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal
“The main thing today is that Charles was ok, it was a cracking race between Max and him in that first stint. We pushed the button early and went for the undercut, Max had effectively taken track position, so it’s a shame we didn’t get to see how that played out, it would have been a great battle. In the end it was a straight forward victory for Max and a very good point scoring day. It was frustrating we didn’t have Checo on the podium too, it was just bad timing for the virtual safety car for him, there was a software error so they were held longer than they should have been. We have to keep pushing this season and look to get the best out of every ounce of performance, there are lots of factors at play but today was a big day for us.”
Hamilton made a great start, picking off Perez into the first corner. From there he had a relatively lonely race, looking well set for third until Leclerc’s crash, and then holding onto second comfortably for his best result of the season. Russell had to work a lot harder after dropping behind Alonso at the start. He made his way back past the Spaniard, and then had an entertaining tussle with Perez for the final podium place. The two collided at one point, both ran off track but in the end Russell made a move stick at the VSC restart, catching his quarry napping and then defending hard to hold onto P3 on the final lap.
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Lewis Hamilton, 2nd
"What a great result, considering we have been so far off all weekend and that I missed FP1. I wasn't expecting to fight for second place or a podium, so this is a wonderful result for us. Our team has been amazing when it comes to reliability and it shows that with dedication and focus, we can slowly make our way up. We don't have the same pace yet as the two teams at the front but today we were able to keep one of them at bay so a great result for us, everyone has worked really hard. Huge congratulations to the teams back at the factories and the team here. Without them, this wouldn't have been possible and I'm proud of them. And George did an amazing job today, too."
George Russell, 3rd
"It was a long and tough race. Our pace was strong, but we really struggled with the warm-up of the tyres on the restart and Checo was strong today. I was glad to see the chequered flag and come home P3. We're making a lot of progress and we really need to improve our qualifying performance as we're lacking consistency. We know as a team we struggle with the tyre warm-up and at the restart I struggled with the same issue. Our race pace today was reasonable and we're getting closer to the front. We're doing everything we can to improve the performance of the car and we believe we are on the right path, so we're excited what the next races can bring for us. We're making progress and there is still more to come, thanks to everyone back at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth for their hard work and dedication."
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport
"Overall, the drivers did a really good job and the team effort was great today. We're extracting the maximum that is possible on race day currently. George was clever and fast, while Lewis was fighting like a lion. Lewis is absolutely on it and keeps pushing the team. He keeps his positive mindset, even on grim days like yesterday and he never stops pushing. But we need to stay humble, because our car is just not good enough to fight with the teams in the front. We're lacking six to seven tenths to the leaders. In qualifying we struggle to bring the tyres into the optimum window and don't manage to extract the most from the first flying lap. And then in the race, we lose three seconds at the start of the race, but once we stabilise, we are actually not so bad. We still have a lot of work to do, but I believe we have the best people to do so. All in all, today was a great team effort at track and back at the factories and we're heading in the right direction."
Andrew Shovlin, Trackside Engineering Director
"That was our best race of the year and really pleasing to see both drivers racing at the front. We know that we've got a long road ahead of us but compared to where we were a couple of months ago in Monaco and Baku, it's really satisfying to see the team and drivers having a bit of fun again. The weekend hasn't been easy, our qualifying positions weren't far off expectation, but the gaps to Charles and Max were eye opening. We'd hoped that the car would be kind on the tyres today, the conditions were very tough given the circuit and the temperature but degradation was good and whilst we are lacking a bit of pace, we at least seemed a bit stronger towards the end of the stints. We've only got a couple of days to try and regroup and prepare for Budapest. Hard work has got us to a level where we can fight for a place on the podium but we want to be fighting for the top step. We've got one race to go before the summer break so we will be pushing hard to try and finish the first half of the season on a high note."
Leclerc had a great start and led the first handful of laps. He defended well from Verstappen and was looking relatively comfortable when he lost the rear through Turn 11 and ploughed into the barriers, screaming in frustration in what was confirmed to be driver error. That ended his race, and certainly looks to have stalled his championship resurgence. Sainz started down the back on the hards and was making good progress when the Safety Car came out. He had to switch to the mediums earlier than planned and despite climbing through the field, was forced into a late second stop where he also served a five-second time penalty earned for an unsafe pit stop release. In the end, he had to settle for fifth on a day he felt the car had the pace to fight for the win.
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Charles Leclerc, DNF
"I’m very disappointed. This is not the outcome that I wanted today, as we had the pace to win. I made a mistake and paid the price for it. Now I will head home to reset before the next race in Hungary, where I will give it my all once again."
Carlos Sainz, 5th
"It was a hard race today but I also enjoyed going through the field, making lots of overtakes. To make places up with the Hards was tricky but as soon as I put the Mediums the pace improved a lot and I managed to make good moves. I gave everything out there today and, even though we were a bit unlucky with the pit stop and the penalty, we managed to fight at the front. Like always, we will review everything these couple of days to see where we can improve and hopefully we can bring home a better result before the summer break. A pity for Charles as he was doing a great race. We’ll keep pushing."
Mattia Binotto, Team Principal
"Although this result was far from the one we wanted, there are still some positives to take away from this race. First of all, the F1-75 was very competitive, even on this difficult Paul Ricard track. There is no point on dwelling on Charles’ mistake. These things can happen, even to great drivers like him and together, we have already put it behind us. Carlos had a strong weekend, starting with qualifying, when he did what was required of him for the team. In the race, he was patient in the early stages and then made up places lap after lap, including some brilliant overtaking moves. Now we look ahead to Hungary where we want to fight for the win once again."
What they lacked in qualifying they made up for on race pace. Alonso had an electric start, picking off Russell and Norris. While the Mercedes man recovered the place back, the Spaniard was able to hold off his McLaren rival throughout to come home a well deserved P6. As for Ocon, he got up on the kerbs on the first lap and seemingly understeered into Tsunoda, for which he was handed a five-second penalty. But after that the Frenchman drove superbly to make it a double-points finish for the team at their home race, and help them leap clear of Mclaren in the constructors’.
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Esteban Ocon, 8th
“The goal today was to score points with both cars, and we’ve done just that! I’m happy with my race today and it was brilliant to drive in front of the home fans who have been incredible all weekend, so thanks to them for all their support. It was a tough one out there in the heat, and I enjoyed the on-track racing with some tight battles. We’re now fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, so we leave here feeling very positive and motivated to keep that position. I do hope we race in France next year as there is nothing quite like a home Grand Prix. Merci to all the fans and allez Alpine!”
Fernando Alonso, 6th
“I am pleased with our race today. It was well-executed from our side and we managed the pace and tyres well. We had to work through a lot of things in terms of the car balance this weekend, but we ended up finishing just behind the top five positions, so a very solid race in the end and more points on the board for us. I had a good start climbing up to fifth, but then we dropped to sixth and perhaps resumed our normal position in the race. It shows that when we have a clean weekend like this one, then we can finish in the top six positions. Hopefully we can keep-up this level of consistency throughout the second half of the season and continue our momentum.”
Laurent Rossi, CEO Alpine
“We’re very pleased to score strongly with both cars from our home race and we’re now ahead in fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship and, I must say, it is deserved. It was great to race at Circuit Paul Ricard today in front of such passionate home fans, so thanks to them for their fantastic support all weekend. On track, we knew we had a great chance to score well with both cars today. We needed a good start, which we achieved, and well executed races by both team and drivers. Fernando did a great job to get past Lando [Norris] at the start and from there he managed his race brilliantly to score eight points in sixth. Esteban too had a great start but was given a time-penalty for his collision on lap one with Yuki [Tsunoda]. He had to keep his head down to claw back the advantage he gained, and his patience and decisiveness was key in passing the second McLaren of Daniel [Ricciardo] for eighth place. Now our objective is clear. We must do everything we can to remain in fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship. It won’t be easy, but we must keep our flow of upgrades coming and put together strong race weekends - like we have done at home in France this weekend - for the remainder of the season.”
Norris had a slow getaway and dropped behind Alonso, never managing to get back past the obdurate Alpine driver. He also lost out to Russell, and Sainz recovered so seventh was about as good as it was going to get. For awhile he had his team mate as his rear gunner, but Ricciardo was unable to hold onto eighth against Ocon, the Alpines just having too much race pace for the papaya cars in France.
Lando Norris, 7th
“Tough day but I think it was what we expected. It was a long race and we struggled a little bit with the degradation of the tyre but also just with the pure pace. We weren’t as quick as we needed to be, so yeah, just tough but I won’t say disappointed. It’s sort of what we were expecting, so not a surprise. The upgrades did bring rmance and we will work over the next event to make sure they’re fully optimised. We’ll keep pushing, keep trying to improve, and we’ll go again next weekend. Thanks again to all the team here and at the factory for their efforts.”
Daniel Ricciardo, 9th
"It’s points so that’s a positive. It’s only ninth but still important. I had a bit of pace early in the stint and tried to get more out of it, but then it fell away a little too quickly so I definitely struggled from mid-stint onwards and didn’t have the pace to run with the Alpines and Lando. I felt like I did the best that I could – but it’s not enough to make me happy. Thanks again to everyone for the hard work in getting the upgrades to track this weekend and we'll push to get more out of them over the next few races. Double-points but we’ll keep working."
Andrea Stella, Racing Director
“P7 and P9 maximised what we had in our hands today. Alpine were a little quicker over a race distance but Lando and Daniel both drove very good races and we go away from Le Castellet with a lot of positives. The upgrade package we introduced here gave us a step forward in terms of performance. Big thank you to the development and production teams back at the factory for providing us with enough parts to run the upgrade on both cars, and also to the trackside team and our colleagues at Mercedes HPP who worked very hard in tough conditions to ensure we could get both cars home and in the points. “We have a lot of data to analyse within the next few days, to see how we can extract more performance from our updated MCL36, before we get back on track, five days from now at the Hungaroring. One more big effort before the summer break.”
Stroll had an unbelievable getaway, making up five places to run 10th. And that is the place he held onto through the pit stop period and until the end of the race for a well deserved point, his first since Canada and his fourth P10 finish of the season. Vettel pushed him close in the closing stages, to the extent that the two almost collided coming through the final few corners on the last lap – something that the team may well have a few words with the duo about.
Sebastian Vettel, 11th
“My afternoon was frustrating. I was stuck in traffic for the whole race – but you expect that when you start in the midfield. And, with the strategy, I do not think there was really much more the team could have done there. It is clear that we need more grip. In the race, things were not too bad – the cars ahead of us were not disappearing – and we also understand the car a little bit more after this weekend. I had a chance to pass Lance on the final lap; I was a little bit faster but we are not fighting over one point – it is the same net result for the team. It does not make any difference.”
Lance Stroll, 10th
“We had a great first lap today that set us up to have a great race. I nearly got [Esteban] Ocon in Turn Nine as well, but it was important to have such a good start. I felt I had some momentum in the closing stages to possibly catch [Daniel] Ricciardo. We are continuing our trend of being more competitive on a Sunday so today is a good platform as the summer break approaches. I had a snap on the exit on the last lap because I was struggling with my tyres at the very end. It was a good fight with Sebastian, but the most important thing was to bring a point home for the team today.”
Mike Krack, Team Principal
“Lance made an excellent start from his P15 grid slot to climb to 11th early on, just behind Sebastian in 10th. Lance then passed Sebastian later on the same lap, and they ran in close company more or less throughout the rest of the race. We decided on a one-stop strategy for both drivers, but we did not want to risk stacking our drivers’ tyre stops during the Safety Car period triggered by [Charles] Leclerc’s accident because the pit lane was extremely congested at that point and we would have had to hold Sebastian for too long. Despite rear tyre degradation in the last third of the race, Lance did well to hold on to 10th and thereby score a hard-earned point, with Sebastian just behind him. A double points finish would have been great, but it was not to be. Even so, our race pace was decent and our reliability was good, and that is a solid basis to take forward to the Hungaroring – a circuit that we think may suit our car better than Paul Ricard. Last but far from least, on behalf of our whole team, I want to express our deepest sympathy with the family and friends of 18-year-old Jake Pedley, one of our apprentices, who tragically lost his life in a road accident on Tuesday.”
Tsunoda’s day was effectively over early on, as he was tipped into a spin by Ocon from which he had to watch the entire field stream past. He continued for a few laps but soon retired with car damage. Gasly was running 12th until a mistake sent him wide, and he lost three places as a result. He recovered as others retired, but coming home P12 was not the result he was hoping for on home soil.
Pierre Gasly, 12th
“We tried to fight to get back into the points and what we managed is P12, which clearly isn’t the performance we would have liked. The fans and spectators made it a special weekend to put a big smile on my face, but I am extremely disappointed in the performance we showed. If I knew what the problem was, we could have changed it, but there was just a lot of sliding around and a lack of grip, especially in the high-speed corners. I tried everything I could in the car to push, changing lines, but there was nothing that clicked. Obviously, I don’t want to jump to any conclusions, but based on the pace we had today we need to review to understand why Friday went so well and from then on it was a struggle. We finished only 3 seconds behind P10, so we aren’t miles away, but there are no points for P11 or P12. It is now important to try to understand this new package. It will take some time, but it is quite tight in the midfield, so we have to find the solutions. There are a couple of days before Budapest so we, as a team, have to stay strong together to find the solutions and make a big step forward.”
Yuki Tsunoda, DNF
“I got quite a lot of damage early on and it just kept getting worse with each lap. I watched back the onboard and I definitely left enough space, but he lost control. It ruined our whole race and 5 seconds is not enough in the end, when he continued with no damage, even getting some points. I know in racing these things happen, but it is such a shame especially after such a good Qualifying, and I feel bad for the team, also everyone back at the factory, to have it end like this after all the work they’ve done. We didn’t score any points after such a big upgrade, but at the same time I think I did the best I could this week. Even though Quali was good, the race is where points are scored in the end, so it was unfortunate. Top 8 could have been possible, but it is what it is, and we will definitely be back stronger and better in Hungary. We have a good car, so we stay positive.”
Guillaume Dezoteux, Head of Vehicle Performance
“Unfortunately, we leave Paul-Ricard without any point. Yuki's race got compromised immediately after he got hit by Ocon and he ended up last. He tried to carry on, but the damage to the car was big and Yuki couldn't maintain the pace and catch-up to the pack in front. There was no other choice but to retire him. Regarding Pierre's race, we knew it would be difficult starting from the back, hence we decided to put him on a different strategy with the Hard. The first half of the race was looking alright, but on Lap 28 Pierre did a mistake trying to overtake Albon and lost several places. From there, he pushed hard and he had a good pace regaining the ground lost, but it wasn't enough to get the Aston Martins. After a promising Friday, we failed to convert the improvements of the car into points, which is frustrating, but we have seen positive signs for the future races. We will analyse all the data before Hungary to further improve the setup around the new aero package. We will fight back!”
Albon was running 11th at one point and in touching distance of the points, but couldn’t keep the faster Aston Martin of Vettel at bay and then lost out to Gasly as well. Latifi’s afternoon was ended early on as he got into a complete tangle fighting with Magnussen. He wound up running wide, before the team decided to retire his car with damage.
Nicholas Latifi, DNF
“There are a lot of positives to take from today. The pace was competitive, especially in dirty air, and I was racing cars that I haven’t been racing against all year so that’s been nice. I definitely don’t think I was at fault for the incident with Kevin, it was maybe more of a racing incident.
“The incident was a shame as our pace was strong and we were racing out of position against cars that we were quite a bit quicker than. Being further up in qualifying would have made a difference, but it’s nice to get racing again. I take the confidence in that pace from the upgrade and I feel that the season is getting back on track and we can make a proper start now.”
Alex Albon, 13th
“It was tricky out there today but more enjoyable. We were in contention for most of the race and were looking close to the points - we were a bit down on pace and were using a lot of the tyres to try to stay close, and it just fell away from us towards the end.
“We'll look at the data and hopefully we can improve week on week as we were quite quick in qualifying. We'll look at it and see what we can do better for Hungary.”
Dave Robson, Head of Vehicle Performance
“The hot conditions made for a tough race with all drivers needing to manage the cars and tyres throughout. The safety car was temptingly timed but did make for a tricky long final stint on the Prime tyres. Our cars were too close to each other to be able to stop both on the same lap and so Nicky did an extra lap, which meant that he didn’t get the full advantage of pitting behind the safety car.
“Both drivers managed the race well but unfortunately Nicky had to retire following a puncture and extensive car damage. Alex was able to battle to the end but had to manage his fuel and tyres against quicker cars and wasn’t able to fight for the points. It was good to get a lot of extra racing laps on the new package and all the data and feedback collected will help us at the remaining races.”
Zhou was involved in the thick of the action. He tipped Schumacher into a spin at the Safety Car restart, for which he needed to pit for a new front wing. The Chinese racer was handed a five-second time penalty for causing that collision, and then parked up out on track late on with mechanical woes to force a VSC period. Bottas was unlucky – he started on hards, felt the pit stop under the early Safety Car was too soon to swap to mediums so stuck with the hard compound and thus had to stop later on for a second time.
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Valtteri Bottas, 14th
“It was a really long race and it felt like a lot of sweat with nothing to show for it! Of course, you can learn something from every race, so that must be what we take away from this weekend. We dropped a lot of places at the start and that made it very difficult for us: our race pace was not as good as we expected, even though the car improved a lot on medium tyres. Hopefully, some updates we will have in Budapest will help us, we know the team is working really hard on it. To keep in the fight with the cars ahead of us in the constructors’ championship, we need to find some extra performance, but I am confident we can do it as a team.”
Zhou Guanyu, DNF
“About 10-15 laps to the end I was suffering with a power unit issue; I tried to do some switching, but eventually that put an end to my race. It was a technical issue, and we will investigate that ahead of Budapest to avoid having it happening again. Apart from that, the race just never went our way, we were struggling all the way through. Regarding the contact with Mick, I was defending my inside in Turn 11, he was trying to go for the outside but then it got to one point where the corner just became too small for me. I think it’s difficult to judge for both of us, as that kind of compromised my race. Unfortunately, that happens in racing, we just have to move forward. It was definitely not a day to remember for us, but having another back-to-back race means a whole new weekend of opportunities to get competitive again and put ourselves back where we belong.”
Frédéric Vasseur, Team Principal
“We were confident, before the race, we could convert some decent grid positions into points, but sadly it wasn’t to be the case this afternoon. Valtteri struggled off the line and also had to take evasive action as there were a few tangles ahead of him. We found ourselves with two cars at the bottom of the field by the end of the first lap and it was always going to be hard to recover into the top ten from there. We had decent pace – Zhou showed it when running in clean air after his stop – but that was not enough to make up ground today. In the end, we brought one car home outside the points and had to retire the other with a power unit issue: definitely not the result we hoped for, but at least we’ll have an opportunity to bounce back immediately in Hungary. We’ll analyse today and understand what happened, especially because we expect the weather conditions to be similar next weekend.”
Just not their day. Magnussen had the best start of the field, climbing from last on the grid to run 12th at the end of the first couple of laps. But the team opted to pit both drivers early on as they were stuck behind faster cars, and thus lost out when everyone else pitted under the Safety Car. Trying to recover, Magnussen had a moment with Latifi which resulted in both cars retiring, while Schumacher’s chances were ended when he was tipped into a spin by Zhou.
Kevin Magnussen, DNF
“We gave it our best and I tried very hard today, made some good moves, but at the end of the day, the degradation on the tyres was high. The car was great at the beginning of the stints and our pace was fantastic as we saw yesterday in qualifying as well. For some reason we had a lot of degradation and that’s why we couldn’t really fight today.”
Mick Schumacher, 15th
“We had a difficult start on the medium tyre, it didn’t really work as well as we imagined. We knew it was going to be tough, so we came in early but unfortunately there was a safety car, which meant for a lot of people it was a free stop essentially. With a pitlane like we have here, the difference is quite big, so we were quite far behind and then we had contact with Zhou. Overall, it was quite tough but we learned some things and hopefully we have a better weekend in Budapest.”
Guenther Steiner, Team Principal
“It was all going to plan until the safety car came out and it all went downhill from there. The strategy team did a fantastic job to predict what the tyres would do because they did exactly what was predicted. The safety car came out and we had to go and change the tyre too early because we were on a two-stop and all the other cars on a one-stop got a free stop, so what can you do. The car once again showed that it’s fast, we just need to regroup and hope that we don’t get unlucky – I don’t even ask for luck!”
Mario Isola, Motorsport Director
"In these very hot conditions that peaked at 57 degrees of track temperatures, we thought that two pit stops might be favoured. But in the end, as per our initial forecast, only one stop was needed – the fastest way on paper – thanks to the ability of both the hard and the medium compounds to handle these demanding conditions. There was a high degree of degradation, in line with what we would expect in these temperatures, and some blistering: but nothing that compromised the performance and integrity of the tyres here, at another exciting and unpredictable race."