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TRACKSIDE PERFORMANCE ANALYSIS: A closer look at France’s demanding Turn 11

Special Contributor

Mark Hughes
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To understand the subtleties of car performance and driver technique, there’s no substitute for standing trackside and watching (and listening to) the protagonists at work. For FP1 in France, Mark Hughes ventured to the long right-hander at Turn 11 - a corner that pushes man and machine to the limit…

Turn 11 is what the drivers and engineers call it, but it sounds much more evocative with its proper name: Double Droit du Beausset, a 180-degree parabola of black tarmac amid the rainbow hinterland of the vast run-off area. As the name implies, it’s a long double corner to the right. It’s a very serious work out for the cars and tyres a few seconds after they’ve gone flat-in-top through Signes, otherwise known as Turn 10.

The first part is approached as a flat-out right-handed kink, then braking heavily down to around 110mph, carrying as much momentum as possible even as the car is simultaneously braking and beginning to turn right through a slight depression that only stresses the left-front even more. The track is extra black with rubber here.

The cars are briefly in a high-speed four-wheel drift as they continue to decelerate

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The dynamics are fascinating to see from head-on here, before the half-way point of the parabola. Because while the outer-front tyre is hyper-loaded and inducing understeer, there’s still enough lateral force building up to induce the rear to begin sliding wide too – so the cars are briefly in a high-speed shallow understeer four-wheel drift as they continue to decelerate.

They straighten out at the mid part of the corner – as evidenced during my visit by Alex Albon’s outside rear frequently tickling the edge of the rainbow run-off – down-changing to fourth, ready to turn in again for the second half, but this time under power, accelerating out of a slight uphill exit and hard over the exit kerbs, where a Ferrari or an Alfa gave an irritated little wiggle, as a consequence of still having front lock applied as the rear wheels spin up over the concrete serrations. In this way, these cars sort of spit and snarl themselves straight.

As usual, the two Mercedes were able to carry visibly more speed into the turn. Hamilton and Bottas are able to take a shorter line into the deceleration zone, the greater grip not pulling them out wide so early as, say, the spectacular Lando Norris who was really working the McLaren hard through here.

The two Mercedes were able to carry visibly more speed into the turn, Hamilton and Bottas able to take a shorter line into the deceleration zone

The Racing Point of Sergio Perez was among the most spectacular in the four-wheel-drift phase, as its understeer is more pronounced, so the apparent contrast between that and the sliding rear is more incongruous. The McLaren, even though it has less understeer than the Racing Point, doesn’t pivot its rear around quite as well, hence it running out wider. Kimi Raikkonen was dealing with a similar problem in the Alfa, but on one occasion got impatient with how long the understeer persisted, and turned it into the second part of the turn by simply wrenching the wheel. The balance of the cars largely determines where the drivers can get on the gas, hence Kimi’s impatience.

The Ferraris, with their new front wings, were running out of sequence with most of the others, but they looked good through Turn 11. Not able to carry quite as much speed into the first part as Hamilton or Bottas (who looks very committed in his final run here), but with a visibly fluid transition between the entry and exit phases. In terms of the track placement Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc were making, it was about mid-way between the two extremes represented by the Mercedes line and the McLaren line.

As our video shows, Hamilton was by far the quickest through Turn 11 in FP1, en route to the fastest lap of the session.

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