Ricciardo out of points after double penalty

Daniel Ricciardo has been hit with two five-second penalties for his overtakes on Kimi Raikkonen and Lando Norris in the French GP, demoting him from P7 to P11.

Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Lando Norris were all called to see the stewards after they battled on the last lap.

With Norris suffering from hydraulic problems, Ricciardo, Raikkonen and the Aussie’s Renault team-mate Nico Hulkenberg all got involved in the battle which saw both Ricciardo and Norris leave the circuit at different stages, while Ricciardo went off again as he passed Raikkonen.

The stewards have now ruled that Ricciardo left the track on both occasions to gain an advantage and have issued two five-second penalties to drop him from P7 to P11 and out of the points.

Despite the investigation, Ricciardo had been pleased with himself for giving it a go.

“I care, but I don’t care,” Ricciardo told Sky Sports F1 when asked if a penalty was on its way.

“I’m just glad I tried and had a crack. I was certainly trying to pull it off and keep [the car] all on there.

“It was tight. I’m getting more comfortable in the car in race conditions, but still not quite where I was in the Red Bull.

“When I do brake on the limit, I mean, I always feel like I’m on the limit. But it was fun, the last few laps, it really came alive.

“Kimi was catching me and I was catching Lando. It all got pretty exciting.”

The news didn’t go down well with the Aussie…

And just before the penalty confirmation…

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Vettel brands France as a failure for Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel has said Ferrari have “failed” in their task of narrowing the gap to Mercedes via the use of new updates to the SF90.

New wings and a new floor were part of Ferrari’s update package heading into the French Grand Prix weekend, but older parts made a return the closer we got to lights out on Sunday.

After a torrid qualifying session on Saturday, where Vettel qualified down in P7, the four-time World Champion could only salvage two positions after a very uneventful race.

“We failed,” Vettel said back in the paddock at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

“We wanted to close the gap to Mercedes by a certain amount and we didn’t. In that regard we have to be honest, we failed, but, nevertheless we tried everything we could.

“Charles’ podium is at least a little bit of a satisfaction. The bigger objective was to come here and close the gap but we had to learn that our parts weren’t working the way we expected them to.”

Vettel earned an extra point by setting the fastest lap late on, but even that was no straightforward task given how close Mercedes were to taking that point from him.

“We had to [go for it],” Vettel added.

“At least it’s one extra point, otherwise I don’t think we’d have fought for P4. The pace from the P3 to P5 was pretty much the same so it was quite difficult.

“It just shows how much pace they have in hand,” Vettel said when learning his fastest lap was just 0.02s quicker than Hamilton’s effort on old tyres.

“If they want to they just go a lot faster. That means there is a lot of work for us, but need to make sure to get closer to put them under pressure.”

On his race as a whole, he summarised: “The first stint was quite okay, we were catching Max [Verstappen] and Charles [Leclerc]

“In the second stint I struggled a bit more with the balance, didn’t have the full trust on the rear. It was fun at least I could push the whole race but it was lonely.

“It was a lonely race. I enjoyed in the beginning with the McLarens but other than that lonely. I was fighting very hard but it was in the distance.”

Leclerc closed to within a second of Bottas on the final lap, but he admits that there were “not enough laps” remaining for him to snatch P2.

“I gave it everything, I felt OK with the car but the Mercedes were too quick early on,” he told Martin Brundle on the grid.

“The first run was quite OK, and on the second run I was about tyre management and towards the end I was catching Valtteri.

“But there was not enough laps for me to try something. But where we were on Friday, today is a great day for us. In the last two laps I was catching quite quickly.”

Vettel is now 76 points behind leader Lewis Hamilton in the World Championship standings as we head to round nine in Austria.

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Perez ‘stuck to the rules’ and still got a penalty

Sergio Perez has said he does not understand why he was given a five-second penalty at the French Grand Prix.

The SportPesa Racing Point driver was handed a five-second time penalty on Lap 1 for apparently gaining an advantage when going off track, but he believes he was following the instructions issued prior to the race.

“I don’t understand why I got the penalty,” Perez told Motorsport.com. “I did what I’m supposed to do, which is to go around the bollard, and you are meant to go slower, but apparently I gained an advantage.

“I have to review to see what I did wrong, but from my point, it’s so hard to judge where you are on track. I ended up behind Hulkenberg, which is where I started, where I was into Turn 1, so I just have to review that.

“If you go around the bollard you are meant to lose a lot of time. It’s what I did. It’s a pain in the ass to have to go around the bollard, but I stuck to the rules and I still got the penalty.

“The rule is clear. If you are out for whatever reason you just have to go around the bollard. It’s what I did, but I think probably going around the bollard is not slow enough so we have to make it slower.”

Perez believes the team were fast enough to get points, and that the penalty robbed them of that chance.

“I think we had good form,” he said. “We were close to the Renaults and Alfas. In race pace, we were a lot closer today and we deserved some points. But yeah, the points were taken away from us.

“It’s very promising the pace that we had in the race, so I’m pleased with that. We were a lot closer and we’ll see what we can do better next week. Hopefully, we get back to the points.”

The Mexican’s P12 finish meant that he has now gone four races without getting any points, and has thus dropped to P13 in the driver standings.

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Hamilton: French Grand Prix win ‘not easy at all’

To the viewer it looked like another dominant win for Lewis Hamilton, but he said his comfortable victory was “not easy at all”.

After a picture-perfect start, Hamilton sailed off into the distance and cruised to a 18-second win against nearest rival and team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

His sixth win of the season means he has now extended his World Championship lead to 36 points but, towards the end of the race at the Paul Ricard circuit, he said he feared a tyre blow-out.

“It wasn’t easy at all,” Hamilton told Martin Brundle in the post-race interviews.

“There’s always things happening, always on the edge. These cars, as you know, everything is running to a temperature; reliability is everything.

“I had two big blisters on the tyres, so I was a little bit worried. I remember last year, Force India, Lance [Stroll], had a tyre blow out, so I was a bit worried about that.”

Hamilton’s French Grand Prix success was his 79th career victory and that winning feeling “just never gets old”.

“It’s definitely been a really good weekend,” Hamilton added.

“I’ve been racing a long, long time, but it just never gets old.

“It’s always such a challenge out there and I just love trying to find the edge, bridging that gap, but I couldn’t do it without this incredible team.

“These guys, and all the guys back at the factory, we’re creating history together, and I’m so proud of everyone and to be a part of this team.

“It’s a beautiful day here in the south of France, I’m still sweating a huge amount out there. It’s still so warm out there, in the car.

“It’s actually an awesome track to drive within the race and there’s some real technical areas where you can gain an advantage on others.”

Bottas summed up everyone’s thoughts by saying “nothing actually happened” in the race.

However, he made it clear that he doesn’t believe his team-mate is now “unbeatable”.

“Nothing actually happened in this race,” admitted the Finn.

“The start was the best opportunity for me and I couldn’t get past Lewis. But he was faster than me, he’s very consistent, but he’s not unbeatable.

“I have to work harder to figure out how to do better than him.”

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Verstappen wants more grip…and top speed

Max Verstappen wants Red Bull to provide more grip with the RB15, and Honda to provide more power after his P4 finish at the French GP.

After holding off an early assault from McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, Verstappen ran a lonely race to cross the line at the Circuit Paul Ricard where he started, in P4.

The Dutchman was unable to make any impression on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc ahead in P3, and he admitted that in the closing stages he didn’t have enough grip left and was forced to settle for conserving P4.

Though acknowledging most drivers want more grip, he does believe it is holding Red Bull back, and he hopes that the team can work with engine supplier Honda to offer a more planted and powerful car down the line.

“You have to keep on pushing. You try to push yourself. I still want to see how fast we can go,” Verstappen told reporters in France.

“At one point in the second stint we were looking quite good, but with six/seven laps to go I ran out of rear-grip so I decided to bring it home. I couldn’t really rely on the rear tyres anymore so, but to be in front of one Ferrari is a good result for us.

“Of course, there are limitations, and you have to drive around it. Every driver would like more grip, but for us, at the moment, it is not only grip, but also top speed, as you could see in the first lap.

“It was very hard to defend, but also to attack. Because we had a good start, but then three cars just come by.

“We have to work on both sides to make a step up.”

Verstappen’s team-mate Pierre Gasly cut a dejected figure after the race – he was promoted to P10 after Daniel Ricciardo’s double penalty.

Asked by reporters if it was a positive weekend at his home race, he said: “No, no, no. We struggled massively in qualy, sliding a lot, and it was the same story in the race.

“There are a lot of question marks at the moment why we are struggling so much after a good FP3, we struggled massively from qualifying and in the race.

“We need to work and analyse everything to understand why we have such a big lack of pace.”

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Norris didn’t get result McLaren deserved

Lando Norris was frustrated to not get the result he felt he deserved after suffering hydraulic issues during the French Grand Prix.

The Brit shared the third row with team-mate Carlos Sainz after a fantastic showing in qualifying from McLaren, and in an rather uneventful race it seemed both drivers were on their way to completing a solid double-points haul.

However, Norris was forced to battle hydraulic issues in the closing stages and dropped to P10 after Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg passed him on the last lap, though Ricciardo was given two five-second penalties for his efforts, promoting Norris back to P9.

A small consolation for the 19-year-old came after he was voted Driver of the Day.

“It wasn’t the most exciting race, pretty much the whole thing for me,” Norris told reporters in France.

“The exciting bit was obviously towards the end when I had to start defending and battling.

“But the whole of the start, middle and towards the end was just managing the tyres and making sure we stayed in position because there was nothing worth risking between Carlos [Sainz] and myself and destroying the tyres for no reason.

“We did what we needed to do and for Carlos it worked out great, but something got to my car in the end which didn’t allow me to get to where we deserved to finish this weekend. I’m a bit frustrated.”

Asked if he had any more details on the issues he encountered, Norris said: “Hydraulics, but I don’t know what happened.”

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl was very happy with the performance over the race weekend, and bemoaned a late Virtual Safety Car which allowed Ricciardo and co to close up on the rookie.

“I’m very happy, we could see during the race that the race was there. Of course, it’s a shame to lose this position with Lando at the end.” he told Sky F1.

“But it was a great job from him, he had some hydraulic issues in the second half of the race which affected braking, gear shifts, everything. But I’m really happy.

“We knew that it would be tight at the end of the race and the virtual safety car didn’t help because then Ricciardo had the chance to close. But again, very happy for the team back home from a track where we could carry the performance through all weekend.”

Despite the impressive step forward which McLaren seem to have taken at the Circuit Paul Ricard, Seidl thinks it’s too early to start getting carried away.

“I think it’s still too early, we have seen at races that some cars are faster than others it’s different depending on the track,” he said. “We’ll see how we go next week [in Austria].

“The important thing is to keep developing the car and see the results on the track. We need to understand the car better but the two drivers are doing great jobs.”

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Impeccable Hamilton marches towards title No.6

Lewis Hamilton took another step towards a sixth World title as he claimed win number six of 2019 with a flawless display from pole to flag at the French GP.

Hamilton started from pole position and raced unchallenged to the first corner. Unchallenged was in fact the order of the day for the reigning World Champion.

Valtteri Bottas, the only realistic opponent on the day, didn’t even try to fight Hamilton into the first corner, just pulling in behind his team-mate and slotting into second.

53 laps later, it ended as it began.

Hamilton, who ran a medium-hard one-stop strategy, romped to the victory with a touch of engine setting dramas and a seat issue thrown into the mix – potentially to pretend there was a bit of spice and excitement.

Sunday’s win was Hamilton’s sixth of this season and his back-to-back French GP triumph. It increased his advantage in the Drivers’ standings from 29 to 36 points over Bottas, who was second on the day.

Thankfully behind the Mercedes drivers there was competition, although not exactly the closest one ever seen on a F1 track, for the final podium position.

While Charles Leclerc was informed he’s on “Plan A”, Max Verstappen had a “lag” out of the corners and Sebastian Vettel had to work his way past the McLarens before he could get involved.

The trio were separated by eight seconds with Verstappen in the middle of a Ferrari sandwich when the Red Bull driver pitted. Leclerc stopped a lap later while Vettel was told to “run as long as possible”. He pitted on lap 25, only three after Leclerc. Like those ahead he also opted for a medium-hard strategy.

After their pit stops the trio were separated by 12 seconds with Leclerc seven ahead of Verstappen and Vettel five behind the Red Bull. That was it, game over, podium decided.

Although Leclerc was at one stage told to push by Ferrari to try catch Bottas, he replied: “I could, but it’s not good for the tyres, so no.”

Verstappen was fourth with Vettel P5. The Ferrari driver’s only moment of glory with a late run for fastest lap, pitting on the penultimate lap of the race. He took it – and the point – on the very last lap.

Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, which quickly became Sainz and Norris, made a fist of it for McLaren. They ran fifth and sixth ahead of Vettel before falling to the Ferrari driver at the chicane; lap 5 for Norris, lap 7 for Sainz.

With 15 laps to go a rather frustrated Norris closed up on Sainz but wasn’t able to find a way past. He complained to McLaren, they opted to keep the status quo especially as Norris had a DRS problem and was told that he “could not use DRS”.

A few laps later it was clear that the hydraulic issue was bigger than just DRS with Norris suffering with heavy steering and other issues. This allowed Daniel Ricciardo to close the gap on the injured McLaren.

Sainz brought his MCL34 home in sixth place with Ricciardo making a late pass on Norris for seventh, who would then fall to tenth in the final few corners. It was still the Woking team’s second double points-haul of the season.

Kimi Raikkonen, Nico Hulkenberg and Lance Stroll all started on the hard tyre and one by one worked their way up to sixth place when they pitted on lap 32, 35 and 40 respectively.

Raikkonen was eighth with Hulkenberg ninth as both overtook Norris in a rather messy situation that saw Norris pushed off the track on the final lap. The stewards are investigating. Pierre Gasly missed out in 11th place. Stroll was P13.

It wouldn’t be F1 at the moment without a controversial penalty, this time for Sergio Perez. He had an off at Turn 3 on the opening lap and although he worked his way around the bollards as the drivers had been instructed to do, he was investigated for leaving the track and gaining an advantage. He was slapped with a five-second timed penalty.

Robert Kubica beat George Russell for the first time this season but the Williams rookie made two stops to his team-mate’s one.

Romain Grosjean was the only retirement on Sunday afternoon, parking his Haas in the pits on lap 47.

Update: Ricciardo has since been given two five-second timed penalties for leaving the track, rejoining unsafely and forcing another driver off the track and gaining advantage.

It sees him go from P7 to outside of the points in P11.

Result  (after Ricciardo penalty)
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 18.056s
3 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 18.985s
4 Max Verstappen Red Bull 34.905s
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 62.796s
6 Carlos Sainz McLaren 95.462s
7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing 1 LAP
8 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 1 LAP
9 Lando Norris McLaren 1 LAP
10 Pierre Gasly Red Bull 1 LAP
11 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 1 LAP
12 Sergio Perez Racing Point 1 LAP
13 Lance Stroll Racing Point 1 LAP
14 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 1 LAP
15 Alex Albon Toro Rosso 1 LAP
16 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing 1 LAP
17 Kevin Magnussen Haas 1 LAP
18 Robert Kubica Williams 2 LAPS
19 George Russell Williams 2 LAPS

Did not finish
Romain Grosjean Haas lap 47

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Wakey…wakey…Mercedes win 10 races in a row

Well hey there sleepy heads, you really didn’t miss much…Lewis Hamilton made it 10 race wins in a row for Mercedes.

Here is how race day unfolded in France…

There was more news that suggested this was going to a weekend to forget for Vettel after an oil leak was discovered on his car after qualifying.

On the bright side, it was able to be fixed under parc ferme conditions and ensured that he kept his rather lowly P7 starting spot.

Sebastian Vettel

Three-time World Champion Sir Jackie Stewart celebrated his 80th birthday earlier in June. Cue a sea of tartan caps to mark the occasion…

Looking snazzy, chaps!

Lewis Hamilton was all smiles heading to the grid. I mean, why wouldn’t you be?

Hamilton kept his lead off the line as the top four remained in order. Carlos Sainz managed to jump McLaren team-mate Lando Norris though for P5.

Lap five and Vettel gained his first position of the afternoon.

He soon dispatched of the other McLaren…

A five-second time penalty came Sergio Perez’s way for leaving the track and gaining an advantage at the start, even though it was because he followed procedure and went around the safety bollard. Seb is old news, time to over-debate this between now and Austria.

Renault couldn’t quite pull of the undercut on Pierre Gasly for Daniel Ricciardo, but not to worry, the Aussie just passed him on track anyway.

Into the pits came Verstappen, Ferrari responded swiftly to ensure Charles Leclerc remained comfortably ahead of the Dutchman.

Valtteri Bottas made his first stop on lap 23, with team-mate Hamilton doing the same on the following tour. Even though he hadn’t stopped, Vettel still couldn’t get ahead of the Brit.

After locking up Vettel made the call to pit. Back out on the hard tyres in P5, he set about closing down Verstappen…which didn’t happen.

But this was the real action taking place…

Meanwhile Hamilton set another new lap record as he stretched his lead over Bottas to 12.5s.

Nico Hulkenberg wasn’t able to clear Kimi Raikkonen through his stop, but he did come out ahead of Gasly.

There were late hydraulic issues for Norris to manage as he looked to keep his end of McLaren’s double-points bargain. Meanwhile, Ferrari moved Vettel to Plan F!

A miserable weekend for Haas was complete…

We saw a brief VSC period with four laps to go after Alex Albon sent a bollard onto the circuit, but that was as exciting as it got.

Hamilton took the win – Bottas P2. But at least Vettel denied Hamilton the extra point for fastest lap.

But, it was heartbreak for Norris who couldn’t hold on as he slumped all the way down to P10.

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FIA post-race press conference – France

Lewis Hamilton took a dominant victory at the French GP, making it ten-straight wins for Mercedes with team-mate Valtteri Bottas in P2.

The Silver Arrows duo, along with P3 finisher Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, faced the media after the race…

 

DRIVERS

1 – Lewis HAMILTON (Mercedes)

 2 – Valtteri BOTTAS (Mercedes)

3 – Charles LECLERC (Ferrari)

 

TRACK INTERVIEWS

(Conducted by Martin Brundle)

 

Q: Lewis, the word that springs to my mind is master class.

Lewis HAMILTON: It’s definitely been a really, really good weekend. I’ve been racing a long, long time but it just never gets old. It’s always such a challenge out there and I just love that trying to find the edge, just bridging the gap and really being on top of this machine. But I couldn’t do it without this incredible team, this group of guys here. All these guys… don’t be shy! And all the guys back at the factory. We’re creating history together. I’m so proud of everyone, so proud to be a part of this team; this group of people, and Valtteri did a great job this weekend as well. Yeah, I’m hyped.

 

Q: It was warm out there. I can feel the heat still coming off your body. It was pretty tough out there today.

LH: Yeah, well, it’s a beautiful day here in the south of France. I’m still sweating a huge amount out there and it’s so warm still in car. It’s very, very bumpy. It’s actually an awesome track to drive within the race. There are some real technical areas where you can gain an advantage on others.

 

Q: We heard you managing a few things – gearbox changes early on, settings, then you reported your seat had broken in one place, then the blisters on the tyres – so it wasn’t totally easy.

LH: Well, it wasn’t easy at all. There are always things happening, everything is on the edge. You’ve got to imagine these cars, as you know, everything is running to a temperature, everything is about wear, reliability is everything, so saving the engine where I can, looking after the tyres. I had quite big blisters on the front two tyres. In was a little bit worried. I remember last year, I think a Force India or something, yeah Lance, had a tyre blowout, so I was a little bit worried about that, but nonetheless this has been the best start to the year, so we’ve got to enjoy it.

 

Q: Indeed, six wins so far this season, the fourth straight victory there for Lewis. Coming home in second place, Valtteri, what can you tell us about your race?

Valtteri BOTTAS: Not that much happening from my side honestly. The start was the best bet for me but Lewis had a good start as well and ultimately Lewis was quicker today. I couldn’t really match his pace. Something for me to have a look at obviously before the next one. But very proud of the team and myself… Yeah, it’s just important to understand today what I can do better for next time.

 

Q: No particular issues then. Any idea where this great champion is finding this extra speed from the car?

VB: It’s something I need to look at. He was really strong and consistent today, and also yesterday in qualifying. He’s not unbeatable; I know that. I just need work hard.

 

Q: Charles, congratulations, tantalisingly close to second place, you gave it everything you had.

Charles LECLERC: Yes, I gave it everything. Obviously the first run was quite OK, I felt OK with the car, but the Mercedes were just too quick and the second stint was all about tyre management. I think we did a very, very good job on that. Towards the end, I was catching Valtteri, I think he struggled a little bit to turn his tyre on again after the VSC, so I saw an opportunity but unfortunately there were not enough laps for me to try something. But I think seeing where we were on Friday after the race simulations, I think it’s a great day for us.

 

Q: Was there a moment where you thought ‘I’m going to have him, I’m going to take second place’?

CL: Definitely. I mean in the last two laps I was catching quite quickly, so I believed it until the last metres.

 

PRESS CONFERENCE

 

Q: We’re going to start with Valtteri. Second place today. You had Charles less than one second behind you at the flag. Did you have an issue or were you simply managing the gap to perfection?

VB: Yeah, from my side it was quite an uneventful race in the end, but yeah, we were suffering with some front tyres blistering in the last stint, so we were a little bit concerned and just wanted to be on the safe side so we would definitely make it to the end without any failure on the front tyre. So had take care a lot of the fronts in many of the corners and maybe being a lot on the conservative side, losing some big chunks of time, just by managing and being on the safe side. And in the end, that’s why it became a bit close with Charles, closer than we wanted. After the VSC we struggled a bit to re-start the tyres and lost some temperature.

 

Q: Were you pleased with the pace of your car in race conditions today, and how did it compare to yesterday in the practice session?

VB: Obviously very pleased for us as a team. We’ve been having another super strong weekend, getting the maximum points pretty much once again, so from that side it’s good. But my gap to Lewis, for sure not pleased with that. I think in the beginning once tyres were fresh there was no issue keeping up with him. Today my issue was keeping the front tyres in a good state. Always halfway through the stint my front tyres were starting to be finished and the gap started to build. That was the difference to Lewis. He was quick today and efficient on the tyres and that’s how he made the gap.

 

Q: Charles, second consecutive podium, well done. One more lap and you think you might have a go at the man on your right?

CL: Well, it’s always quite difficult to know. One thing for sure is that I was catching quite quickly at the end. The car felt pretty good. I had paid quite a lot of attention to both axles of tyres before and I was just focusing on the end of the race, to have the tyres in quite a good shape and I think on that we did quite a good job. To be honest though I did not expect to catch Valtteri. As he mentioned he had some issues with the front tyres. That’s why I caught him quite dramatically towards the end. It was a good surprise and when I saw that I pushed even more. At the end we finished very, very close. I tried to show myself in the inside of the last corner, but obviously I was too far to try something.

 

Q: Charles, it’s been a really good weekend for you personally, in terms of pace relative to your team-mate. How encouraged are you by that and also the improvements that Ferrari have made this weekend?

CL: On the first one, I’m very happy because I’ve had a few difficult weekends, the last ones, especially in qualifying. I changed the approach for here. I changed also a little bit my approach on the car set-up and I think it went in the right direction, so on that I’m very, very happy that it paid off and we could see it on the result this weekend. Then on the car improvement we have brought some new parts this weekend, some were good, some other were not, but clearly Mercedes are quite better for now, so we need to work and to try to catch up.

 

Q: Lewis, your sixth win of 2019, the 79th of your career. The numbers keep climbing. Lewis, it was an emphatic victory, another emphatic victory. Fastest lap the only thing that eluded you this weekend. Just talk us through the race. There was quite a lot of radio chat about tyres and broken seats. What can you tell us?

LH: I’d still say it was relatively eventful. I think something broke in my seat – like one of the seat stays, so as I was going through one of the corners, all of a sudden the thing kind of dropped and was moving around a little bit. And then the start was good, then the first couple of laps with the tyres was not so easy – I don’t know how it was for the other guys but sliding around a little bit at the beginning. And then after that I kinda got into my rhythm and after that was quite comfortable. Was not expecting the medium tyre to go as far as it did but I was able to continue. The stopped me, for sure, too early. I could have kept going for at least another five, maybe even ten laps, I had a lot of life left still in the tyres. And then we got onto the next tyre which felt good initially but then I got a lot of graining on the tyre. But I was just really working on my craft and really working on… I was continuing to learn about this track, and where you can and can’t push; where you save, where you don’t save and all those kinds of things. With that, I started finding more and more time, and every time Valtteri and Charles but a good time in, I was a tenth or two ahead. So I just kept it consistent, and right at the end, I hadn’t really thought much about the fastest lap. Being that we know Vettel had a free stop, and so, the thing is, with me, my mentality is that it doesn’t matter whether they have a free stop, I’m still going to go for it. The team’s like: don’t even bother. And so, anyway, I came out of the last corner and half way down the straight I decided to go for it. So, I probably lost a little bit in power mode but, other than that, it was a really good lap. It’s always good to be able to push and eke more out of the car. It was a lot of drifting, because the tyres were quite old. Other than that, really grateful. We actually didn’t come here with any upgrades, we just continue to refine this car. My feeling within the car is improving as I get more into the season, particularly in qualifying but also in the race. So just a big thank you to all the guys back at the factory for their continued hard work. It doesn’t go unnoticed. I know we’ve had a lot of success, and they’re used to it but I hope they continue to keep pushing. That’s what I’m doing.

 

Q: You said earlier that you’re making history with this team. Can you just describe what it’s like to ride the wave that you’re currently on?

LH: I’m not really a good surfer, so I can’t really relate it to riding the wave necessarily. I think the thing is people see success and they often don’t have a real understanding of how much work goes on in the background. Maybe you can try to imagine but then you’ve got multiply that by ten or a hundred or whatever it is. Obviously we’ve got an incredible boss and I think it tiers down from the head. We owe a lot to Toto, of how he manages this team and how he manages us as drivers and allows us to race and allows us to race. But also when you have authority – not authority but respect for each other within in the team, where you really listen to each other. We’ve created a working relationship where we learn so much from each of these races and we take it back and we churn out time. I’ve definitely experienced in the past, in my career, that’s not always been the case. Communication is everything. I think that’s what we have: a great team of communicators and hard workers. There’s not a single person I think that is complacent within the team. They could be out there drinking right now but instead they’ll be working on the car onto the next one. They’re just sheer hard workers. Honestly never through I’d see such a great team and be so fortunate as to be in such a great team. So I’m really, really grateful to witness it and be a part of it, and to Mercedes who have supported me since I was 13. It’s really cool to continue to… particularly because it’s 125 years of Mercedes-Benz.  So, I think we, Valtteri and I, help them to continue to break more records.

 

QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR

 

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, you mentioned about going for the fastest lap right at the end. You talked, when you spoke to Martin Brundle immediately after the race about the fears with the front tyres, the blisters, managing that. How was it balancing that need to preserve the tyres with the desire to push? I guess you must have felt fairly confident that you were able to go for that lap right at the end?

LH: I asked if anyone else was having blistering and they didn’t reply that Valtteri or anyone else was having the same, so I was a little bit nervous with that. Particularly as it started getting quite deep on the right side. And then it appeared on the left side, and I’m thinking: shoot. I remember last year Lance, I think it was, so in the Williams I guess had the tyre blow up in Turn 10, so I was a little bit nervous for that. Even though I think we had the thin gauge tyre last year as well. A little bit nervous with that. I basically reduced a bit of my speed for a period of time where I wasn’t really leaning too heavily on the front tyre. And then, right at the end, the car’s at its lightest, and it’s only one lap, so I went for it and pushed a little bit more – but not really taking the cake. Fortunately it all held together and I just a little bit off. So we could definitely have had the fastest lap at the end there but anyways.

 

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Is there any part of you that thinks about – or doesn’t think about doing showboating. I’m talking the likes in other sports where you see sports starts almost taking the mickey out of their opponents, like pulling over, slowing down, letting people catch up – or are you constantly fearful that you’ve got to be there to hammer home the lap times and try and keep that gap as big as possible?

LH: First, I don’t hold fear in my heart. I just focus on trying to be great and improve as a driver. So it’s nothing to do with fear. I don’t think I’ve ever been one for showboating, so I think, with the world that we’re in today, you can’t win and you lose either way you do it. People having an opinion about one way that you do it or another. I prefer to just keep my head down and keep chipping away at things. Naturally I would love… I really enjoyed the last race and races like that. I’ve never made it a secret. That’s the races I think in general people enjoy most. And, of course, these ones are not the ones that people enjoy the most – but I think it’s really important for people to realise it’s not the drivers’ fault. This is a constant cycle of Formula One for years and years and years, even before I got to Formula One, and it’s because the way Bernie had it set up and the decisions they were making back then, it’s still the same. Until that management structure changes, it will continue to be the same, in my opinion. That’s not my job to do that. My job’s to come here and do the best I can as a driver.

 

Q: (Christian Menath – motorsport-magazin.com) Question for you Valtteri. Just to be clear on that last laps, you said the front tyres were the problem afterwards – but did you also lose time during the VSC because of the VSC procedure – or was it just the tyre?

VB: I lost a little bit of time in the VSC but I don’t think I was the only one because it was, like super quick, so first you slow down a lot to be positive on the delta, you’re changing the engine modes, then suddenly it was saying VSC ending. So, put in the right mode. I started to go flat-out because I was a lot positive, so I think I got down to maybe +3 on the delta which is bigger than usual. So, lost a bit of time there – but the main issue was the blistering, a lot of front tyre wear. Once you lost a bit of temperature under the VSC, you struggle to get gain it back when you don’t have the surface of the rubber any more there. So, that was the bigger difference, so couldn’t really restart the tyres.

 

Q: (Luis Vasconcelos – Formula Press) Valtteri and Charles. Valtteri, yesterday you said the start was going to be the key so what went wrong there, or were you waiting for something to go wrong for Lewis there to make the pass? And for Charles, you had an interesting first couple of corners with Max, so can you explain how that was from your point of view?

VB: Yeah, for me, just the initial pull away, I felt there was decent grip so I went quite deep on the clutch but for some reason I just didn’t get the kick from the engine for the initial part but it was fine, all OK, nice and smooth start but Lewis had a good start as well so there was not enough difference on the start to gain any ground and then after that, like I said, Lewis was strong today on the pace and especially on the front tyre management. My tyres were running out quicker.

CL: Yeah, I was quite surprised how quick the lights went off but I quite liked it, I think it’s good, it’s a good surprise and it gives something more to the start, but apart from that, I didn’t have a great start. After that I had a slipstream, I tried to place myself round the outside of Valtteri for the first corner but I didn’t take the risk to go round the outside, because he would have outbraked me and pushed me wide, for sure. I would have done the same so I decided to slow down a bit more, go behind him and then I saw that Max actually had a bit more grip and was round the outside of me. Actually I only saw him for one corner so I don’t know if he was there for a long time but I only saw him for turn two and then he was round the outside of turn three but yeah, I pushed in turn three and then I didn’t see him again after.

 

Q: (Phil Duncan – PA) Lewis, I think I’m right in saying that you’ve dropped just 21 points this season from the first eight races which is a pretty remarkable start. I know obviously you say the team is in a great place and obviously lauding Toto but how do you think you’re doing personally as a driver in the sense that you’re dominating so much this season?

LH: Yeah, I think I just tried to… reflecting on last year was the best year that I had had and I got myself into a really healthy place, condition physically and mentally, but there were still races that could have been better, there always is. So coming to this season, thinking trying to see if I can bring all those deliverables, continue to deliver on the deliverables but then see if I can chip away at improving even more. I definitely didn’t expect us… even when we sit in the debriefs or when we are in the garage, we are like… when we were in Barcelona in testing, we did not think this would be where we were. When the team spoke to me afterwards and said how’s the car, I didn’t really have any good things to say and there was a real worry for the first week and a half until the last day when we kind of figured out how to get the car to work. And then since then, the first few races, practice has been so-so, Valtteri has been super quick and much happier with the car and I’ve been thinking, Jeez, why have I not been as on top of it as he has, for example, or I have been in the past. But little by little, just keep working at it, keep chipping away and it’s getting better and better but the races just continue to be my strongest point, since some point of last year, and that’s really comforting and so that’s an area that I’ve particularly enjoyed. I really do hope that we have more close races like the last race. I really hope Ferrari bring some extra downforce rather than keeping the straights fast, get some speed through the corners so we can start racing each other.

 

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Lewis, you mentioned that you want a close fight, you might have to slow down. Any chance of that happening in Austria?

LH: Well, firstly Austria is going to be roasting. I think everyone’s going to have to slow down because it’s going to be so hot. One of the issues that we have is that our cars are too heavy and so the brakes are beyond the limit, they’re always overheating and they’re talking about going heavier in 2021 which is the wrong… I promise you is the wrong direction. But anyways, we’re going to struggle, I think next week will be a struggle because – but I think it’s for everyone, it’s super hot there, really hard for the brakes so how we are going to manage next week I don’t know. You saw a couple of years ago we had two failures in one race so it’s a hard race for everyone so we don’t go there with all the confidence in the world, we know that we might have a difficult weekend. It’s long straights, they’re good at long straights but we don’t plan on slowing down, we definitely don’t plan on slowing down. You look so bored, Ben. Sorry.

 

Q: (Ben Hunt – The Sun) Off-mike. You led every single lap, these guys are doing their best but it’s just the sport we’re involved in at the moment. You know it, I know it, we all know it.

LH: Yup, but instead of – and I don’t know if you do – but when you write the story and you say that… if you say that it’s boring… no, but if you do, I totally understand it and I remember growing up watching. Don’t point the fingers at the drivers because we don’t write the rules, we have nothing to do with the money shifting, all that kind of stuff… should put the pressure on the people that are at the head, who should be doing the job. I think they are trying to but for many, many years they’ve made bad decisions. Do I have confidence that it’s going to shift massively? I have faith that it’s going to get better, I really, really hope so and to the point that I went to Paris last week to get involved. I was in that meeting, watching all the bosses of F1. I think there was the FIA and all the Formula One teams, and trying to get involved in… I have nothing to gain by it by being there but if there’s anything I can help… they’ve been making all these decisions and never once had a driver’s input in that room, so if that can be the decisive point that helps shift it and the fans can get better racing, I will be proud to be a part of that.

 

Q: (Livio Oricchio – GloboEsporte.com) Charles, your team always says to us that one of the problems of the car is they do not have the tyres in the correct window temperature. Looks like this weekend it works properly. Did it permit you and your team to have a precise diagnosis about what the problem is with the car?

CL: I think there’s not only this and I think we have been clear on that. We are clearly fast on the straights and not enough in the corners so we need to work on that. We tried to do a step towards that this weekend. As I’ve mentioned, some parts worked, some others didn’t and we need to understand why and from then try to build up and try to understand why the gap is so big at the moment and try to close it.

 

Q: (Scott Mitchell – Autosport) Lewis, just to pick up on what you said about going to the FIA meeting and the summit. What did you learn from it? Did you go there with a sort of expectation in mind of what you wanted to get out of it or were you there just to observe, listen and how much did it encourage you about 2021 and beyond?

LH: What happens behind closed doors… obviously I can’t say a huge amount about it but it starts off with the fact that for the first time all the drivers are united, so the GPDA, which obviously started a long, long time ago. We have Alex Wurz who runs it for us because he has a little bit more time than we do and he’s a great spokesman for us but we all sit together in a room, particularly after the drivers briefing, and we talk about the issues. Then they bring up the rule sheet and what the things… and we are basically trying to get in the door and trying to be a part of it, and for many, many years they have not wanted us in that room, which I guess is why it’s never happened, because they’re engineers and they’re the guys that make the decisions and we’re just drivers. But the fact is we know how the car feels and so we have good positive criticism and negative criticism that can only help influence a decision. You can’t make a rule change about something without having all the facts behind it and what effect it will have and so… Anyway, so we just go in there to try and be a guide and if we can be a part of the rudder when they come up with an idea we can say actually that would feel terrible in the car and they would be like ‘oh really.’ Was it encouraging? It was encouraging that they allowed us to be there and they were really, really welcoming, which was great, and I’m hoping that they will continue to have us there, some of us drivers or a couple of us drivers each time. They’ve extended the decision of making the rules. I think they need to because they’re nowhere near where it should be in my opinion and they’ve got to make some serious changes to the decisions that they’ve already made of how 2021 should be. But what I’m encouraged by is that Ross and his team are working  – for the first time – on a real aero package that hopefully will have an impact on following, for example. But as I said, the cars going heavier is not a great thing. We need to get the cars lower, I think. People really enjoyed the speed of the cars between the early 2000s I think it was. It still needs to be Formula One, the pinnacle of sport and the fastest cars that there are around the world. So hopefully we will be part of it, hopefully we can make a real cool change and it’s not only that, it’s the format of the race weekend that maybe can shift a little bit for the fans, it’s how we bring the fans in, it’s all these things which can be better.

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Live! Updates from the French Grand Prix

Formula 1 races into Paul Ricard this weekend for the French Grand Prix.

Mercedes are chasing win number eight, Ferrari want win number one (denied the Canadian GP win by the stewards in Friday’s review) and Red Bull are also seeking a first win of the season.

Who will come out on top?

Follow the action live with PlanetF1’s live timing and commentary.

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