W Series: 2020 goal to “make stars of our drivers”

W Series CEO Catherine Bond-Muir has said the championship’s goal in 2020 is to move past countering criticism and focus more on promoting its drivers’ stories.

At last week’s Autosport International, Bond-Muir praised the media coverage W Series had generated throughout 2019, which she said reached an audience of 340 million people on TV and 5 billion through online and print media.

However, she also said that because much of that coverage was dominated by the scepticism and controversy surrounding the W Series concept, she wants to move beyond that conversation to focus more on the stories and personalities of the championship’s protagonists:

“I think this year we’ll do a much better job of making them all a little bit more famous because this year we don’t have to talk about why W Series exists,” Bond-Muir said.

“Ultimately I think we spent last year justifying our position and justifying what we were doing. I think a lot of that has been put to bed now, and in the second year we want to talk about our drivers. We want to talk about their stories and make stars of our drivers this year.”

W Series Media

2020 will take W Series to a more global audience than last year, as it joins the Formula 1 support bill for the US and Mexican Grands Prix.

Speaking to ThePitCrewOnline, Bond-Muir added that because of motorsport’s commercial nature, providing an opportunity to boost its drivers’ media profiles was just as key a part of W Series’ mission as giving them a chance to hone and showcase their driving skills:

“In order to succeed in motorsport, we all know you’ve got to have money and therefore you’ve got to be successful commercially.

“So [promotion] is crucially important because they need followers, they need to engage the public, in order that sponsors [and] teams will support them, and that will enable them to be successful as well as great driving skills.”

W Series Media

Interview with Esapekka Lappi, Autosport International 2020

Warren Nel

Let’s talk about this year then. It’s your third different team in three years.

Photo credit, Anna Rudd and M-Sport

Esapekka Lappi

It’s also Seb’s as well. Everyone keeps asking me, but also him as well. He’s gone in the opposite direction.

Warren

I wanted to talk about your preparations, but before that what about last year? You had a lot of issues at Citroen, and you didn’t score as many points as the previous year. You went from one of the best cars, to the not so good car. Could you put into words what the issues were?

Esapekka

I’d say the biggest problem, the first half of the 2019 year was hard, I just couldn’t change my driving style as much as the car needed, and we couldn’t introduce the parts which would suit my driving style and we didn’t have the kind of parts like the differential and then in Monte we had an wishbone issue after hitting a rock and then we had an engine explode. Sweden was fine with the podium and then since then it was very challenging and it felt with the natural driving of mine we were not competitive, I was not fast enough and then I knew to push harder and made mistakes, but then we got new differentials and then the pace on gravel was there immediately. Finland and Turkey were good. In Wales it was kind of going to be fine and we were not far away but then I made a mistake and went wide on a corner and broke a wishbone. Also, in Spain we were not far away and then the engine blew again, so in the end I felt positive steps throughout the year but for some reason on tarmac it was just sh*t. I don’t know why, but it was not only me, Seb also was struggling a lot and we never found out why. That’s mainly coming from the car, that I couldn’t drive it fast enough, and then when I got the parts, then it was better.

Warren

Yeah, you took two stage wins in Finland, so things came together a bit better for you there. Okay, that’s the past. Let’s look at this new year. It’s great to have a driver of your calibre still here. When did the conversation with M-Sport begin, and when did you find out about Citroen? Did you know before the press release?

Esapekka

Two hours before, I got a phone call and I didn’t have long to prepare for that, and then on the same day, we contacted Malcolm as I know it’s the only chance, because Toyota hadn’t released anyone yet, but still I knew who would be driving over there, so then we set all the meetings soon, and after a few days I was meeting Malcolm in England already in November. Things went forward quite quickly and we settled the things very soon, it was just today the guys wanted to announce it. Things were very clear. The funny thing is the rumours, they were flying about already before I even called Malcolm. This was the funniest! But in the end luckily it did happen.

Warren

Looking at the new season, you’ve had some time in the car, can you describe and compare to you two previous cars what it’s like?

Esapekka

Well, the first impression is that it’s quite easy and very logical, at least on tarmac it’s quite logical even if the conditions are tricky and challenging with a lot of surface changes, wet conditions it feels logical, so that’s giving a good confidence for the driver and for sure compared to last year it felt so much easier. I really enjoyed the test the chassis is working even better than the Toyota I believe. Performance wise, Citroen, the engine was kind of only in the top power, no torque but this is opposite again, the torque is quite nice like the Toyota, but when you’re in fifth or sixth gear, in the high revs it’s not really going like the Citroen. We are gaining more in the low revs but missing out of the high revs, but I think we will have a new engine before Argentina, which will fix these problems, and they are saying it will be a big improvement. This is promising, so I’m really quite looking forward that we can surprise people.

Photo credit, Anna Rudd and M-Sport

Warren

Okay, there’s three new events of course, in terms of preparations for those events, particularly the Safari, the roads are going to be quite different.

Esapekka

This is quite tricky to find a place which is similar, I’ve seen some videos from last years rally and looks like they are just making a road with a tractor, where to find these kind of conditions maybe Poland, but’s its maybe too fast, Kenya looks quite sandy, I don’t know  what we should do with that. But for the New Zealand I go with the Finland set up, I’ve done this rally once, seven years ago in the Skoda S2000, when I did the Asian Pacific Championship, so I drove over there. Japan, we did the recce last year and it looks super slow and technical, even more corners than Corsica, it can be interesting, but to prepare for Kenya, I have no idea and I’m a bit afraid of this rally, it can be quite an adventure!

 

Thanks to Esapekka for his time.

2020 FIA World Rally Championship
Ford Fiesta WRC 2020 Livery
January 2020
Photo: Drew Gibson

BSB: Redding Leads Brookes to Brands Finale

The 2019 British Superbike Championship concludes this weekend in Brands Hatch, as Be wiser Ducati duo Scott Redding and Josh Brookes battle it out for the title in the season-ending triple-header.

Redding comes into this weekend with a twenty-eight-point lead atop the standings over teammate Brookes, meaning the Aussie has all the work to do. However, it is not out of the question, since the 2015 BSB champion took both victories when the series visited Brands earlier this year, while Redding was third in the dry race one, but made a mistake in tyre choice in the mixed conditions of race two.

Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Racing Ducati #46). Image courtesy of Ducati

The Ducatis were dominant that weekend, with Tommy Bridewell (Oxford Racing) splitting the Be Wiser bikes in the first race and completing the podium in the second. Such dominance this weekend could work against Brookes should all three races be dry, but England in October is rarely that reliable.

Similarly, Oulton Park could be a sign of Redding’s potential for this weekend. The first round at Oulton back in May was a tough one for Redding, his first time at the Cheshire track, going 4-5 across the two races. In comparison, in the second Oulton Park round, Redding scored a win in the second race with two third places either side. It was a strong progression for Redding in Oulton Park and if he can repeat that progression from debut to second appearance in Brands Hatch this weekend it could be tough to stop the ex-MotoGP rider from clinching this year’s BSB crown.

Mathematically, the equation also factors in Tommy Bridewell, who is sixty-six points behind Redding. It has been a strong season from Bridewell and the private Oxford Racing squad, although surprising they have only amassed one win. It would take a lot to go his way this weekend for the number forty-six rider to be crowned champion, but before something is mathematically impossible, anything can happen in motorcycle racing.

Realistically, though, Bridewell’s primary goal for this weekend will be to secure a top three spot in the championship. In this fight, he is joined by Danny Buchan (FS-3 Racing Kawasaki), Tarran Mackenzie (McAMS Yamaha) and Peter Hickman (Smiths Racing), although probably the latter two will wind up fighting over fifth between themselves, such is their respective differences to Bridewell and Buchan.

Brands has not recently been a strong track for Kawasaki, and although Buchan was fourth in both races earlier this season, his difference to the winner was fourteen seconds in the dry race one and six seconds in the mixed conditions of race two. It will, therefore, be an uphill task for Buchan this weekend in his fight with the Ducati-powered Bridewell.

Finally, outside of the Showdown there is the fight for the Riders’ Cup. Currently leading the way in this battle Is Xavi Fores (Honda Racing), although there are only twenty points separating the Spaniard from Christian Iddon (Tyco BMW Motorrad) in tenth, with Andrew Irwin (Honda Racing) and Json O’Hallloran (McAMS Yamaha) in the mix, too, in eighth and ninth respectively.

Featured Image courtesy of Ducati

F3 Belgium: Armstrong untouchable in Spa sprint race

Prema Racing’s Marcus Armstrong took his second Formula 3 victory of 2019 at the sprint race in Belgium, as a fierce battle for the podium positions behind allowed him to cruise away in the lead.

Armstrong made a good start from reverse grid pole to cover off a challenge from Hitech’s Leo Pulcini, who started second on the grid. Pulcini then found himself sandwiched between Red Bull juniors Yuki Tsunoda and Juri Vips going into the La Source hairpin, where he made contact with Tsunoda trying to defend second. This forced Pulcini wide, where he in turn banged wheels with Vips on the outside of the corner and sent the Estonian driver onto the run off.

With Pulcini and Vips dropping back, Tsunoda assumed second place and ART’s Christian Lundgaard took third ahead of championship leader Robert Shwartzman. Pulcini initially filtered back into fifth between Shwartzman and Jehan Daruvala, but was passed by the final Prema into Les Combes on lap 3.

Meanwhile, Vips dropped back to eighth and immediately had to defend from Max Fewtrell’s ART. Fewtrell got the move done into the bus stop chicane at the end of lap 2, demoting Vips out of the sprint race points. Behind them, Logan Sargent got involved in his second incident of the weekend by spinning around MP Motorsport’s Liam Lawson.

Gareth Harford, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

On lap 4, the safety car was deployed after Simo Laaksonen lost control of his car at Blanchimont while fighting Alex Peroni and ended up deep in the barriers. The medical car was deployed to bring him to the medical centre for treatment, although initial reports are that Laaksonen is not badly injured.

The race resumed on lap 9 of 17, and the restart brought incidents throughout the field. Vips ran into the back of Fewtrell trying to retake eighth and broke off his front wing in the process, which left the Red Bull junior vulnerable to Fewtrell’s ART teammate David Beckmann. Vips shortly dropped to the back of the field, where he was joined by Jake Hughes and Devlin DeFrancesco, who collided going into Les Combes.

At the front, Armstrong opened up a lead of 1.4 seconds over Tsunoda at the restart. Tsunoda seemed to struggle during this second phase of the race, and within a few laps was under pressure from Lundgaard. The Dane closed up to within half a second, then on lap 14 dove down the inside of Tsunoda and took second place.

Gareth Harford, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

However, Tsunoda kept with Lundgaard and on the following lap tried to retake the position around the outside of Les Combes. Although that move was unsuccessful, Tsunoda managed to beat Lundgaard on the inside there on the following lap, after Lundgaard ran into his rev limiter defending down the Kemmel Straight.

Losing second to Tsunoda dropped Lundgaard back into the clutches of Shwartzman, who was only three tenths behind the ART. On the final lap and again at Les Combes, Shwartzman moved up the inside and took his seventh podium of the year, and second of the Spa weekend.

At the end of lap 17 Armstrong crossed the line with four seconds in hand over Tsunoda and Shwartzman. Lundgaard held on to fourth ahead of Daruvala, Saturday’s feature race winner Pedro Piquet took sixth place from Pulcini, and the final point went to Carlin’s Teppei Natori after Fewtrell retired from eighth with a puncture.

After the Spa weekend, Shwartzman’s championship lead has been extended to 23 points over Daruvala, who has moved up to second at the expense of Vips. Armstrong consolidated his fourth place over Lundgaard and is now only three points behind Vips.

Joe Portlock, LAT Images / FIA F3 Championship

MotoGP: Dovizioso Defies Marquez in Austrian Thriller – Part two

The laps Fabio Quartararo did immediately after he lost the lead were critical to his third place, pulling him away from Rossi behind who proved later in the race to be extremely tough to pass, at least for a rider without a straight-line speed advantage. Losing out to Rossi in the middle of the race would have given Quartararo the battle he has been waiting before between himself and The Doctor, but it may well have cost him the trophy he picked up as a result of his superior pace.

Rossi pointed to his rear tyre choice being the reason he missed out to Quartararo. The Italian had not been comfortable with the soft tyre throughout the weekend, neither over longer runs nor in a time attack, so his choice was a straightforward one to make. However, as Marquez, the Italian suffered with grip, and this was especially evident in his loss of time to teammate Maverick Vinales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) behind in the final ten laps. Rossi was able to hold off his Spanish rivals, though, and in the end it was a positive race for the Italian and Yamaha, who notably improved in Spielberg compared to twelve months ago.

Valentino Rossi at the 2019 MotoGP race at the Rd Bull Ring. Image courtesy of Yamaha Racing

Whilst Vinales was unable to pass Rossi in the final part of the race, Alex Rins was equally unable to pass Vinales. Once again, though, it had been the first part of the race that had cost Vinales a shot at the podium; losing out to Rossi on lap two meant he had to come up against that particular road block later in the race, and it proved one he could not overcome, finishing fifth in front of Rins – the #42 unable to do anything about either of the factory M1s despite Suzuki’s power gains over the winter.

Nearly eight seconds back of Rins was Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing), who took his best result in MotoGP with seventh place courtesy of, partly, the Ducati’s strength in Austria and, partly, of improvements made by the #63 and his team at the Brno test.

Just behind Bagnaia was Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Tech 3), the pair coming across the line in a similar fashion to last year’s Moto2 race, where they duelled for the win. The Portuguese saved the face of KTM, after Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) retired on lap two with a mechanical problem. Espargaro was looking good for a top ten, and Oliveira took over when his machinery let him down – important in KTM’s home race and especially with the announcement of Johann Zarco’s departure from Red Bull KTM Factory Racing at the end of this season.

Danilo Petrucci ahead of Franco Morbidelli in the 2019 Red Bull Ring MotoGP Race. Image courtesy of Ducati

Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) finished a disappointing ninth. Since the summer break the Italian’s form has been disappointing, and Austria was no different; beaten in Ducati’s strongest circuit by three rookies on satellite bikes, one being a KTM and another a Yamaha, as well as the sole factory Suzuki and the factory Yamaha pairing. Fortunately for Petrucci, his contract is already signed for 2020.

Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) completed a difficult weekend aboard his satellite Yamaha with a top ten, rounding it out ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU) who probably did not help his chances of a 2020 RC213V for next year with an eleventh. Johann Zarco was twelfth, although that was not enough for him to decide to continue with KTM next year, whilst Stefan Bradl scored points once more for Repsol Honda Team in place of Jorge Lorenzo, who should be back in Silverstone. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was fourteenth ahead of Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) who completed the points.

Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) was the final classified rider, one lap down in sixteenth after a mistake on lap twenty-five when he was nine seconds off his own pace of mid-1’25s, before two laps over twenty-five seconds off the pace when he went a lap down.

When Pol Espargaro’s bike expired on the second lap in the middle of the slowest corner on the track, turn three, Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL) was the unfortunate victim. The Brit had nowhere to go but into the back of the Spaniard who was unable to get off the line in time, and the #35’s race was over pretty much before it began.

Hafizh Syahrin (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) went down the lap after, and had to be hospitalized. There was concussion for the Malaysian, but he is expected to be okay for Silverstone.

Jack Miller Crashed out of fourth on lap seven. His fastest lap remained as the third-fastest of the race until the flag, a sign of the Australian’s potential. With the rumours circling around Miller’s future over the weekend, it was perhaps not ideal timing for the #43 to drop out of a race, but he was okay and his Pramac contract for 2020 is now signed.

The final retirement was Tito Rabat (Reale Avintia Racing), who dropped out with eight to go.

Featured Image courtesy of Gareth Harford/Yamah Racing

British F3 – Chaimongkol take memorable first BRDC British F3 victory

Sassakorn Chaimongkol took a memorable first ever BRDC British F3 victory in the first of three races this weekend at Silverstone.

The Fortec driver squeezed past polesitter Kiern Jewiss at the start of the race and despite intense pressure for twenty minutes, never looked likely to crack under intense pressure from Jewiss and Johnathan Hoggard.

Ayrton Simmons recovered to fourth after a poor start dropped him from third to sixth, despite finishing behind Neil Verhagen on track. Verhagen dropped to tenth after being penalised for a jump start.

Ulysse De Pauw came home fifth to continue his recent strong form ahead of Kaylen Frederick in sixth.

Championship leader Clement Novalak could only manage seventh on a disappointing Saturday for the Carlin driver, who risks seeing his lead at the top erode this weekend with Hoggard towards the front of the grid.

Lucas Petersson put in one of his strongest showings of the season to take eighth ahead of fellow Swede Hampus Ericsson, who recovered well after a slow start dropped him to twelfth.

Last year’s Silverstone Race Two winner Josh Mason was eleventh on Saturday afternoon after to gain two places over the course of the race, with Pavan Ravishankar a solid twelfth.

Nico Varrone bested Kris Wright for thirteenth with Nazim Azman last of the main pack on his eighteenth birthday, with Benjamin Pedersen retiring and Manuel Maldonado lapped after losing his front wing.

British F3 – Last-gasp Jewiss snatches Silverstone double-pole

Douglas Motorsport’s Kiern Jewiss backed up his impressive Brands Hatch form with a double-pole position on Saturday morning at Silverstone.

In a hotly contested qualifying session that saw Jewiss, Sassakorn Chaimongkol and Ayrton Simmons take turns at the top of the timesheets, the 17-year-old nicked pole from Chaimongkol with his last lap of the session when it looked like the Thai driver was destined to take his first ever British F3 pole position.

Jewiss, who at one point was 0.007s off the pace in third, took Race One pole by just over a tenth of a second, and will also line up pole for Race Three after setting the fastest second-best lap.

Johnathan Hoggard will start from fourth and hope to kick-start his championship challenge for Fortect ahead of a rejuvenated Ulysse De Pauw.

Double R Racing’s Neil Verhagen beat fellow American Kaylen Frederick to seventh ahead of an improved performance from Benjamin Pedersen.

Championship leader Clement Novalak, who could win the series this weekend, will start from ninth with work to do after struggling with the balance of his Carlin machine. He heads Double R Racing’s Hampus Ericsson.

Lucas Petersson will start from 11th ahead of last year’s Race Two Silverstone winner Josh Mason, while Manuel Maldonado will be disappointed to start thirteenth.

Pavan Ravishankar will be looking for an improvement to a weekend from hell at Brands Hatch from 14th on the grid ahead of the returning Nicolas Varrone.

On his 18th birthday, Nazim Azman will be looking for happier returns than 16th on the grid in Race One ahead of Kris Wright, who brings up the rear in 17th.

British F3 – Hoggard flies to pole position at Brands Hatch

Fortec Motorsport’s Johnathan Hoggard took a commanding British F3 pole position as he bettered the opposition by over three tenths of a second at Brands Hatch.

The Lincolnshire man led Douglas Motorsport’s Kiern Jewiss by 0.326s, while championship leader Clement Novalak of Carlin Motorsports starts Race One from third on the grid having lost out to Jewiss by 0.035s.

Thailand’s Sassakorn Chaimongkol put in a strong performance for Fortec to take fourth on the grid to back up his improving mid-season form, just 0.008s ahead of Carlin’s US charge Kaylen Frederick.

Belgium’s Ulysse De Pauw completes Row Three, one third of a tenth behind Frederick.

Manuel Maldonado will start from seventh after a solid session saw the consistent Venezuelan head Row Four, while Neil Verhagen leads Double R Racing’s charge, albeit from eighth position.

In a fifth row sure to confuse many an observer Lucas leads Benjamin as Sweden’s Petersson took ninth position on the grid ahead of the US-Dane Benjamin in his Douglas Motorsport entry.

Ayrton Simmons, the third man in the championship battle along with Hoggard and Novalak, could only manage 11th for Chris Dittman Racing as positions 2-11 on the grid were covered by just half-a-second.

Donington Race Two winner Josh Mason completes Row Six, Pavan Ravishankar and Nazim Azman make up the seventh row on the grid and Kris Wright outpaced Hampus Ericsson, whose off midway through the session not only saw him bring out a red flag, but also relegated him to last on the grid.

 

IMAGE: Jakob Ebrey

RACE CONTROL: RULEBOOK REPORT TO THE STEWARDS OFFICE…

Making tough judicial decisions is never easy on a Judge. You will always have on aggrieved party who disagrees with you, will take you on appeal and have their group of family and friends dislike you too. The same can be said for F1 stewards recently.

While the law, certainly here in South Africa, have a defined group of Judges for a period, F1 stewards change from race to race.

The Canadian Grand Prix and the incident between reigning  and 5 time World Champion Lewis Hamilton and 4 time Champion Sebastian Vettel brought the role of the stewards into sharp focus with numerous and current drivers bemoaning the lack of consistency in decision-making and the impact it has on the ability of racers to do what they – and we –  love most, race.

Sebastian Vettel at the Austrian GP 2019.
Source: Ferrari Media

Stewards were hauled over the coals on social media by fans who felt that the decision to award Vettel a 5-second time penalty was incorrect and cost him what was a needed win. However, the same stewards were praised for being courageous in applying the rules by fans who felt that they got it right. It is almost a no-win situation for the decision makers.

 

Having a permanent panel of stewards for the season may aid consistency, but it is not inconceivable that this may present a different set of problems. For one it is a massive ask of any person to do, following the paddock around all season. This is especially important when you consider that former drivers often make up the panel. The second problem deals with the members of the panel. If we are honest, given the backlash on social media, it is possible that permanent stewards could be accused of bias (based on their previous stints in F1/comments they may have made in media) if a decision does not go the way of a particular team/driver.

Yes, this is a hypothesis, but if the events of Canada and the penalty given to Daniel Riccardo after the French Grand Prix are anything to go by, the decisions of the stewards will always be called into question.

And let us not forget the pass seen around the world at the Austrian Grand Prix. ICYMI – the clash between race winner Max Verstappen and pole sitter Charles Leclerc was investigated with no penalty being handed out. Racing won according to many fans while many a Ferrari fan felt aggrieved for the 2nd time in 3 races. Essentially it was the same rule that saw Vettel receive a penalty, however this was a different incident. A wait of 3 hours saw this one decided, whereas Vettel’s was done while the race was in progress.

Max Verstappen at FIA Formula One World Championship 2019 Stop 9 – Spielberg, Austria
Photographer Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

On the face of it and in the mind of the F1 circle, there appears to be inconsistency in these decisions. Perhaps the problem does not lay with the decision makers, but rather on what informs the decisions?

Stick to the facts

The rule book. The FIA rule book is the veritable guide to the do’s and don’ts of F1. Among the rules is that a driver is prohibited from any manoeuvre liable to hinder other drivers or driving the car in an erratic manner, among other restrictions. Herein lies the problem – the rule book does not offer any explanatory notes on what would be considered erratic or just normal racing.

In law we have a Commentary to a legislation, which provides for an explanation of the regulations and rules. It provides clarity on the nuanced areas of law that may not appear fully in the hard and fast rule. Perhaps F1 could use something similar to assist the stewards in making decisions that take into account the practicalities of racing? In the event that this seems too cumbersome a task the solution could then lay in amending the rules to allow for the stewards to account for the practical elements of racing and take into account aspects such as what is “hard racing” vs “dangerous racing”.

Certain tracks allow for drivers to give each other a little more room, but some such as Baku, Canada  and Monaco do not, which makes it difficult for the stewards to apply a general rule regarding driving in an erratic manner. An amendment to allow discretion based on these practical elements could go a long way in fixing the problem in F1 right now. – Rhea Morar (Deputy F1 Editor)

2019 French Grand Prix Preview

The French theme is still very potent in the motorsport world. A fascinating Le Mans race is done and dusted, but this coming weekend sees the motorsport euphoria continue as we travel 931 kilometres south of Le Mans.

For the fifteenth time in World Championship history, Formula One arrives at the Circuit Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix, which made its return to the calendar last year.

The 5.8-kilometre circuit did not exactly go down well with fans last year, with grandstands a fair distance away from the track, and extensive run-offs that allow mistakes to go almost totally unpunished. It’s safe to say that the track has some way to go to re-establish any respectable reputation in the sport.

Last year did, however, see drama on the first lap. Home heroes Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon crashed into each other, while early contact between Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas saw the pair pit as a result of the damage inflicted and come back up through the field with a couple of smart moves. Lewis Hamilton won the race but, apart from the odd moment, it was a race that generally left a lot to be desired. Having said that, we said the same thing about Baku in 2016 and we got an absolute stunner of a race a year later, so fingers crossed!

2018 French Grand Prix – Wolfgang Wilhelm

Following the Canada controversy, which is still not over as Ferrari have officially lodged a right to review of Sebastian Vettel’s penalty, the Prancing Horses will again fancy their chances of springing an upset to the rampant Mercedes party by finally winning a race this year.

A fast circuit with long straights and few slow corners is fairly well suited to the Ferrari car, but Hamilton and Bottas will look to maximise some of the impressively fast corners around the track to continue their stunning start to what has turned out to be a historic season in terms of dominance.

This battle, after an impressive Ferrari showing in Canada, may make for a more interesting spectacle around the Paul Ricard track, but this won’t necessarily change the general consensus of the quality of the track.

Pierre Gasly, who has had to endure a tough start to the year alongside his extremely quick team-mate Max Verstappen knows he needs to put on a distinctively better performance than he has managed so far, and to make his mark on the Red Bull team. The pressure is building as a result of some very handy performances in Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso, so his home race provides the perfect setting for Gasly to make such a statement.

Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

The other French driver on the grid, Romain Grosjean, will be looking for an uninterrupted qualifying this time around, as will team mate Kevin Magnussen after his crash at the end of Q2 in Canada. The Dane should hopefully have a better time in France after what he described as ‘the worst experience [he has] ever had in a racing car’ in Montreal, as Haas target a double points finish.

As for Williams, the positive is that it is reasonably difficult for the car to end up in the wall at Paul Ricard, so they shouldn’t have to worry too much about spare parts this weekend. The car, however, is not likely to fare any better at Paul Ricard than it has done so far in 2019.

After some superb drama in Le Mans last weekend in the WEC, will we see the same at the French Grand Prix this weekend? Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes will be hoping the answer to that one is a very firm no.

 

[Featured image – Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool]