France: Mercedes dominates, the battle is at the mid-field

Courtesy of Associated Press

Mercedes is faster, but so was everyone else

It is clear thatMercedes are in a league of their own and racing away with both championships. At the French GrandPrix, lap after lap, Lewis Hamilton was able to set one fastest lap after the other. Even at the last lap with fresh tyres, Vettel could only go quicker by 0.02 seconds than Hamilton on older tyres that were clearly suffering.

Thanks to the folks at racefans.net for comparing lap times. On Paul Ricard, McLaren lapped 3.558 seconds faster than last year, with Renault lapping 2.068 faster. This is also the same trend with all teams, lapping faster than last year. Possibly the main culprit is the resurfaced track.

However, it is important to note that Mercedes drivers were able to consistently to be faster every lap and maintain their lead. I am of the same opinion of Christian Horner regarding the build of the tyre and how it suits Mercedes better. It is abundantly clear that Mercedes can heat up the tyres faster and more consistently than any other team on the grid.

Ferrari seem to have the pace, but is it tyres that are the issue

Note that I am using “seem” as it is not clear to me if they have the pace. The radio chat with Leclerc asking if he can push more and the answer that he can, but it is not good for the tyres is a clear message of the pace of the car, and that tyre management is the issue.

The late charge from Leclerc, and his ability to close a 7+ gap to Bottas in second, and almost overtaking him at the last turn when Bottas made a mistake, was definitely a great effort from the young driver. If he started his charge two laps earlier, I reckon he could have done it. What a shame.

Don’t forget, he also was able to have a late charge in Canada two weeks ago. My opinion is that they are suffering from tyre issues and cannot get the car faster because of that.

The mid-field battle intensifies

The top 5 for every race so far, except in Monaco when Leclerc did not finish, the mid-field this season has been inconsistent to say the least.

Finishing in the points for the teams looks like this now:

  • Red Bull, Gasly - 5 times
  • Alfa Romeo, Raikkonen - 5 times
  • McLaren, Sainz Jr. - 4 times, while Norris - 3 times
  • Toro Rosso, Kyvat – 4 times ,while Albon - 3 times
  • Renault, both drivers - 3 times each
  • Racing point, both drivers – 3 times each

This definitely gives us an interesting challenge for “best of the rest” until the end of the season. With Red Bull benefiting from Gasly’s improved form to set comfortably in third in the Constructors Championship.

However, the recent improvement in form for Renault and McLaren, will definitely make the fight for 4th an exciting one. The question remains, can Gasly maintain his progress? If not, then potentially either McLaren or Renault could start challenge for 3rd, while I see it a slim chance.

Moreover, the remaining positions in the Constructors Championship(6th, 7th, 8th and 9th) are definitely interesting as the teams are separated by only a few points.

After thoughts

I found the racing boring, except for the last lap. There was the tussle between Norris, Riccardo and Raikkonen. Also, there was the attempt of Leclerc on Bottas, and finally the fastest lap from Vettel.

Mercedes are the clear winners here, and most likely the winners of both championships. I have already shifted my focus to the mid-field. That battle is more exciting, and I recommend you do the same.

We are off to Austria next. Till then, drive safe.

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