Motorsport Tech Monday – what we learned from the French Grand Prix

As the dust settles after yet another dominant display from Mercedes, the racing world is again asking what can be done to spice up proceedings and stop Formula One from turning into a procession. Further down the grid, there was also controversy, with the use of time penalties for seemingly minor infringements again rearing its ugly head. Here’s what we learned after another incident-packed race weekend.

 

It’s now Lewis’ to lose

With only eight rounds gone in the 2019 season, it’s already turned into an utterly dominant display from Mercedes and, in particular, world champion driver Lewis Hamilton. In leading home teammate Valtteri Bottas at the Paul Ricard Circuit on Sunday, Mercedes claimed its seventh 1-2 finish of the season and it means that Hamilton now holds a 36-point advantage over the Finn and a massive 76-point lead over Sebastian Vettel. With the German strangely out of form behind the wheel, it now appears to be a straight fight between the Mercedes duo, although that scenario too could soon be redundant should team orders come into play. Let’s face facts, the talk is not now of Hamilton winning six world drivers’ crowns but of how long it will take him to surpass the great Michael Schumacher.

 

Fans paying the penalty

Controversy is never too far away in the fast-moving world of Formula One, and barely a race seems to go by without drivers being handed controversial penalties for defensive driving or eager overtaking manoeuvres. In Canada, Vettel paid the price for going off the track and re-joining in an unsafe position with Hamilton looming large in his mirrors. In France, it was Daniel Ricciardo’s turn to face the wrath of the stewards after being slapped with two five second penalties for overtakes on Lando Norris and Kimi Raikkonen on the final lap. First, Ricciardo ran around the outside of Norris at Turn 8 but then ran off the track before returning ahead and pushing the McLaren wide. Next, he also ran off the track to gain the inside line into Signes to take Raikkonen. Ricciardo and many of his fans were left fuming at the decision, siting it as merely wheel-to-wheel racing and there seems to be a grey area here, even if the rule book says otherwise. Racing Point’s Sergio Perez was another to be baffled by his penalty, the Mexican paying the five-second price for going off the track and gaining an advantage at the start, despite seemingly going around the outside of the Turn 3 bollard as instructed by race direction. In days gone by, mistakes would be punished with drivers running wide ending in gravel traps or the barriers, but with safety now dictating longer run off areas, the rule book may need a re-think.

McLaren are back on track

Despite Lando Norris’ late disappointment at losing two places on the final lap due to a broken DRS and hydraulic issue, McLaren enjoyed a strong race weekend. Norris and teammate Carlos Sainz qualified in fifth and sixth positions respectively ahead of Vettel’s Ferrari and maintained that impressive race pace, Sainz finishing sixth and Norris ninth, although it should really have been seventh but for the late issue. In the battle for ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull, the famous Woking-based team occupies fourth in the constructors’ standings, five points clear of Racing Point and seven ahead of Haas. But with Alfa Romeo and Renault also in the mix and just ten points separating fourth from eighth, this midfield fight looks at least set to be a cracker, even if it is looking less so at the top of the table!

Fraser Masefield

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.

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