Friday had been another good day for Mercedes and one to forget for Ferrari both on and off the track. Saturday saw final practice and qualifying take place as teams continued their bid to somehow break the Mercedes stranglehold on the title race.
It was another Mercedes 1-2 in the final practice session. Valtteri Bottas finished 0.041 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton. Ferrari had to be content with third and fourth with Charles Leclerc 0.028 seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel. The problem for Ferrari was that despite their weekend upgrades, Leclerc was 0.405 second behind the Mercedes.
Max Verstappen was fifth but was 1.379 seconds behind Bottas. Pierre Gasly finished sixth completing a usual suspects top six. McLaren continued their good weekend with Lando Norris in seventh and he was only 0.055 seconds behind Gasly. Daniel Ricciardo filled eighth spot with the other McLaren of Carlos Sainz in ninth. The top ten was completed by Kimi Raikkonen.
It wasn’t such a good session for George Russell. His Williams had power problems and he was unable to set a time. The only race on was to make sure his car would be able to take part in qualifying.
Lewis Hamilton will start the French Grand Prix on pole as he looks to extend his lead at the top of the table. It was a Mercedes 1-2 with Hamilton 0.286 seconds ahead of Valtteri Bottas. There’s 29 points between the pair so Bottas could really do with a win in this race, or at least finish above Hamilton (almost the same thing this season). A disappointing second lap in the final qualifying session ended his hopes of a fourth pole of the season. He blamed a change in the wind for his problems.
Charles ‘It is I’ Leclerc (I had to fit that in at some point this year) will start the race in third place. He was 0.646 seconds behind the Mercedes so has a job on his hands tomorrow. It wasn’t such a good session for Sebastian Vettel though as he could only manage seventh.
The communications between the former champion and his team were getting more and more strained as the qualifying session progressed. Running wide at Turn Six didn’t help his cause. It’s only the second time he’s failed to beat Leclerc in qualifying in 2019 and he ended 0.834 seconds behind his team-mate.
Max Verstappen was fourth in his Red Bull (but over a second behind Mercedes) but there was a surprise with the next two places. It was a great day for McLaren with Lando Norris finishing fifth and Carlos Sainz in sixth.
Just why McLaren have done so well couldn’t be explained by Norris. “For whatever reason, it seems to be working very well. Hopefully we can identify (why) and bring it to the next races,” he said post-qualifying.
Behind Vettel in seventh was Daniel Ricciardo in his Renault. They do have upgrades this weekend but were still 0.5 seconds behind Norris. Pierre Gasly was ninth with Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi in tenth.
George Russell was able to take part in qualifying and finished 19th. However, he’ll start at the back of the grid after Williams had to change his cars control electronics and energy store after those final practice problems.
It’s looking very much like another Mercedes 1-2 tomorrow. They have been the fastest all weekend, so another victory is very much on the cards. Perhaps the most interesting battle will be between McLaren and Red Bull. I’ll be back soon with another blog, till then enjoy your racing.