Formula 1: Ferrari strong in France, but grid penalty for Sainz

After victories in Silverstone and Spielberg, Ferrari is aiming for the victory hat-trick in Formula 1 at the French GP in Le Castellet this weekend: Two Scuderia best times on Friday underline the current form of the reds from Maranello and their regained status as favorites.

At lunchtime, Charles Leclerc is only 91 thousandths ahead of World Championship leader Max Verstappen, but in the second session in the late afternoon Ferrari clearly outperforms the Red Bull star: Carlos Sainz is the fastest of the day, a tenth ahead of teammate Leclerc, but already over half a second ahead of Verstappen in third place.

“The second practice session was a bit more difficult for us today, we didn’t have the balance we were hoping for,” Verstappen complained after the session. “Our long run was a bit better, but the tires overheat quickly, so we still have work to do,” says the Dutchman, noting: “Overall, the track here is very hard on the tires.”

“The wear here is enormous, that will help Ferrari,” believes expert Johnny Herbert. The ex-F1 driver explains: “The Ferrari rotates more easily in the corners and thus has a softer way to charge the tires and protect them more.” A decisive factor when track temperatures exceed 50 degrees.

Max Verstappen before a big task: Ferrari is very fast

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner does not want to throw in the towel despite the big deficit on Friday: “To be honest, Ferrari has been very competitive all season and they look fast again here. But our long run makes me very confident It was close between us for the first eleven races of the season and I assume it will be no different here,” said Horner.

The Brit also knows that his team has some catching up to do after the training runs. Sergio Perez does not get past tenth place with problems with the anti-roll bar, but Verstappen complains about too much understeer on the radio. “We mainly have problems on the front axle and we still have to catch up in the third sector in particular,” admits Horner.

The duel with Ferrari at Le Castellet is also a battle of concepts. Horner: “They rely more on downforce, we generate our time here in a different way. You can also see it on the wings, we’re doing quite differently this weekend.”

This is also shown by the data: While Perez and Verstappen achieve the best top speeds at 335 and 334 km/h respectively and are therefore fastest in the second sector with the long straight, the Ferrari drivers shine in sector one (Leclerc) and three (Sainz).

Appropriate: The official F1 projections see Ferrari on Friday in the slow corners almost four tenths ahead of the rest of the field. “In addition, there is their incredible traction, which was recently observed in Spielberg,” analyzes expert Anthony Davidson.

Sometimes only the good old tape helps, like here at the Red Bull

Red Bull and Mercedes have arrived in France with larger update packages, but not everything works right away: on Verstappen’s car, for example, the side air deflector does not withstand the loads in the first practice session and has to be supported with tape.

Meanwhile, Ferrari has few new parts with them at Le Castellet, preferring to reflect on well-known strengths: The Italians had already brought an extensive new wing package to the Canadian GP and thus exchanged some aerodynamic balance for downforce. A calculation that seems to have worked out since then, as recent successes show.

Alone: ​​In the fight for the hat trick, Leclerc should be a lone fighter on Sunday. In the case of stable mate Sainz, after the fiery engine failure in Austria, the control electronics of the unit had to be replaced, which is why the Spaniard has to drop ten places in the starting grid on Sunday.

Clearly only the third force in the south of France is Mercedes, who have rebuilt the rear underbody in particular in order to flow more efficiently towards the diffuser. Despite this, George Russell and Lewis Hamilton are almost a second behind in fourth and fifth place on Friday. On his 300th Grand Prix weekend, the record world champion left the Silver Arrow to test driver Nyck de Vries as planned in the first session.

Mick Schumacher made a high-speed spin

Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel is 14th and 13th in practice on Friday, around 1.9 seconds behind. Compatriot Mick Schumacher makes a high-speed spin in the Haas at the beginning of the second practice session and can drive the car but thanks to the large run-out zone just before the barrier.

Team boss Günther Steiner comments on the spin: “That was pretty nasty. But we know that you can go to the limit in Le Castellet (because of the wide run; ed.). Of course it’s not so positive that Mick used it to destroy a set of tires for the long run.” The German ended the session in 19th and penultimate place. Teammate Kevin Magnussen is eighth after all.

Formula 1 French Grand Prix
2. Free Practice:

1. Carlos Sainz Jr. (Spain) – Ferrari 1:32.527 mins
2. Charles Leclerc (Monaco) – Ferrari +0.101s
3. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) – Red Bull +0.550
4. George Russell (Great Britain) – Mercedes +0.764
5. Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) – Mercedes +0.990
6. Lando Norris (Great Britain) – McLaren +1.080
7. Pierre Gasly (France) – Alpha Tauri +1.379
8. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) – Haas +1.401
9. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) – McLaren +1.457
10. Sergio Perez (Mexico) – Red Bull +1.533
11. Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Alpine +1.732
12. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) – Alfa Romeo +1.737
13. Sebastian Vettel (Heppenheim) – Aston Martin +1.893
14. Yuki Tsunoda (Japan) – Alpha Tauri +2.013
15. Lance Stroll (Canada) – Aston Martin +2.068
16.Alexander Albon (Thailand)-Williams +2,126
17. Zhou Guanyu (China) – Alfa Romeo +2.127
18. Esteban Ocon (France) – Alpine +2.133
19. Mick Schumacher (Gland/Switzerland) – Haas +2.668
20. Nicholas Latifi (Canada) – Williams +2.885

Formula 1 French Grand Prix
1. Free Practice:

1. Charles Leclerc (Monaco) – Ferrari 1:33.930 mins
2. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) – Red Bull +0.091s
3. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) – Ferrari +0.338
4. George Russell (Great Britain) – Mercedes +0.951
5. Pierre Gasly (France) – Alpha Tauri +1.049
6. Sergio Perez (Mexico) – Red Bull +1.244
7. Lando Norris (Great Britain) – McLaren +1.302
8. Alexander Albon (Thailand) – Williams +1.484
9. Nyck de Vries (Netherlands) – Mercedes +1.496
10. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) – McLaren +1.730
11. Zhou Guanyu (China) – Alfa Romeo +1.746
12. Lance Stroll (Canada) – Aston Martin +1.880
13. Esteban Ocon (France) – Alpine +1.898
14. Sebastian Vettel (Heppenheim) – Aston Martin +1.921
15. Fernando Alonso (Spain) – Alpine +1.945
16. Mick Schumacher (Gland/Switzerland) – Haas +2.092
17. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) – Haas +2.174
18. Yuki Tsunoda (Japan) – Alpha Tauri +2.197
19. Robert Kubica (Poland) – Alfa Romeo +2.402
20. Nicholas Latifi (Canada) – Williams +3,113

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