Paul Ricard has often been criticised, but in the end I saw a very enjoyable Grand Prix of France. It is just a great shame that the fight between Charles Leclerc and Max Verstappen couldn’t be continued.
To start with, I would like to compliment the organisation for how they have tackled the traffic problem. The region is beautiful, but it is perhaps one of the most difficult to organise a GP in. I understand the criticism of the track itself. On the television, the cars’ speed does not pop off the screen, even if they are driving through Signes at 300 kph. This means the TV viewer is deprived of the speed sensation.
The race was good, but could have been so much better. With the tremendous heat levels, we had all the ingredients for a great fight. Leclerc and Verstappen had the same pace, but Leclerc went and made another mistake that he should not have made. He admits it himself, this kind of thing means he doesn’t deserve the championship. I don’t get it either, in Austria he withstood the pressure just fine. That is the big difference with Verstappen, this does not happen to him. And if he is beaten by Leclerc, he often finishes second, so the huge gap is not going to shrink quickly. And so we have a championship with two more or less equal cars, but where one has a big lead. This is the best example of how not to win a championship.
Sainz was unhappy yesterday. First things went wrong during his pit stop, then there was the penalty he got after that, which I think they should have redeemed afterwards. Sainz made a really brilliant move on Pérez and still seemed to have the speed to pull away. They then acted hesitantly at the pit wall at Ferrari and that costs Sainz points. It seemed like he didn’t trust his team, but remember, we’re only hearing bits and pieces of the radio communications. Also, the team has the data, they are aware of the condition of the tyres. But if you’re going to bring him in, do it sooner. Then you give him time to make things right.
Mercedes was very strong in the race, they have a lot of downforce and can manage their tyres well. And Russell was helped by that weird restart after the Virtual Safety Car (VSC). Even if that was a software error, not a human one. It is known that I am not a fan of the VSC and certainly not towards the end of the race. It doesn’t make for enjoyable racing, I don’t understand why it is used so often. Finally, I would like to mention Fernando Alonso. The way he held up the McLarens and made them burn up their tyres, after which Ocon was able to catch Ricciardo: that is pure experience and is exactly why Alonso still has a place in Formula 1.