Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes maybe grabbing the headlines for Friday practice at Paul Ricard circuit for this weekends French Grand Prix, but closer analysis shows that Ferrari will be the team to beat on Sunday.
The second practice on Friday is always a telling one, where teams concentrate on long run pace over glory fast laps, and despite only going 5th fastest; Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel long run pace is staggering fast over the opposition.
Only Lewis Hamilton is relatively close to the German in race simulations.
And indeed Mercedes should be quick with a bunch of significant power unit upgrades that were promised for Canada last time out, delayed until this French Grand Prix. The upgrades reflected great pace in the lap charts, both in outright lap time but also in long run pace.
Mercedes says that they used all new power units during Friday practice. Both reliability & power improvements were the focus of these updates and after trouble free running today, Mercedes plans to run these upgraded power units for the rest of the weekend.
According to Mercedes the new power units at Paul Ricard are not just “Phase 2.0” that was planned for introduction at Canada but “Phase 2.1” with some “added goodness” claims Tobi Grüner from Auto Motor und Sport on Twitter.
According to Mercedes the new power units at Paul Ricard are not just "Phase 2.0" that was planned for introduction at Canada but "Phase 2.1" with some "added goodness". #AMuS
— Tobi Grüner 🏁 (@tgruener) June 22, 2018
Looking back at Ferrari, and in particular Sebastian Vettel and his race simulations – if taken as an average over his two stints without traffic – shows that he boasts an average lap time of 1:36.39 on the ultra softs, his shorter stint. That’s nearly a whole second faster that the two closest drivers, Lewis Hamilton (1:37.27 – super soft) and Max Vertstappen (1:37.21 ultra soft).
Vettels longer stint on the super soft was as equally impressive, pounding out the most laps in that stint than any other of the top 6 drivers from Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. Yet still managing to be consistently fast, averaging comfortably under the 1 minute 38’s, whereas everyone else, apart from Daniel Ricciardo averaged over that time on their longer stint.
The icing on the cake for Vettel is the fact he did this using an old specification power unit, due to be replaced with the current evolution engine from Saturday onwards used in Canada.
Le Labyrinthe : le circuit mystérieux. Quatrième film de la saga. #FrenchGP #F1 pic.twitter.com/OiYVazAFao
— Au Rupteur (@AuRupteur) June 22, 2018
Perhaps the rumoured rear suspension upgrade TJ13 reported on earlier this week, designed to rectify the issue of overheating ‘skinny’ Pirelli tyres in Barcelona, has indeed been rolled out successfully.
Ferrari certainly haven’t lost the art of sand bagging on a Friday.
#TJ13 #F1 – LeClerc at Ferrari, here's the reason – It's about Kimi https://t.co/zaEDtE4Ee7 pic.twitter.com/4COgxgHs6D
— TheJudge13 (@thejudge13) June 21, 2018