Mercedes to make own luck

Learning from self-made problems in Canada will help extend run at French GP, says Wolff

LE CASTELLET • Lewis Hamilton will be aiming for a victory unaided by fortune this weekend that would make him a repeat winner at the French Grand Prix, stretch his Formula One lead and extend Mercedes' winning streak to 10 races.

He is hunting for his sixth win this season, having emerged as the winner in Canada two weeks ago, when Ferrari's pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel finished first 2.658sec ahead but was penalised five seconds for an unsafe return to track.

Before all that, Vettel could learn today whether he will be reinstated as the winner, when a "right to review" is heard between the two practice sessions.

Mercedes finished last term with two wins and have won all seven this year. But, after a testing weekend in Montreal, they are wary of any signs of complacency.

Team chief Toto Wolff admitted: "Canada was something of a wake-up call for us. After a run of very good reliability over the opening six races, we experienced a number of problems, almost all of which were of our own making."

At the sun-baked Le Castellet track, he sees the long straights as a challenge while the corners would favour his Silver Arrows.


Lewis Hamilton won in Canada two weeks ago despite finishing second behind Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who was penalised five seconds for an unsafe return to the track. Vettel could learn today whether he will be reinstated in a hearing between the two practice sessions at the French GP. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

He added: "The circuit features some similarities to Montreal and the long straights will present a challenge for us.

"But, unlike Canada, the corner characteristics are spread across a range of speeds, which should play to our advantage.

"We're looking forward to the chance to put a few things right again."

Hamilton, on 162 points going into the race where he won from pole last year, has a 29-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas.

The Briton is driving with more assurance and maturity than at any time in his career, leaving even the revitalised Bottas struggling to keep pace with two wins this year.

Rivals Ferrari showed clear signs of their own awakening in Montreal, where the power-hungry nature circuit suited their engine, but Mercedes hope to match them and McLaren's run of 11 successive triumphs in 1988 with champions Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

Vettel was controversially penalised for the "unsafe" manner in which he rejoined the race after running off across a grass strip and forcing Hamilton off the track. Ferrari declined to appeal immediately, but have sought a review of the stewards' decision, citing new evidence.

As it stands, Vettel will start this weekend 62 points behind Hamilton, but he is due to arrive in France with an improved Ferrari.

WORK TO DO

Canada was something of a wake-up call for us.
After a run of very good reliability over the opening six races, we experienced a number of problems, almost all of which were of our own making.

TOTO WOLFF, Mercedes team chief.

"We will have a few small evolutions," said team chief Mattia Binotto. "It won't be a solution to our problems, but the feedback will be important for the future."

Max Verstappen will aim to make sure his Red Bull is in the mix at the front after finishing second last year, following a collision involving Bottas and Vettel at the start.

"I feel comfortable in the car, so I hope we will be able to challenge the front runners more closely," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS


F1 FRENCH GRAND PRIX

Practices 1 & 2 Singtel TV Ch114 & StarHub Ch208, 4.55pm & 8.55pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2019, with the headline 'Mercedes to make own luck'. Print Edition | Subscribe