The Pirelli-sponsored French Grand Prix was held in track temperatures that peaked at 54 degrees centigrade: some of the hottest seen all year. In these extreme conditions, most drivers adopted the same one-stop medium-hard strategy, used by six out of the top seven drivers. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, fifth at the flag, converted to a two-stop strategy in order to take the extra point for fastest lap at the end with the soft tyre.
- With the rates of wear and degradation expected in the warm conditions in the south of France, all but seven of the drivers started on the medium tyre. Nonetheless, a one-stopper was possible even if starting on the soft tyre, as Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly showed.
- The cars are going faster than ever: by halfway through the race, Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas already set a time equivalent to last year’s fastest race lap: despite carrying more fuel and on much harder tyres (C2 compound in 2019, equivalent to last year’s medium, as opposed to supersoft in 2018).
- Some drivers tried an alternative strategy by doing a long opening stint on the hard tyre: especially Racing Point’s Lance Stroll, who did 39 laps on the hard from the start, before switching to medium.
- The extra point for fastest lap was claimed by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who made an extra stop with two laps to go to put on the soft. His fastest race lap was fractionally quicker than the fastest lap from race winner Lewis Hamilton, on used hard tyres.
HOW EACH TYRE PERFORMED
- HARD C2: A crucial ingredient of the race, which was used for the second stint by the majority of the field. Stood up well to the demands of the track but still needed some management in the closing stages.
- MEDIUM C3: The preferred starting tyre as we expected: chosen by eight of the top 10 qualifiers, and by all but five of those starting outside the top 10.
- SOFT C4: Only two drivers started on this tyre, which did not have a long life in the harsh conditions of Paul Ricard. With light fuel on the final lap it set a new fastest lap with Sebastian Vettel.
MARIO ISOLA - HEAD OF F1 AND CAR RACING
"The French Grand Prix was a demonstration of the impressive way that all the cars have gained speed compared to last year, in track temperatures that were among the hottest that we have raced in. Nonetheless, the majority of drivers stopped only once, with the medium-hard strategy that we predicted as fastest proving to be the most popular choice. The tyres stood up well to what were extremely challenging conditions, not just because of the high temperatures but also because of the extensive track evolution over the course of the weekend. Now we head straight to Spielberg in Austria for the first back-to-back race of the season."