The French Grand Prix this week plays host to the eighth round of the Formula One championship.
Lewis Hamilton will arrive at Le Castellet with a 29-point title lead following his controversial win last time out in Canada.
Here, Press Association Sport identifies the key talking points ahead of Sunday’s race.
Ferrari in a muddle over Vettel appeal
Formula One can be a complicated business. On Sunday night, Ferrari delivered their intention to appeal against Sebastian Vettel’s five-second penalty which lost him the Canadian Grand Prix. Four days later, the Scuderia informed the FIA they were withdrawing their challenge.
Then, on Monday, Ferrari announced they would be exploring Article 14 of the sporting code, the so-called ‘right to review’, which enables them to take on the stewards’ verdict if significant new evidence has come to light.
Ferrari have refused to divulge what this new evidence might be. A hearing will now be staged between Ferrari and the FIA, although a date has not been set.
Mistakes keeping adding up for Vettel
Vettel trails Hamilton by a whopping 62 points in the title race, a tally which seemed unthinkable when Ferrari packed down after an impressive pre-season testing.
Mercedes are unbeaten from the seven races this year, but Ferrari have had the machinery to win at least three times; Bahrain – Leclerc engine failure; Azerbaijan – Leclerc qualifying crash; Canada – Vettel mistake while leading.
Mercedes’ two biggest errors of the year – putting Hamilton on the wrong tyres in Monaco and engine setbacks in Canada – have gone unpunished.
Vettel might blame the stewards in Canada – his ensuing Montreal meltdown the highlight of the season so far – but in doing so he was only glossing over another mistake from a list which is seriously tarnishing his reputation.
He will contest Sunday’s race without a win in 300 days. Hamilton has triumphed 11 times during that period.
Honda boost for Max and Co
Max Verstappen has not put a foot wrong this season, and the Dutchman – fourth in the standings – will benefit from an upgraded Honda engine in the back of his Red Bull in France.
The Japanese manufacturer hope their new piece of kit will be more powerful, and Verstappen’s team-mate Pierre Gasly and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat will also be armed with a fresh power unit.
Kvyat, however, will have to serve a grid penalty for exceeding the number of engine parts a driver is allowed to use during the season.
Silverstone talks still ongoing
The British Grand Prix is due to take place in a little over three weeks’ time, but an agreement is yet to be reached between Silverstone and F1’s owners Liberty Media over a new deal.
As it stands, this year’s race will be the last at the Northamptonshire circuit. Talks are ongoing between both parties.
Understandably, Silverstone chiefs are keen to sign a new contract before next month’s race on July 14. It is understood, however, that there is unlikely to be an announcement in the near future.
Rules and regulations for 2021 delayed until October
Liberty has pushed back the deadline of the post-2020 rules until October, with F1’s major stakeholders at odds over the sport’s future. A meeting between the FIA, F1 and the 10 teams was staged last week. Hamilton was a surprise attendee at the summit.
Although the teams agreed to a budget cap of £140million-a-season, excluding driver and top-three executives’ salaries, the sporting and technical regulations remain some way off from being concluded.
“We agreed to postpone the presentation of the 2021 regulations until October, giving us all more time to work on them to achieve our shared goals,” said Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.
“Finding the right compromise between the various stakeholders is not easy, but we’re united in our passion for racing and our will to define a set of rules that will see Formula One thrive in the next decade.”
On of the eve of the French Grand Prix, we take a look at the performances of the French drivers so far this season.
CHARLES LECLERC (Ferrari)
Results in 2019: 5-3-5-5-5-Ret-3
Head-to-head in 2019: Vettel 5, Leclerc 1
It was always going to be a tough challenge for Leclerc to come into the balmy parameters of Ferrari and spark into life straight away.
Sebastian Vettel is the clear number one driver and looking to battle against his priority status is only going to end one way.
In the 2019 season so far, Leclerc has been out-qualified five times by Vettel and has only finished ahead of the German once – in Bahrain.
However, for as disappointing as those statistics may sound, he should really have tasted victory in Bahrain, only to be struck down by reliability issues when leading late on. Still, a first podium on his third competitive drive for the Italian marque was an extremely positive result.
Morale did increase and he finished fifth on three-successive occasions in China, Baku and Spain. In Baku, he was fastest all weekend but a mistake during Q2 forced him to start from eighth. With the narrow turns in the Azerbaijan capital, the 21-year-old could only manage fifth on race day.
A retirement in front of his home fans in Monaco was disappointing last month, but he responded two weeks later to clinch a second podium of the season in Canada.
A positive result in France this weekend should continue an otherwise decent first season at Ferrari. And don’t forget, it’s only his second season in F1.
PIERRE GASLY (Red Bull)
Results in 2019: 11-8-6-Ret-6-5-8
Head-to-head in 2019: Verstappen 7, Gasly 0
After a strong year with Toro Rosso last campaign, the 23-year-old was deservedly promoted to a Red Bull seat.
Like Leclerc, it was always going to take time to perform in a new machine and get comfortable in a new team environment. But since stepping into the car in March, he has struggled against team-mate Max Verstappen.
The Dutchman has outperformed Gasly in all seven races this campaign, and has been on top in qualifying on six occasions. A startling difference.
Underwhelming performances in Australia (17th) and Bahrain (13th) converted into disappointing results (11th and eighth respectively), with many suggesting the Rouen native could be replaced by the end of the season.
He did improve, finishing sixth in China and Spain and fifth in Monaco. And he could have even finished sixth in Baku but a late driveshaft issue forced him to retire.
At the recent Canadian Grand Prix, he struggled around the track at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, qualifying a career-high fifth, but ended up crossing the line in a disastrous eighth place on race day. To put that into context, Verstappen started four places behind him in ninth and still finished ahead of him in fifth.
With Toro Rosso rising star Alexander Albon breathing down his neck, Gasly’s home race is a perfect opportunity for a formidable result if he wants to retain his seat at Milton Keynes next season.
ROMAIN GROSJEAN (Haas)
Results in 2019: Ret-Ret-11-Ret-10-10-14
Head-to-head in 2019: Grosjean 3, Magnussen 4
Grosjean has had a mixed season to date, performing well at times in qualifying but only recording two points in seven races for the American outfit.
However, three retirements in the first four races for the Swiss resident has also highlighted the other aspect of his campaign – bad luck.
Overall, it’s been a more improved than this point last season. He scored back-to-back points finishes in Spain and Monaco, but has been outperformed in four of the seven races by team-mate Kevin Magnussen, with the Dane capturing season-highs of sixth and seventh respectively in Australia and Spain.
Last year was the comeback of the French Grand Prix after a 10-year absence, but the race ended badly for Grosjean, who screwed up his qualifying and then collected a penalty on race day, finishing 11th.
The 33-year-old’s best days may well be behind him, but he owes his home fans a strong showing this weekend.
Ferrari will not appeal against Sebastian Vettel’s five-second penalty which saw him lose the Canadian Grand Prix.
Vettel was demoted to second behind Lewis Hamilton after he was punished for rejoining the track in an unsafe fashion.
Ferrari lodged their intention to challenge the stewards’ controversial verdict following the race at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
But Press Association Sport understands that Ferrari have informed the FIA, Formula One’s governing body, that they will not take action.
Under article 14 of the sporting code, Ferrari will retain their ‘right of review’ which enables them to question the verdict if significant new evidence is discovered.
Vettel fell off the track at the first chicane while defending his lead from Hamilton on lap 48 of Sunday’s race.
The Mercedes star called his Ferrari counterpart’s driving dangerous, saying he had to slow down to avoid a collision.
Vettel protested his innocence, describing the stewards as “blind”, before swapping the first and second place markers around after the race, and initially swerving the podium celebrations.
Although Britain’s 1992 world champion Nigel Mansell called the stewards’ verdict “embarrassing”.
The former world champion said: “Vettel went all the way across the track, and he could easily have left more space for Lewis. He left hardly any room.
“Lewis cannot be blamed for anything. He had to back out of it. He would have been in the wall if he had stayed there. It is very clear it was an unsafe return to the track. It was a fully deserved penalty.”
Vettel, who hasn’t won a race since last August’s Belgian Grand Prix, trails Hamilton by 62 points in the championship standings.
Provided by Press Association Sport