F1 2019 French Grand Prix: What the Drivers Said

After the 2019 French Grand Prix, a race that saw Mercedes AMG Petronas take their eighth straight win of the season, and Lewis Hamilton his sixth win from those eight, here’s what the drivers had to say…

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Lewis Hamilton – 1st

“I’ve been racing a long, long time but this just never gets
old. It’s always a challenge out there and I just love trying to find the edge,
and really being on top of this machine. This is actually an awesome track to
drive in the race, there’s some really technical areas. It may look easy from
the outside but it wasn’t easy at all, everything’s always on the edge. So,
when I could, I was saving tyres, saving the engine, saving fuel. I had quite
big blisters on my front tyres which I was a little worried about. But we got
to the end and I couldn’t do it without this incredible team. I’m so proud of
everyone and so proud to be part of this group of people. This has been the
best start of the year so we have got to enjoy it.”

Valtteri Bottas – 2nd

“It was a fairly quiet race in the end. The start was my best bet, but Lewis also had a good start, so the opportunity wasn’t there. Lewis was very quick today; I was trying to keep up, but my front tyres were starting to fall into pieces, both on the Mediums and at the end on the Hard tyres towards the end as well. We were concerned with the blistering we saw in the last part of the race, so I had to back off a little bit. There was definitely a bit of margin left, but we wanted to be on the safe side and make it to the end. But ultimately, Lewis had the pace advantage today and kept the tyres in better shape, so it’s something for me to have a look at and learn. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done as a team, scoring another 1-2 is a great result.”

2019 French Grand Prix, Friday – LAT Images

Charles Leclerc – 3rd

“Overall, this weekend was pretty positive. I’m pleased I
was able to fight for second place right at the end, even if I never had a real
chance to attack Valtteri. I am satisfied because we managed to maximise the
potential of the car. It was about time, because after a few so-so weekends,
everything went smoothly right from the start of free practice and then in
qualifying and the race, where our strategy was perfect both in terms of the
timing of the pit stop and our tyre management in the second part of the race. I
believe hard work always pays off and I feel we proved that this weekend. Now
we go straight to Austria where I hope we can maintain this same good form.”

Max Verstappen – 4th

“The race was a bit lonely at times but it wasn’t boring as
I had Charles in sight which was good motivation to keep trying to match his
lap times.  You have to keep pushing
yourself even if there aren’t cars that you are directly fighting. I always
want to see how fast we can go and push as much as possible. In the second
stint, we were looking quite good but with six or seven laps to go I ran out of
rear grip and I couldn’t really rely on the rear tyres anymore. I think it took
a bit too much out of my tyres trying to keep up with Charles early in the race
but I’m pleased to be in front of one Ferrari and finish fourth on a track that
doesn’t really suit us. The target is always to win but it was not possible
here today and I got the most out of the package. We have made a small step
this weekend but we still need to work on all elements to fight for victories.”

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Sebastian Vettel – 5th

“I had a pretty lonely race, apart from a bit of confusion at the start, given that the timing of the lights going out caught us a bit by surprise. It was fun fighting with the McLarens, first Norris then Carlos. The first stint went pretty well and that meant I could close the gap to Charles and Max. Then in the second one, I had a few more balance problems and I didn’t feel totally comfortable with the car. I think today’s fifth place was the most we could have done, given that Charles, Max and me were all running at pretty much the same pace. At least getting the fastest race lap means I get an extra point. We still need to understand why Friday was so complicated with some of the parts we brought here not working as we had hoped. Our car is not yet strong enough and it’s down to us to improve. We still don’t have the pace to beat Mercedes, but I know that everyone at Maranello is working with so much positive pressure – and passion.”

Carlos Sainz – 6th

“Very happy after a strong and well-executed race. I made
another good start and once I was in P6 I controlled the race, controlled the
pace, and drove to the target lap times the team was giving me to manage the
tyres. It was a simple race from that point of view and one of those days where
everything comes together and produces the maximum result available, so well
done to everyone. We were definitely the fourth fastest car this weekend – in
qualifying and the race – so happy with that. Congratulations to the team for
the hard work all weekend and for another double points finish. We just need to
keep pushing hard to improve at every race.”

Kimi Raikkonen – 7th

“I was a bit disappointed to miss out on Q3 yesterday, but we knew it would be much better to start on different tyres than the softs, and so it was. I didn’t make the best start but luckily I didn’t lose too much on the straight and I could fight back in the next few corners. We were in a strong position after the start, on the hard tyres, but I had to hold back Hülkenberg the whole race. It was a great battle with the Renaults for most of the afternoon and in the end I was able to catch up with the cars in front. The last few laps were very intense and it was good fun. It’s really good that we could fight against other cars in the midfield and be up there. We had the speed and we got a good result in the end.”

2019 French Grand Prix - Kimi Raikkonen (image courtesy Alfa Romeo Racing)
2019 French Grand Prix – Kimi Raikkonen (image courtesy Alfa Romeo Racing)

Nico Hulkenberg – 8th

“We made a good recovery today and it’s pleasing to be in
the top ten again. Maybe it could have been a different race had we qualified
slightly higher, but thirteenth to ninth is a strong effort. I was pushing all
race, but I was stuck in traffic and this place is difficult for overtaking. I
had pace in hand today, which shows on race day we’re strong. The last few laps
were really fun; it was tight and exciting and I was happy to make up some
places there. We’ve demonstrated that our race pace is there, but we have
something to find on one-lap pace.”

Lando Norris – 9th

“I had a good start, same as the guys ahead of me. Being on
the inside, I got boxed in and Carlos managed to go around the outside, which
was something I couldn’t have done from my starting position on the inside. The
rest of the race was good, I had good pace and was just managing the gap to
Carlos to protect my tyres for later in the race. A hydraulic issue, around 20
laps from the finish, cost me a lot of time and made the car really hard to
drive. The steering wheel went really heavy and I lost the power steering. It
was really tough, I did my best not to lose places but it was too much of an
issue to hang on as I had lost so much pace. Still, one point, considering
everything, is a good result as it could have been much worse. Great job by the
team all weekend and everyone back at the factory to give us both such a quick
car.”

Pierre Gasly – 10th

“It was a long, difficult day and I’m disappointed,
especially being here in France. From qualifying, I have struggled for grip and
it was the same in the race. At the moment I don’t have the answer but I’m sure
we will analyse everything to understand exactly why we lacked pace. I tried to
do everything I could inside the cockpit but I could not push the car as I was
sliding a lot. I have never really felt the car like this and with Austria
next, we will have to quickly work hard with the guys to come back and put
everything together for the next race. Honda are pushing hard and for sure they
are developing so this is a positive.”

Daniel Ricciardo – 11th

“It’s clearly disappointing to drop outside the points with
a post-race penalty, especially at the team’s home race. The last lap was a lot
of fun, we had a fight and I enjoyed it. I’d rather give it a go than not try
at all, and I’m sure the French fans and the people at home liked watching.
It’s a shame to be penalised for it, but we’ll aim to move on from that as
quickly as possible. In terms of the race, I feel like I missed out a little
bit at the start, especially after a really good launch off the line. I braked
too early for turn one and that was too conservative looking back. That made
the rest of the race hard work, but we kept it clean and smooth from there.
There are still a lot of positives to take and we’ll be looking for an
immediate response in Austria.”

Sergio Perez – 12th

“I don’t understand why I was penalised. I have to look at it properly, but I did what I’m supposed to do, which was to go around the bollards. The rule is that you have to come back on the track as soon as you go through the bollards, which is what I did. I think what they did is wrong, because I stuck to the rules. Whether or not I gained an advantage, for me it was impossible to judge – it was lap one and there were so many cars around. It’s supposed to be slower than the racing line so that you don’t gain an advantage, but if it isn’t it’s not my fault. The penalty really hurt my race. We had the possibility to score some points today but this ruined it. We were a lot closer in terms of race pace, so that was promising. At the moment we are still struggling in qualifying and that’s where we must focus our attention to see what we can do better next week. Hopefully we can get back into the points in Austria.”

2019 French Grand Prix, Sergio Perez, Racing Point RP19 (image courtesy Racing Point)

Lance Stroll – 13th

“It was a good race today. The first stint was really
strong and we went really long before fitting a fresh set of mediums at the end
so that I could push and attack in the final few laps. Unfortunately, I think
we stopped a little bit too late because I could feel the tyres dropping off
towards the end of my first stint, which cost us some time. There was also some
life left in the mediums when I finished the race. Pitting a few laps earlier
could have changed our final result, but it’s easy to say that after the race.
It was a good team effort today and we showed good pace to move up the order.
We will come back in Austria and give it another shot.”

Daniil Kvyat – 14th

“I think the race wasn’t too bad today. In the end, we did
the best job possible and we had some good battles on track, I made a nice move
on the outside of Grosjean and had an enjoyable battle with Alex towards the
end of the race – it was quite fun! I’m not sure where we would have finished
if we had of started further up the grid without the penalty, but I think it
would have been a bit of a challenge to finish inside the points today. Now we
need to analyse everything in order to come back stronger in Austria.”

Alexander Albon – 15th

“Unfortunately, our race was compromised from lap one as I
went wide into Turn 2 and got boxed out. I didn’t realise how much grip there
was on the outside and I lost a few positions. We were quicker than the cars in
front but struggled to get past them as everyone was in the DRS train, so I
spent most of the race behind another car. We lacked a bit of pace today, so we
need to understand why and where we can improve. It was good fun battling with
Dany, however, fighting for positions outside of the points is not where either
of us wants to be.”

Antonio Giovinazzi – 16th

“It was disappointing to finish out of the points, but we
were up against it when starting on the soft tyres. It was the price to pay for
a good performance on Saturday, but it effectively compromised my race before
the start. We pitted early as the softs didn’t last, but in the end we had to
make another stop in order to finish the race. I can still take some positives
from a strong qualifying, and of course it was important for the team to get
back into the points. I would have loved to celebrate Alfa Romeo’s birthday
with a better result, but we showed to be competitive and hopefully we can
carry this form to the next races.”

Kevin Magnussen – 17th

“There’s not much to tell. I think after Friday we were thinking that qualifying might be difficult, but the race would be strong. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. We were fighting at the back the whole race. We were a bit helpless. Obviously our pace is the biggest challenge at the moment. We just lack pace sometimes, and today was one of those days.”

2019 French Grand Prix, Sunday - Haas F1 Team (image courtesy Haas F1 Team)
2019 French Grand Prix, Sunday – Haas F1 Team (image courtesy Haas F1 Team)

Robert Kubica – 18th

“The tyres lasted better than expected so it was less
painful as they behaved very well. My first lap was good, I made some correct
decisions without risking too much. The rest of the race was alright, I
struggled with the rear tyres in certain moments of the race, but I kept them
under control, so it was ok. The battle with George was good experience for
when the car gets quicker, which will hopefully pay off in the future.”

George Russell – 19th

“With my first attempt to overtake Robert around the
outside, I ran wide and hit the polystyrene board. We thought that wasn’t too
much of an issue but then we found that damage to the front wing worsened. For
safety reasons we decided on the change. The pace seems strong, but it was an
expected day. We need to be patient, learn as much as we can and then hopefully
in a number of races time start the battle. Overall, not satisfied, not
disappointed just normal.”

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Romain Grosjean – DNF

“I got the maximum from the car, but it was just not good
enough. Even though the balance felt okay, we were just very slow. We need to
go back and analyze everything, try and understand it. We’re just really
struggling. It’s hard to retire in front of your home crowd, but we’ve saved
some parts. We were far from the points anyway. I think it was the right
decision.”