5 talking points ahead of the French Grand Prix

  • PA Sport
F1 Grand Prix of Canada

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.

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 in what this new evidence might be. A hearing will now be staged between Ferrari and the FIA, although a date has not been set.

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.

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.

As it stands, this year's race at Silverstone will be the last

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.

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.”

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