Sebastian Vettel thinks that Scuderia Ferrari can compete at the front in this weekend’s French Grand Prix, as it still searches for a first win of the 2019 Formula 1 season.
Vettel was controversially stripped of his on-track victory at the Canadian Grand Prix nearly two weeks’ ago by a five second time penalty, added to his total race time, for rejoining the track in an unsafe manner and impeding rival Lewis Hamilton – who inherited the win, his fifth of the season.
Ferrari decided against submitting a formal appeal last Thursday, but announced its intentions to explore the FIA‘s right to review system – giving the team 14 days from the initial race classification to gather and present fresh evidence that was not available at the time of the decision.
The aftermath of the Canadian race has corroded the build-up to the French event, the second at the Circuit Paul Ricard since the race’s return in 2018.
“Last year’s French Grand Prix was our first at the Circuit Paul Ricard for many years, so returning this year we have more data to work with,” said Vettel.
“The circuit has long straights and low-speed corners, although there is a wider range of corner speeds there.
“Most of the corners have been resurfaced since last year.”
Vettel predicts a one-stop race, as tyre supplier Pirelli has opted to bring the C2, C3 and C4 compounds to France – bypassing the softest tyre in the range, the C5s.
Paul Ricard can offer hot ambient and track temperatures and, despite the resurfacing, offers a high amount of lateral stress on the tyres.
But the resurfacing of the track should ensure a more consistent surface and decrease the risk of excessive tyre degradation.
In ’18 Vettel was guilty of causing a first corner incident with Mercedes AMG Motorsport‘s Valtteri Bottas, causing a puncture for the Finn and front wing damage for the Ferrari.
Vettel finished the race in fifth after a credible comeback drive and thinks that Ferrari can enjoy a similar pace this year.
“We have a one step harder tyre selection than in Montréal and it is likely to be another one-stop race,” Vettel added.
“The weather can be unpredictable here and is often very hot and windy. Last year our race was compromised by the first lap incident but I think our car can have the pace to do quite well there.”