Technical news from the French Grand Prix

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After a ten-year-long absence, France returns to the Moving Circuis this weekend. The event which marks the first station of the second third of the 2018 F1 Championship saw the arrival of the second-specification Mercedes power unit.

Mercedes’ new power unit
The Mercedes team planned the introduction of its second-specification power unit in the Canadian Grand Prix. However, just two days before Mercedes wanted to send its new power unit off to Montreal, the technicians detected a malfunction, running the new unit on the dyno. It prompted the Bricksworth-based group to postpone the introduction of the new power unit, giving its engine department further time to evaluate its reliability.

The team had still question marks over the reliability of the new power unit coming into the French GP weekend, but it proved to be reliable after having been tested and evaluated during the Friday practice sessions. All six Mercedes-powered cars got the upgraded unit which is believed to bring a gain of 2 tenths of a second according to the team non-executive chairman Niki Lauda.

Ferrari working within the curfew period
The Scuderia Ferrari team broke the curfew on Friday. This morning team personnel of the Italian team, who are associated with the operation of the car, were within the confines of the circuit during the eight hour period which commenced at 02:00 on 23 June, eleven hours before the scheduled start time of P3 and ends three hours before the scheduled start time of P3 at 10:00 on 23 June. As this was only the first of the two individual exceptions permitted for the Maranello-based squad, no action was taken.

Ferrari cleared the matter with the FIA, claiming that the team member was not associated with the operation of the car, but he was looking after the FIA-backed junior drivers racing in Formula 2. FIA was looking into the matter and gave the curfew joker back to the Italian team.

New power unit parts for Hartely and Ericsson
Toro Rosso’s driver Brandon Hartley got a new set of power unit elements installed for Saturday. Honda introduced a new internal combustion engine, a new turbocharger, a new MGU-H, a new MGU-K, a new energy store and a new control electronics in the car of the New Zealander, meaning that Hartley will start the French Grand Prix from the back of the field.

Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson had an unfortunate incident in the first free practice session which prevented him from participating in the second session. His car caught fire which damaged several parts of his car, forcing his team to change the control electronics and energy store in the Sauber. Both power unit parts were only the second from the Sweden’s allocation which means the change won’t trigger any penalties.

New gearboxes for the event
Lewis Hamilton, Kevin Magnussen and Marcus Ericsson started the French GP weekend with a fresh gearbox in their cars. All three drivers used their previous gearbox for six consecutive events which meant a free change for them.

After crashing and retiring from the Canadian Grand Prix, Brandon Hartley and Lance Stroll were also allowed to change their gearboxes.

Force India fined after tyre incident during FP2
Force India driver Sergio Perez was forced to stop on track when the wheel became detached with a little under 15 minutes remaining in the second free practice session. Marshalls pulled the VJM11 behind the safety wall, where it remained until the chequered flag.

FIA was investigating the matter and concluded that the problem was not caused by incorrect or incomplete fitment of the wheel but rather by an assembly fault involving poor seating of 3 retaining screws on the retaining plate. The stewards came to the conclusion that the wheel gun operator made no error in fitting the wheel and that the team had no warning that something was amiss until the incident occurred.

Despite to this, race stewards inflicted a penalty on the team, arguing that this was the third incident of this nature involving Force India in the past two years. A fine of €15,000 plus an additional fine of €85,000 which is suspended for 12 months subject to no further breach of Article 28.13 during this period, by the team.

Pit lane speed limit reduced
After the first practice session, FIA race director Charlie Whiting recommended to the race stewards to reduce the pit lane speed limit from 80 km/h to 60 km/h. The stewards looked into the matter and accepted the recommendation.

The change of speed in the pit lane can have an influence on the race strategy. Friday long runs indicated that the one-stop strategy could be the best way to complete the French Grand Prix. The decision to fix the pit lane speed at the lower limit of 60kph this weekend, increasing the penalty of making a pit stop, will give drivers a further incentive to stop just once.