Key talking points ahead of the French Grand Prix

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After Ferrari took two sensational successive victories at the previous two venues at Silverstone and Spielberg courtesy of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc, the field had a week to regroup before the action continues at the Paul Ricard track this weekend. F1Technical’s Balázs Szabó picks out the hot topics ahead of the French Grand Prix.

AlphaTauri to introduce new parts in France

AlphaTauri’s 2022 season has been far from ideal so far with the team finding itself in the eighth place in the Constructors’ Standings. While the Faenza-based outfit scored points in the first four races, the team has not managed to add to its point tally in the last four grands prix.

The team’s drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda were involved in start incidents, but the AT03’s speed was also simply not good enough to match the potential of the cars of the rival midfield teams. The Red Bull-owned team has not brought any significant upgrades to its car, but is set to introduce some major new developments at the Paul Ricard track.

„We will have updates in France,” confirmed Tsunoda. „It’s really time we return to getting into Q3 to make it easier to score points on Sunday. We’ve gone for a major upgrade rather than lots of small ones. The new upgrade is focused on adding more load to the car, as we were quite weak in the medium to high-speed corners. Hopefully, it will bring us more consistency and allow us to fight at the top of the midfield again,” the Japanese concluded.

De Vries to replace Hamilton in FP1 at Paul Ricard

Formula One introduced a new rule for this season which dictates teams must reserve two FP1 sessions during the campaign for a rookie driver who has contested two or fewer grands prix.

Mercedes has now announced that Lewis Hamilton will sit out the opening practice for the French Grand Prix as Nyck de Vries will get a go in the W13. The Dutchman has already been given a run in one such session, for Williams at the Spanish Grand Prix where he took over Alex Albon’s car.

"Nyck is replacing Lewis in first practice this weekend, as part of the allocated sessions for young drivers this year. So, we're looking forward to seeing how he gets on,” concluded Team Principal Toto Wolff.

The Brackley-based outfit has also confirmed that George Russell „has selected one (race) later in the year.”

Alpine with new parts, Ocon with new helmet

After scoring points with both cars last time out at the Austrian Grand Prix, Alpine boss Otmar Szafnauer has confirmed the team will take a further upgrade to the A522 to their home race, the French Grand Prix.

The Romanian-American confirmed that the team will introduce a revised floor at Le Castellet: “We have a small [upgrade]…well, hopefully not so small! We don’t have a whole new floor but part of it will have evolved in France.”

Szafnauer has also stated that the team will bring upgrades to the A522 until the French outfit reaches its budget limit.

Home hero Esteban Ocon will sport a new racing helmet at this weekend’s French Grand Prix with the design having been created by a 12-year-old kid.

Further upgrades in the Mercedes camp

Mercedes will introduce new parts on its cars at the French Grand Prix in the aim of continuing recent progress, Team Principal Toto Wolff has confirmed ahead of the Paul Ricard race.

The team endured a difficult start to the season which saw the introduction of all-new Formula One cars. However, the seven-time world champion team has constantly brought updates to its car with the aim of reducing the porpoising effect that severely influenced the setup possibilities of the W13.

The upgrade package that Mercedes debuted at Barcelona and Silverstone resulted in a significant lift in performance with Lewis Hamilton appearing particularly quick in race trim in both races. The Briton has finished on the rostrum in the last three grands prix, confirming that his team has made great improvements with its troublesome W13.

The team is set to introduce further updates at the French Grand Prix with its location, the Paul Ricard track predicted to favour the characteristics of the team’s car.

“Paul Ricard is a very different track and challenge. It has smooth tarmac and a wide range of corner types, along with long straights. The aim will be to make further inroads on the gap to the front and hopefully be back on the podium.”

"Our understanding of the W13 is growing with every lap and it's encouraging to see that reflected in our development and results. While we were quicker in Austria, we still weren't quick enough to challenge at the front. We need to keep chasing those final few tenths and bringing new developments to the cars, including this weekend in France,” commented Team Principal Toto Wolff.

Giovinazzi unsure of his future

Former Formula One driver Antonio Giovinazzi is unsure about his future and wants to decide over the next chapter of his career in the second half of the year. The Italian left the Alfa Romeo team last year after completing three seasons alongside Kimi Räikkönen with the Italian-Swiss outfit. The Martina Franca-born driver races now with the Dragon Penske Autosport team in Formula E and also acts as reserve driver for Alfa Romeo and Haas as part of his contract with Ferrari.

Giovinazzi is yet to score any points in the fully-electric series with his 16th place at the Monaco E-Prix being his best result in the 2021/2022 Formula E World Championship with four more races left in the season. The Italian said that the electric cars require a completely different approach with his previous Formula One experience providing no help.

“Unfortunately it’s a completely different car and format,” he told the Independent. “Everything is different, from what I learned in the past in different categories and F1, nothing works here!

“How you need to brake, the mentality in the race to not push and [the] need to save energy, recharge the battery, it’s completely different."

When asked about his future plans, Giovinazzi said: “Next month is the last Formula E race and the second part of the season I’ll focus more on the F1 sim and what I’ll do for next year.”

No more support for Vips

The Formula 2 driver Juri Vips had his Red Bull junior driver contract cancelled after he used a racial slur during a livestream last month.

The Estonian was initially suspended after he used racial slur during a live gaming stream. Red Bull launched an investigation and came to the conclusion that it needed to cancel the contract with Vips. While it was suggested that the Tallinn-born driver might continue to receive some advice regarding mental health from Red Bull, head of Red Bull's driver development program Helmut Marko confirmed that the Austrian company has completely cut ties with Vips.

“I want to be clear,” Marko told Austrian broadcaster ORF Tirol, quoted by SportsMole. “Juri Vips no longer receives any support from Red Bull. You need to be responsible for your actions and as a result, our cooperation has ended.”

Sustainable aviation fuel

Mercedes will be investing in Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) as part of their commitment to reach Net Zero by 2030, the team has announced ahead of the French Grand Prix.

The team will purchase Sustainable Aviation Fuel that will be used on flights to Grand Prix locations as well as other forms of business air travel - meaning the race team personnel will reduce their air travel footprint by up to 50%. The innovative fuel is recognised as playing a major role in lowering international aviation emissions going forward.

SAF is made from sustainable resources (feedstocks) and it can also be made without using the food crops responsible for high levels of deforestation.

Ferrari to optimize the cooling package for Paul Ricard

The final pair of back-to-back races prior to the summer break gets underway with this weekend’s French Grand Prix, before moving onto Hungary on 31 July. As an unprecedented heat wave moves through Europe, the weather at Le Castellet for this weekend is expected to cause a few headaches to the engineers as they seek for the optimal cooling package.

Ahead of the weekend, Ferrari carried out an intensive work to find the best setup and the optimal aerodynamic package to make sure the SF-75 can run smoothly over the weekend. Ferrari’s Head of Aero Development Diego Tondi has confirmed that the team will use a medium-high level cooling at the 62nd French Grand Prix that will be run over 53 laps, equivalent to 309.69 kilometres.

„We will use a medium-high level of bodywork cooling, using the apertures of the cooling gills on the upper part of the bodywork and we will work on the brake ducts to maximise rim cooling, with the aim of getting heat away from the tyres.

„The track characteristics mean that we would have been doing this anyway to contribute as much as possible to tyre management, but the hot conditions will make this task even more demanding. As for the brakes, there are no particularly heavy braking points, so in terms of cooling for these components, the race at Paul Ricard is not a concern”.