Long run analysis: Incredibly close at the top, can Honda find overnight gains?

18-06-2021 17:10 | Updated: 18-06-2021 17:35
F1 News
Long run analysis: Incredibly close at the top, can Honda find overnight gains?

The two practice sessions ahead of the French Grand Prix have once again yielded interesting results. Valtteri Bottas topped the morning session, and Max Verstappen topped the afternoon session by just 0.008 seconds. It's going to be another tight Mercedes v Red Bull battle this weekend on a circuit dominated by the German team over recent years. Meanwhile, the midfield could spring many surprises. 

Long runs

Normal(ish) service has resumed for Mercedes. After struggling over the last two Championship rounds, Bottas and Hamilton are comfortably back in the mix for the race win. The French track is better suited to their car and they usually dominate here. 

But that's where the normal service breaks down. Where usually they are comfortably ahead, Red Bull Racing are right with them in terms of single lap pace and the long-runs. The first table below shows the average lap time during the long run for the particulars drivers. 

Bottas leads the way and by a fair distance. The Finnish driver was 0.445 seconds ahead of Verstappens' average lap pace during the long run. Perhaps more striking was the fact Hamilton fell over 0.650 seconds behind. Another highlight in that list is Esteban Ocon. Fernando Alonso's average lap time on the hard tyre was 1:38.625 was also pretty impressive. 

As it stands, Alpine lead the midfield battle. An interesting battle to keep an eye on. Aston Martin, Ferrari and McLaren are all in an interesting duel to push into Q3. Lando Norris failed to breach the top eight in either session. Alonso also set the quickest second sector lap time in FP2. 

Driver Average lap time long run Tyre 
Valtteri Bottas 1:37.380 Medium
Max Verstappen 1:37.825 Medium
Lewis Hamilton 1:38.040 Medium
Sergio Perez 1:38.647 Medium
Esteban Ocon 1:38.976 Medium
Sebastian Vettel 1:39.413 Medium
Lance Stroll 1:39.743 Medium
Daniel Ricciardo 1:39.668 Soft
Lando Norris 1:39.940 Soft

Sector times

The age of cliché on a Friday afternoon. Engine modes and fuel levels remain an unknown factor. But we can potentially suggest that Honda are lacking a little bit of power over Mercedes. This weekend, the Japanese engine manufacturer will introduce a new power unit. Usually, teams only introduce their race engine on Saturdays so there's potential Honda could make up the difference. However, a tweet from Honda after FP2 seemed to confirm that they ran the new PU. 

Sector two on Le Castellet circuit basically features one long straight, with a fast chicane. A good place to measure engine performance. During the running on Friday, Mercedes seem to have an advantage, but that could all change overnight. 

Driver Best time sector 2 Difference to fastest
Max Verstappen 28.366 +0.242
Valtteri Bottas 28.176 +0.052
Lewis Hamilton 28.155 +0.031
Fernando Alonso 28.124 Fastest
Charles Leclerc 28.518 +0.394
Esteban Ocon 28.328 +0.204
Pierre Gasly 28.375 +0.251
Carlos Sainz 28.525 +0.401
Kimi Raikkonen 28.318 +0.194

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