Our team members Andrew and Ross went along to the French Grand Prix this summer, read on to find out their experience!
With June proving a washout in many parts of the UK, the prospect of enjoying some sun in the south of France was a very welcome one as our tour group boarded the Eurostar train bright and early on Friday morning. Add in the thought of some fantastic food, great wine and the anticipation of an exciting weekend of F1 action and we were buzzing as the train sped through the French countryside towards our destination of Marseille.
On arrival some of the group headed for the Ibis hotel on the edge of beautiful Aix-en-Provence, while others took the short transfer to the Novotel Suites hotel, a short walk from Marseille’s famous Old Port area. Arriving mid-afternoon there was time to settle in or go and explore for a while before meeting up in the hotel bar for the Gullivers Welcome Drinks, a great opportunity for everyone to get to know each other and share some predictions about the weekend’s racing.
Saturday morning came with the choice of spending the day relaxing and exploring the city or heading to the Circuit Paul Ricard for Qualifying. In Marseille some chose to relax in the historic Old Port while others made their way on the little train to the Notre Dame Basilica to enjoy the breath-taking views of the city; in Aix-en-Provence it was all too easy to while away the hours strolling on the beautiful Cours Mirabeau or sipping a glass of wine in one of the many relaxed café-bars. Others preferred to transfer with us to the famous Circuit Paul Ricard to take in F1 qualifying along with a packed supporting programme of races including F2 and F3.
Mercedes’ season-long domination continued with Valterri Bottas looking for another pole after being quickest in practice on Friday and leading the early qualifying sessions however to the delight of many of the British fans in attendance Lewis Hamilton came through fast as the afternoon progressed and snatched his third pole of the season with his final lap. Ferrari fans were disappointed as Sebastian Vettel could only manage 7th place although his young teammate Charles Leclerc was hot on the heels of the two Silver Arrows in third.
Race day came and thanks to improvements to traffic flow made by local authorities since last season, we sped to the circuit with no hold-ups on the way, arriving with plenty of time to enjoy a coffee in the charming mock French village that the circuit had set up alongside the bustling Fan Zone.
When the supporting races were finished and the Grand Prix began, the value of the grid positions was shown as Hamilton led from start to finish and was never in danger of surrendering the lead, eventually finishing 18 seconds ahead of Bottas in second with Leclerc less than a second back in third. Hamilton leads the championship by 36 points from his teammate Bottas with Vettel a distant third and the Mercedes dominance is clear in the constructors’ championship as they hold a commanding lead with 338 points to Ferrari’s 198.
On now to the second half of this June double-header with the Austrian Grand Prix at the weekend. Mercedes will be looking for better fortune this year as neither Hamilton nor Bottas finished the race in 2018; Ferrari will doubtless be hoping for a repeat and an opportunity to close the gap on the runaway leaders and kick-start their season with a win.