French Grand Prix Preview
Can Red Bull inflict a blow at a Mercedes dominated track?
Off the back of another bonkers race at Baku, chances are, that we will see a return to a rather more mundane and orderly race, here at Paul Ricard. History suggests that Mercedes are quick here, and there is not much racing action, will we see anything different in 2021?
In terms of Mercedes, they will likely have their biggest challenge yet at this track, with how good Red Bull are this year. That being said, they are still favourites, and the pace from Bottas especially suggests they could leave here with a much needed win! If Valtteri can continue to show his pace today, over the next two days, and win the race, it would really be of aid both mentally for himself, but also for his standing in the team for the future. Lewis wasn’t happy with the car in practice; however, they will work at it through the night, and will probably come back stronger tomorrow.
Much like we said at Barcelona, the performance of Red Bull compared to Mercedes, will show us where they stand for the season. As even if they don’t win here, as long as they are pushing them hard, there is hope that on many other tracks, they could beat them. That may have been what we got today, as Max was close in FP1, and fastest in FP2, although the Mercedes didn’t have a perfect run, and may have carried more fuel. If Verstappen could get 2nd here it would be a great result, and minimise the losses in the title fight, but if he were to win, it could be huge as to how this year plays out! All Perez needs to do is carry the momentum from Baku, and make sure he is solidly ahead of the midfield as we return to a ‘normal track’, if he could pressurise the Silver Arrow’s too, that would be a huge bonus!
I am not going to say they are the 3rd fastest team here, however, Alpine are coming on strong at the moment, and have the potential to score a good haul of points, which would be amazing in their home grand prix. I am wary though, as we know how McLaren sandbag on a Friday, and Leclerc can pull out some amazing laps on a Saturday, so they won’t have it easy by any means. Yet, if they could be in the battle for 5th place in France, it may help to ease the pressure they likely have from the big bosses, after a tough time recently. With Ocon signing a new contract, and coming to his home race, watch out for something special from him here!
McLaren could be the team to beat here in terms of the midfield, as they have Mercedes power behind them, and the high speed corners may play more into their hands, than those of Ferrari. The team needs to fight back, in the battle with them for 3rd in the constructors, before they get too much of a lead over them. Daniel was able to pretty much match Lando for pace in practice, he just needs to repeat that tomorrow and on Sunday.
After two race weekends that exceeded their expectations, despite the heart break at Monaco, here should be where Ferrari fall back into the melee, with teams like Alpine and Alpha Tauri. With their lack of engine power, they may find it a struggle on the Mistral straight, especially in the race, with cars flying past them. All they need is a solid weekend, ideally with both cars in the points, to minimise their loses.
Alpha Tauri are beginning to have the year we thought they would have from the start, as Gasly has finished well in the past few races. Taking a brand new engine here, like the senior team did, could prove useful for them, if a battle pack starts to form in the midfield, where any little bit of power could be crucial. I doubt they can match it with McLaren and Alpine, yet points must be their aim. All Tsunoda needs to do, is have a quiet weekend, and not be far from Pierre.
With Alpine jumping to the front here, it may just be Aston Martin and Alfa Romeo, who find it hard to score points. Aston Martin’s pain caused by the change in regulations for 2021, were masked at the 2 street circuits, where the chassis is more important than downforce, but on a track like this, they will likely be back to bottom end of the grid sadly. Alfa Romeo were lucky to score points due to the chaos at Baku, and with the Ferrari engine, points may be a long shot for them.
Williams and Haas continue to run at the back of the grid, where the windy conditions here on a flat track, will hamper any chances of points for Williams. The one thing I admire about Haas, is how they are not getting down about where they are, they go into each weekend with confidence, despite knowing how it will probably go. That could be what helps to drag them up the grid in the future!
Whilst I do hope for a good weekend of racing here, it will probably show us once again, why a smooth flat track surface, with loads of run off, just isn’t what F1 needs right now! You never know though, and there will always be the intrigue of the title fight to watch out for!
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