2021 French GP Preview - Can Lewis Hamilton claw back the gap on Verstappen?

Formula One returns to the south of France this weekend, as the teams roll into Circuit Paul Ricard on the Côte d'Azur for the next round of the Formula One championship.

Known for its hypnotic layout and bright run-off areas, Paul Ricard isn't a fan favorite, but will nonetheless provide some thrilling action in the race to the title.

Last Time Out

Two weeks ago Formula One returned to the streets of Baku, which saw a weekend of controversy, amongst some great racing across the four days the cars were on the track. Throughout the weekend the practice sessions would be dominated by yellow flags, as drivers struggled with headwinds across the track, seeing many of them take to the escape roads across the streets of Baku.

Qualifying would be where the drama began, with a record-equaling four red flags coming out across the three sessions. Q1 would see Lance Stroll and Antonio Giovinazzi bow out after making contact with the narrow walls of the track, Daniel Ricciardo would be the next driver to find the wall in Q2, with all three drivers struggling to negotiate turn 15. Q3 would see Yuki Tsunoda and Carlos Sainz fail to make the end of the session too. As a result of the chaos, Charles Leclerc would make it back-to-back pole positions, following on from Monaco.

The race would be no less chaotic, however, the action would wait until lap 30 to make itself apparent. Alpine's Esteban Ocon would bow out early on with an electrical fault, with the next retirement coming on lap 30, in a rather spectacular fashion. Stroll, whilst on a long stint, would have a rear left tire failure on the back straight, causing the Aston Martin to career into the Armco near the pit entrance. 16 laps later, leader Max Verstappen would also succumb to the same fate.

As a result, the race was red-flagged, allowing all teams to change tires due to safety concerns. This resulted in a two-lap sprint to the finish from the race restart. Ultimately, it was Sergio Perez who would emerge victorious, following Lewis Hamilton's first corner mistake. Second place would go to Pierre Gasly and in third would be Sebastian Vettel, for his, and Aston Martin's maiden podium.

Last time in France 

The French GP was one of many Grand Prix's that wasn't on the calendar in 2020 due to Covid-19, like many other GPs on the calendar this year.

There were very few surprises sprung in this race, with the three who started in the first three grid slots, Hamiton, Valtteri Bottas, and Leclerc finishing in the same order as they started in.

The race will be remembered for the dramatic last-lap dogfight between Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris, Nico Hulkenberg, and Gasly, which saw Ricciardo force his now teammate Norris off track, in an attempt to gain seventh place, only to receive a penalty after for said infringement.

There was one retirement from proceedings which was the Haas of Romain Grosjean, who bowed out on lap 44.

Track Profile

For the 2021 race weekend, there have been a number of different corners that have been reprofiled in an attempt to help promote some closer racing on the track. Studio Dromo, who was responsible for the changes that took place at Zandvoort and Silverstone, took charge of the changes, with Jarno Zaffelli, the owner of Dromo staying "We reprofiled all the corners that we basically resurfaced. The only one that was not reprofiled was turn 10, the other ones were just slightly changed" in an interview with RaceFans.net.

Session Timings 

Friday 18th June 2021

Free Practice 1: 10:30am-11:30am BST 
Free Practice 2: 2:00pm-3:00pm BST 

Saturday 19th June 2021

Free Practice 3: 11:00am-12:00pm BST 
Qualifying: 2:00pm-3:00pm BST 

Sunday 5th May 2021

Race: 2:00pm BST

 

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