French GP 2021 preview: Mercedes to even the score with Red Bull

This weekends’ F1 French GP will be the first appointment of an intense European triple-header. The eighth round in the most competitive season of recent years will take place at the Paul Ricard Circuit in the town of Le Castellet, where we will be treated to another thrilling head-to-head between Red Bull and Mercedes in their fight for the title. 

After Mercedes’ fiasco in Azerbaijan, where both cars finished out of the points, the German team is eager to square things up with Red Bull. Despite Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton‘s fight ending up in a draw; Checo Pérez‘s triumph increased the Austrians’ score in the Manufacturers’ standings to 26 points (174-148).

The return to the Championship of the permanent tracks, more agreeable to the temperament of the W12 than the city circuits, should play in favour of the German squad.

The leadership of the drivers’ standings is at stake this weekend with Verstappen currently leading Hamilton by only four points. 

The pride of the German team was badly wounded at the last GP with the realisation that losing their absolute Formula One reign is an increasingly real possibility.

Hamilton: In the hunt for the lead  

At a personal level, the seven-time champion must be desperate to make up for the monumental error he committed in Baku, when, on resuming the race after a safety car, the ‘Brake Magic’ button sent him off track.

He fell from second to fifteenth place in just a few seconds. His Dutch rival was out of the game at this point but he was never able to take back the lead of the standings. 

The second drivers of both leading teams will arrive at the French GP feeling rather differently. On the one hand, Valtteri Bottas needs to improve on his very poor twelfth place in Azerbaijan but it won’t be easy.

The Finnish squire is going through his worst time since arriving in Mercedes. Bottas currently occupies a disappointing sixth place in the standings with 47 points, 58 less than the leader.

As if that was not enough, rumours about his likely dismissal in favour of George Russell in 2022 have grown increasingly persistent. The track, at least, will be on his side. The W12 is very well suited to the Paul Ricard, as demonstrated by its poles and victories of 2018 and 2019. 

Checo Pérez, on the other hand, is in a completely different place from the Finn. The Mexican driver took his first triumph with Red Bull in Azerbaijan (his second in Formula One), a great confidence boost ahead of the French round. On top of this, the RB16B is meant to be getting a new engine in France. 

Suspense in the midfield: Ferrari vs McLaren  

Another intense duel is taking place simultaneously in the midfield for the third placeMcLaren & Ferrari swapped positions in the standings after the last GP. The fourth and eighth places of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz in Baku propped the Italians up two points above the Britons in the constructors’ table. 

As for the rest of the teams, both Aston Martin and Alpha Tauri will arrive in France particularly motivated after the former achieved its first podium with Sebastian Vettel in Baku and the latter took bronze by the hand of Pierre Gasly. 

Alpine F1 Team will play with the advantage of racing at home with their recently renewed local star Esteban Ocon and Fernando Alonso, both of whom will be delighted to put a smile on their fans’ faces.

Finally, it is worth reminding that several of the 15 corners that make up the Paul Ricard circuit (5,842 meters) have been recently remodelled in an attempt to make races more spectacular. The French F1 GP will consist of 309,069 km and 53 laps. 

Images of French GP:

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