French Grand Prix: A Return To Paul Ricard6 min read
Ferrari’s first win in Canada since 2004 has left Sebastian Vettel leading Lewis Hamilton, in the Drivers’ Championship by a solitary point heading into the French Grand Prix.
The French Grand Prix make its highly-anticipated return to the calendar with Paul Ricard hosting its first Formula One race since 1990.
Ferrari to maintain their pace at the French Grand Prix?
Of the current crop of drivers, only Kimi Raikkonen, Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have plied their trade at a French Grand Prix. Only Alonso and Raikkonen have claimed wins on French soil, in 2005 and 2007 respectively.
The French Grand Prix is very similar to the Canadian Grand Prix due to the high-speed nature of both Paul Ricard and the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel dominated Qualifying and the race last time out in Canada.
Mercedes had to delay the release of their upgraded power unit until this weekend, meaning their lack of pace last time out was not unexpected. Should Ferrari dominate this weekend, there will be little doubt that the tides have turned in the Maranello marques’ favour.
Hamilton to bounce back
After consecutive wins in Azerbaijan and Spain, Lewis Hamilton seemed to have everything moving in the right direction. However, after what Hamilton would see as two poor outings, he has seen Vettel leapfrog him in the Drivers’ Championship.
The previous two races have seen Mercedes lacking pace relative to Red Bull and Ferrari. Enter a new Mercedes power unit, for the French Grand Prix, to push the World Champions back to the front of the queue.
We picked out a 12/1 winner in Practice 1 last time out. Things are not likely to be so easy at the French Grand Prix though. With no Formula One racing at Paul Ricard for 28 years, it’s difficult to pick out who will top the timings in practice. Mercedes may be looking to break their new power units in slowly, so Lewis Hamilton’s favouritism may be a little unjustified.
With this in mind, I’m going to take a speculative punt on Daniel Ricciardo who, if it wasn’t for timing issues with the chequered flag in Canada, would have had the fastest lap of the race at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Back Daniel Ricciardo to be the fastest in free practice 1 at
It’s no surprise to see Hamilton and Vettel as joint-favourites for qualifying, everyone wants to sit on the fence until they see how Mercedes’ new engine performs.
I for one don’t think there’s an awful lot of value to be had backing either at 5/4. So, I will be looking towards Valtteri Bottas, and his equally new power unit for qualifying, to top the timings. Bottas has out-qualified Hamilton three times in the seven races this season, so this is by no means a fully confident selection, so I shall be backing him each-way to ensure a return if he qualifies on the front row.
Back Valtteri Bottas to be the fastest qualifier at (Each Way 1/3 1,2)
Back in 1990, when Formula One cars last roared around Paul Ricard, Ferrari topped the timings thanks to the legend Alain Prost. This, however, has no bearing on the events of this weekend – it just helps me reminisce.
Ferrari’s for at the similar Canadian Grand Prix could lead some to feel that they will dominate again this weekend. Mercedes, however, will be looking to get their season back on track and will have fresh power units to push hard if required.
I’m no fan of favourite backing generally, but it is difficult to see past Lewis Hamilton. He made no disguise about his disappointment in the lack of pace of his silver arrow. I’m convinced the Mercedes team will have plenty of tricks up their sleeves to keep the four-time World Champion happy.
Haas has not scored points since May’s Spanish Grand. The Haas demonstrated some strong pace during practice at the Canadian Grand Prix, however come race day they were languishing out of the points.
Hass was able to introduce a significant aerodynamic upgrade last time out, and I’m confident that they will make strides forward. I’m going to take a chance on the home hero, Romain Grosjean, claiming a points finish this weekend.
Back Lewis Hamilton to win the race at
Back Romain Grosjean to get a points finish at