Formula One World Championship travels to Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France, for the 2021 French Grand Prix. The race will mark the seventh round of the 2021 season and only the third time that the track will host the race.
Circuit Paul Ricard was purposely built as a test track due to its mix of straights, slow, medium, and fast corners. The track has previously hosted the French Grand Prix intermittently from 1971-1983 and 1985-1990 and has only returned to the F1 schedule in 2018.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 French Grand Prix got cancelled, meaning this Sunday will mark the first time in two years that the drivers will revisit the modern racing facility.
Lewis Hamilton will take a trip to France as the reigning champion, having won the last two French Grand Prix races. In 2019, he took a commanding victory at Circuit Paul Ricard, crossing the line 18 seconds ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas in second and secured his 200th career points finish.
Mercedes dominated on this track last time out, with Hamilton and Bottas securing the 1-2, and Charles Leclerc finishing in third just under a second behind the Finn. The current frontrunner, Max Verstappen, ended the race in fourth, 34.9s behind the Brit.
A lot of time has passed since then, and a lot has changed. Hamilton is no longer the undisputed best driver and is currently playing a catch-up game with Verstappen, who is four points in the clear with two victories and five podiums.
The car difference is truly showing this season, and it should be far more evident at the Circuit Paul Ricard, which is a very car limited track. That also explains why Mercedes were as successful in France, but does that guarantee Red Bull another victory?
There seems to be a slight chance of showers at the Circuit Paul Ricard on Sunday, with high temperatures and gusts of winds expected for the race day.
The forecast shows gusty south-easterly winds should reach up to 50-45 km/h for the race, with an expected 30 °C. The days leading to the race are expected to sit around 29°C to 31°C, with winds reaching up to 50-55 km/h on the first and second free practice and 45km/h on the last free practice and qualifiers.
Outside of a slight possibility of showers, the French Grand Prix weather doesn’t present any notable concerns.
Surprise, surprise, Lewis Hamilton (2.10) and Max Verstappen (2.50) enter the 2021 French Grand Prix as the odds-on favourites. It’s an ongoing trend that likely won’t change for the rest of the season.
Hamilton is the favourite to win, and that makes a lot of sense. Mercedes were the force to be reckoned with for the past years, and it wasn’t until Red Bull stepped up in 2021 that they finally faced fair competition.
The pressure has seemingly taken a toll on the drivers, seeing how Hamilton and Bottas are making an unusually high number of errors. Perhaps the latter isn’t making as many errors as he seems to be in a downright spiral, as he struggles to keep pace with other drivers.
It’s been talked about before, but it now seems highly likely that Bottas won’t be sitting in a Mercedes car next season.
Despite Mercedes’ woes this season, their cars seem to do much better on regular tracks. The Silver Arrows’ three victories on the season came from purpose-built tracks, while Red Bull scooped up the win in rainy Italy and two on the street tracks.
The trend would suggest that Mercedes should perform better at Circuit Paul Ricard. Last time out, Hamilton struggled to keep up with Verstappen as he was slower down the straights and couldn’t match Red Bull’s pace. However, over the whole race, the Silver Arrows proved better.
The battle between the two is really one big “what if”, and while there are definitely arguments to be made in favour of Mercedes and Hamilton, we see no value in baking him at 2.10.
Outsiders Making Noice
Outside of the two, the battle between Ferrari and McLaren seems to be very close. Lando Norris sits in fourth on the Drivers’ Standings with 66 points and two podiums, with Charles Leclerc in fifth with 52 points to his name.
Closing in on the two is Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel, who came out of Azerbaijan’s chaos in third to secure his team their first podium of the season. He is now at 28 points on the season, which is good for ninth place in the standings.
Although a few drivers outside of Hamilton and Vettel have had solid showings, it’s hard to be overly excited about either upsetting the favourites on the weekend. Circuit Paul Ricard will present a tough test for the cars, where only the best can win.
F1 French Grand Prix Betting Picks
We will update this section with our F1 French Grand Prix betting picks on the race day as there is only one pick we’re interested in.
Wider and Safer Track
The Circuit Paul Ricard is a complete contrast to the Baku City Circuit in a way that it features several run-off areas instead of a wall. It will definitely be a welcome change for the drivers as they won’t get punished for mistakes as severely as in Azerbaijan and Monaco.
Even the track itself is wide enough for the drivers to avoid colliding, which should serve as another benefit when betting on the “to classify” market. In 2021, we have had only 10 cars failing to classify in six races, which may seem high, but the list includes rainy Italy and two street circuits, which weren’t exactly forgiving.
On the other side, only three drivers failed to classify on purpose-built tracks (with suitable weather) so far in 2021. There’s no hiding that F1 drivers are far more cautious in 2021, which is a trend we expect to continue into the next season.
It wouldn’t be fair to compare this season to the last few given that we’re only six rounds in. However, it’s fair to mention that only Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, and Sergio Perez failed to classify at this track in 2018, while there was only one driver in 2019 (Romain Grosjean) who hasn’t finished the race.
The trend points towards a high number of drivers finishing the race.
Prediction: Over 17.5 drivers to be classified – 2.10