Formula One returns to the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet after an enforced one-year absence for this weekend’s 2021 French Grand Prix (Race: 2pm Sunday: TV: Live on Sky Sports F1).
Lewis Hamilton has won both races at the circuit since the French Grand Prix made its comeback to the calendar in 2018, both times from pole position. Mercedes were dominant last time out in 2019, qualifying and finishing first and second.
Will Mercedes again be the team to beat this weekend? This French GP preview, with betting tips, hopes to answer that. The season to date has shown they have a worthy competitor this year in a Red Bull team who currently lead both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships, but even so, it is Mercedes and Hamilton who should be expected to have the edge this weekend.
While the Red Bull’s Honda power unit is arguably as close on performance as it has ever been to the Mercedes unit, with a new Honda upgrade to come this weekend, it is the Mercedes that still has the advantage, particularly on power circuits. With three long straights, Paul Ricard certainly falls into that category.
Red Bull may also be handicapped by the implementation of a new testing regime for rear-wing flex that will be brought in for this event. They were one of the teams, alongside Alfa Romeo, Alpine and sister team AlphaTauri, whose rear wings were felt to fall into the gap between what is stated as legal in the regulations and what the test was capable of measuring. So they will be forced to make changes to that part of their car this weekend.
All of which is to say that Hamilton looks pretty well placed to retake the championship lead from Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by taking victory on Sunday.
Verstappen currently holds a four-point advantage over Hamilton at the top of the standings after a crazy Azerbaijan Grand Prix two weeks ago in which both of them failed to score. Verstappen suffered a blown tyre while leading and Hamilton out-braked himself into the first corner on the late-race restart following the clear-up of debris from Verstappen’s crash.
Sergio Perez was the beneficiary, taking his first win for Red Bull since joining the team at the start of the year. Sebastian Vettel built on his strong Monaco performance to take an excellent second for Aston Martin ahead of Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri. Pole-sitter Charles Leclerc came home fourth for Ferrari, with the McLaren of Lando Norris and Fernando Alonso’s Alpine rounding out the top six.
Valtteri Bottas endured a weekend to forget in the second Mercedes, qualifying in 10th and then was unable to make up any ground in the race, finishing two places further back in 12th. He will be keen to get back on the pace this weekend.
Bottas has finished in the top three in three of the four races he has finished in 2021. He was also likely on course for a podium finish at Monaco, before a jammed wheel nut ended his race in the first round of pitstops. While he seems to have slipped further behind Hamilton this year, he still has a car capable of helping him to a podium finish on Sunday.
Like Verstappen, Lance Stroll suffered a tyre failure in Azerbaijan running a different strategy to the rest of the field that could well have yielded a strong result. The Aston Martin driver’s weekend was hampered by a crash in qualifying on the Saturday. His race pace was good enough to suggest that Vettel’s second-place finish was no fluke and that the team are starting to get to grips with the car after a slow start to the season.
With the Mercedes power unit underneath them, and with some other teams around them likely to be handicapped by rear-wing changes brought about by the new testing regime, there is every chance that Stroll could put together a top-six finish on Sunday.
After a run of difficult results after his impressive debut in Bahrain, Yuki Tsunoda claimed seventh for AlphaTauri in Azerbaijan, ahead of the Ferrari of Carlos Sainz, Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren and the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen, continuing his record of scoring in each and every one of his 19 seasons in the sport.
So our F1 French Grand Prix betting tips for this preview are:
- Back Lewis Hamilton to win the race @ 6/5 with William Hill, Paddy Power or Betfair. Latest F1 GP betting odds can be found here.
- Bet on Valtteri Bottas to finish in the top three, ie: on the podium (odds yet to be published).
- Back Lance Stroll to finish in the top six (betting not available at time of writing).