2021 F1 preview: French Grand Prix

After back-to-back races at street courses in Monaco and Baku, the 2021 Formula 1 season heads back to the circuits of Europe for a summer tripleheader.

On Sunday, F1 will race at Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France. Austria will then host a doubleheader for the Styrian and Austrian Grand Prix.

The last French Grand Prix took place in 2019, a race that saw Lewis Hamilton win from pole position and lead every lap of the race. Valtteri Bottas finished second with Charles Leclerc rounding out the podium.

Mercedes finished 1-2 in that race, a feat they are looking to repeat on Sunday. Mercedes currently sits second in the constructor’s championship 26 points behind Red Bull Racing. The last time Mercedes finished 1-2 in a race was the 2020 Emilia Romagna Grand Prix where Mercedes clinched their seventh constructor’s championship.

Hmailton and Bottas will start second and third in Sunday’s French Grand Prix with Max Verstappen starting on pole.

Hamilton finished seventh and 16th in the last two races, dropping him four points below Verstappen for the driver’s championship lead.

Verstappen’s last race ended in heartbreak as he crashed on the main straightaway in Baku as the leader. However, he kept his lead in the championship as Hamilton’s brakes locked up with two laps to go in the race.

Bottas finished 12th at Baku and suffered a DNF at Monaco as his right-front tire could not come off during his pit stop. He is sixth in the driver’s championship, five points below Leclerc.

Sergio Perez will start fourth, two weeks after winning his first race for Red Bull in Baku. Perez is third in the driver’s championship standings with 69 points.

Carlos Sainz qualified in the top five for the fourth time in the last five races, starting fifth at France. Sainz has finished in the top 10 in five of the six races this season, landing him seventh in the driver standings with 42 points. Leclerc starts seventh for Ferrari, ending a run of consecutive pole finishes in qualifying at Monaco and Baku.

Pierre Gasly will start sixth, the fifth time this season he qualified in the top six. Gasly picked up his third-career podium at Baku two weeks ago with a third-place finish.

The two McLaren drivers, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, will start eighth and 10th. Norris is the only driver in F1 this season to finish with points in every race. Ricciardo has finished with points in all but one race this season, but has not finished in the top five in 2021.

Fernando Alonso will start ninth and Esteban Ocon will start 11th. Alonso finished sixth in Baku for his best result with Alpine so far. Ocon is racing in his home country the same week he signed a new contract with Alpine, keeping him with the team through the 2024 season.

The forecast calls for a 60% chance of precipitation at Le Castellet, prompting a possible second rain race in 2021 (Imola 2021).

If you are watching in the United States, coverage for the 2021 French GP will begin at 9:00 a.m. EST. You can catch the race on ESPN.

Starting grid:

Track layout:

French Grand Prix - F1 Race - Circuit Paul Ricard - Le Castellet | Formula  1®

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