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The French Grand Prix, round 7 of 23 of the Formula 1 World Championship, takes place from this Friday to Sunday on the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet. Here are those and what to watch out for during this Grand Prix.
Each season, he says he is able to finally upset his teammate Lewis Hamilton, but his promises are hardly followed. Between lack of performance and bad luck, Valtteri Bottas is only 6th in the drivers’ standings, 58 points behind leader Max Verstappen (Red Bull) and 54 from Hamilton, 2nd. During the previous round in Azerbaijan at the beginning of June, the Finn (12th) lacked speed all weekend, without knowing why. Today, he pleads for a “combination of several factors”, including different settings of his teammate. But a team like Mercedes is entitled to hope for better from its second driver and George Russell is eyeing his seat, even if the Briton ensures for the time being to “concentrate on (his) races” with Williams.
Arriving at Red Bull this winter, Sergio Pérez benefited from a combination of circumstances (the crash of his teammate Max Verstappen following a tire problem) to win his first victory in Baku in his new colors. This second success in F1 is no less welcome. For the “confidence” first, but also because it could act as life insurance in a team which juggles with its second pilots in recent years. “It’s very encouraging for the team to know that we have two cars that can fight for the championship and that we all really want to win,” said “Checo”.
Switched from Ferrari to Aston Martin in the offseason after a frustrating last year in red, Sebastian Vettel took “longer” than he would have liked to adjust. The last two GPs in Monaco (5th) and Azerbaijan (2nd), however, look like a breakthrough. “After the success of Baku, we are approaching the race as well as possible,” said the four-time German world champion. “We had time to party, but now I am fully focused on continuing this momentum in France.” This is crucial in a close fight for 5th place among the constructors.
During his last national GP in 2019, Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) was struggling to find a place at Red Bull. Since then he has become the first Frenchman to win in F1 since 1996. In addition to his victory in Italy in 2020, Gasly has been on the podium twice, in Brazil in 2019 (2nd) and … in Azerbaijan at the beginning of June ( 3rd)! Enough to revive, in France, interest in the premier category of motorsport and conquer a contingent of fans that we will see among the 15,000 daily spectators. “It’s important to be able to share this weekend with them and it makes all the more sense as this will be my first race at home as a GP winner,” said the 25-year-old driver. “And the Baku podium got people’s attention, so I’m in high demand by the media. But I don’t want to burn myself out beforehand, so I’m doing the best I can.”
For the other Frenchman on the grid, Esteban Ocon, the last French GP dates back to 2018. An eternity … and “a real surplus of motivation and energy”, assures the person, aged 24, who has just extended his contract with his Alpine team until 2024. For the Franco-British team, it’s “more pressure to perform,” adds executive director Marcin Budkowski. Used to see-saw results (abandonment for Ocon in Baku but 6th place for the Spaniard Fernando Alonso), what face will Alpine show at Paul Ricard?
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