By News Team
Last Updated: 17th June 2021
After one of the most thrilling races in recent memory in Baku, Formula One returns after a well-deserved breath last weekend. The time for rest is over though as the French Grand Prix kicks off a European triple-header that culminates with consecutive race weekends in Austria.
Sergio Perez took the win last time out in a two-lap mini-race after Max Verstappen’s tyre blowout had caused a late red flag, with Lewis Hamilton locking up going into the first corner at the restart and falling out of the points.
If you’re following the whole of the coverage this weekend, you might hear a lot of talk about tyres following Pirelli’s admission that blowouts suffered by Verstappen and Lance Stroll were not caused by debris. We’ll try to avoid the subject as much as possible as we preview the action.
New track, new order?
One of the interesting narratives going into this weekend is that we don’t really know what the order will look like at the start on Sunday. After back-to-back street races in Monaco and Baku that favoured cars (like Ferrari) that operate well at low speeds and provide little room for driver error, the Circuit Paul Ricard has huge run off areas and long straights that will favour cars with a higher top speed (like Mercedes).
Mercedes have traditionally been much faster in Le Castellet than Red Bull, but we’ve seen in Bahrain and Imola already this season that the gap is closing in that regard, and with new engines in both RB16’s the gap between the top two could be a lot closer than others might have you believe. Lewis Hamilton is 6/5 to win the race on Sunday, with title rival Max Verstappen 6/4 to win.
With Ferrari performing way beyond than expectation, in qualifying at least, over the last two races, will the more open track bring McLaren, who also run Mercedes engines, closer to their rivals in the battle for third in the constructors? Lando Norris is 28/1 to land his first win, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc 40/1.
We’ve also seen midfield jumps from Aston Martin and Alpine, who have struck back against Alpha Tauri in the last two races with good points showings. This weekend will be the first chance to see who has made set-up improvements in their cars and who has benefited from favourable track conditions. Sebastian Vettel is an outside 200/1 to secure a first F1 win for Aston Martin.
Checo in the Chaos
Once again, we saw that when chaos reigns in Formula One, ‘Checo’ Perez is the man you want at the wheel of your race car. Although this race was equally chaotic as his first F1 win at last year’s Sakhir Grand Prix, this time he arguably had the speed to win before Verstappen and Hamilton had found themselves without points. Had it not been for two second hold-up during his pit-stop he likely would have overcut his teammate, just as he successfully managed on Hamilton.
It is a huge result for Perez on a personal level, but also huge for Red Bull’s hopes of winning a first constructors title of the turbo-hybrid era. This year they have a car capable of taking the challenge to Mercedes and now also have two drivers capable of taking the attack to them as well. Baku was the perfect example of this, with Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen all failing to score, Sergio’s win means they head to France with a 26-point lead in the Constructors standings. His job no doubt is to finish behind Verstappen, but it is also to finish ahead of the Mercedes and if he can do that regularly, the Red Bull’s have every chance this year.
Perez is currently 9/1 to win for a second consecutive weekend.