2019 French Grand Prix – Preview

The 2019 Canadian Grand Prix was largely uneventful, but in the end, it proved very controversial with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel given a five-second time penalty by the race stewards for re-joining the track unsafely at Turn Three, and forcing Lewis Hamilton off the track on Lap 48, with Hamilton being forced to take evasive action to avoid hitting the wall, and Vettel, which would have resulted in a massive accident!

This meant that Hamilton claimed his seventh Canadian Grand Prix victory to equal Michael Schumacher’s record, in terms of race wins, at the Canadian Grand Prix, despite Hamilton crossing the line in a close second behind Vettel.

However, Ferrari have requested their right to have the decision reviewed, and is arguably the biggest subplot heading into the 2019 French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet for Round Eight of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Hamilton (162 points) leads the championship for Mercedes by 29 points over his teammate Valtteri Bottas (133 points) after claiming his fifth race victory in the opening seven races of 2019, and it is the ninth-straight race that Hamilton has finished either first or second. And, in the six previous occasions that Hamilton has won five or more races in a season, he has gone onto win the world championship five times.

While for Bottas, you feel that the French Grand Prix has turned into a must win race for him after finishing 51.043 seconds behind his teammate in fourth at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. If Bottas can’t win this weekend, and is beaten by his teammate, you sense that his world championship hopes might start to slip away.

Vettel (100 points) is third in the championship after having the almost perfect weekend, claiming pole position ahead of Hamilton by a margin of 0.206 seconds, and then led 63 of the 70 laps to cross the line first ahead of Hamilton. However, Vettel made a mistake on Lap 48, running wide at Turn Three, missing the corner, and then in the opinion of the race stewards, re-joined the circuit unsafely, and almost causing what would have been a massive accident with Hamilton, with Hamilton having to take evasive action to avoid a collision.

Looking at the incident over and over again, I feel like it was one of those 50/50 incidents where you could argue that Vettel did all he could to re-join the track safely and not have the situation of a potential collision, but you could have also argued the opposite.

I think though what the race stewards (and in large the FIA) are trying to say is that if a similar thing happened involving one or two inexperienced drivers (in terms of Formula One experience), especially if the inexperienced driver had been in Hamilton’s position, it would have almost certainly have resulted in a massive accident, and with safety being absolutely paramount in the sport today, the race stewards really had little choice but to penalise Vettel, much to the disgust of most fans, and most certainly to the anger of former Formula One drivers, most of whom participated in the sport in an era(s) where safety was of lesser consideration than it is today, and no matter how they justify their opinions on this and similar incidents, they cannot remove the fact that they participated in the sport in an era(s) where danger was almost at every turn, and that their opinions are shaped by those experiences, even if it is merely subconscious.

In the end, I don’t think Ferrari’s chances of overturning the penalty are that strong, and will have to regroup after Vettel’s “near perfect” race, and unfortunately in this era of Formula One with a team like Mercedes producing the results they are producing right now, being “near perfect” is just not good enough!

Max Verstappen (88 points) is fourth in the world championship for Red Bull Racing-Honda after finishing fifth in Canada from ninth on the grid, and the last car on the lead lap, and remains ahead of Vettel’s teammate Charles Leclerc (72 points) in the standings despite Leclerc finishing a close third in Montréal.

Behind the Top Five in the championship, Verstappen’s teammate Pierre Gasly (36 points) is 36 points behind Leclerc, and seemingly a mile away from being in contention for a race win, but remains ahead of McLaren-Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (18 points), and Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (16 points), who put in a magnificent performance to finish in sixth after qualifying in a remarkable fourth! Ricciardo is now eighth in the standings, ahead of Haas-Ferrari’s Kevin Magnussen (14 points), and Racing Point-BWT Mercedes driver Sergio Pérez (13 points), who is equal on points with Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen (13 points).

Looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes (295 points) still dominate to the tune of a 123-point margin ahead of Ferrari (172 points), with Red Bull Racing-Honda (124 points) in a lonely third. Behind them, McLaren-Renault (30 points) are still in fourth, but Renault (28 points) are right behind them, and are starting to show the form that we were expecting, with Racing Point-BWT Mercedes (19 points), Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (17 points), Haas-Ferrari (16 points), Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari (13 points), and sadly Williams-Mercedes (zero points) behind them.

So, who is going to triumph at the 2019 French Grand Prix?

Although I think the characteristics of the Circuit Paul Ricard could potentially suit Ferrari, I still think it will suit the characteristics of the Mercedes even better, and I feel like Lewis Hamilton will make it four wins in a row this weekend!

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2019 French GP (MotoGP) – Preview

Marc Márquez got the swift redemption that he was looking for after crashing out of the Grand Prix of the Americas by winning the Spanish Grand Prix for the second-straight year, and for just the third time in his career, Álex Rins backed up his first MotoGP victory, which he achieved at the Circuit of the Americas by finishing second behind his fellow Spaniard at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, while Maverick Viñales got his first podium of the season, and his first since winning in Australia last year as he attempts to bounce back after his awful start to 2019.

However, the struggles continued for Jorge Lorenzo at home, finishing only 12th, and he will be desperate to change his fortunes very quickly as the 2019 MotoGP World Championship heads to the Circuit Bugatti in Le Mans in France for Round Five of the championship, the 2019 French Grand Prix.

Márquez (70 points) re-takes the lead of the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by a single point over Team SUZUKI ECSTAR rider Rins (69 points) after claiming his 46th MotoGP victory, and his 72nd race victory across all classes. Márquez is just one win away from moving into equal-fourth for most premier class victories alongside his current teammate Lorenzo.

Meanwhile, Rins extended his streak of Top Five finishes to eight after claiming his second podium of the season. Rins has now achieved Top Five finishes in 10 of his last 11 races, but needs to qualify a little bit closer to the front if he is to challenge Márquez on a consistent basis.

Andrea Dovizioso (67 points) is third in the championship for Mission Winnow Ducati after a second-straight fourth-place finish in 2019 at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, but will be feeling optimistic about his chances over the course of the next three races, maybe not necessarily at Le Mans, but certainly at Mugello and Barcelona, circuits which should suit the characteristics of the Ducati extremely well.

Valentino Rossi (61 points) is fourth in the championship for Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP after finishing a difficult race in sixth after starting the Spanish Grand Prix in 13th after failing to qualify into the second part (Q2) of qualifying. He is 20 points ahead of Dovizioso’s teammate in Danilo Petrucci (41 points) in the standings after the Ducati rider continued his consistent run in 2019 by finishing in fifth-place in Jerez de la Frontera after finishing in sixth in each of the opening three races.

Rossi’s teammate Viñales (30 points) is just 11 points behind Petrucci after finishing third in Spain, but is already 40 points behind Márquez, and his hopes of claiming his first MotoGP World Championship in 2019 almost gone. However, Viñales is certainly capable of winning in France just like he did back in 2017, but he needs to qualify well, and most importantly start well to give himself the best possible chance.

Jack Miller (29 points) is seventh in the world championship for Alma Pramac Racing despite crashing out of the Spanish Grand Prix, and is ahead of Takaaki Nakagami (29 points) in the standings by virtue of his third-place finish at the Grand Prix of the Americas.

Nakagami’s LCR Honda teammate Cal Crutchlow (27 points) is ninth in the championship just two points behind his teammate after finishing eighth at the Circuito de Jerez-Ángel Nieto, while Franco Morbidelli (25 points) completes the Top 10 in the standings by finishing the Spanish Grand Prix in seventh for Petronas Yamaha SRT.

However, it was heartbreak for Morbidelli’s teammate Fabio Quartararo (17 points), who after becoming the youngest rider to claim pole position in the history of the premier class, was running in a comfortable second behind Márquez before a gearbox issue struck on Lap 14, ending his chances of a first MotoGP podium and leaving him in 13th position in the world championship.

Immediately behind Quartararo in the standings, it is Lorenzo (11 points), who had an absolutely awful race in Jerez de la Frontera, finishing 12th and 18.473 behind his teammate and race winner Márquez, and looking like a shadow of the rider that has won five world championships, including three in the premier class, and really needs to do some serious soul searching if he wants to return to the level of rider we all know that he can be!

However, Lorenzo has finished inside the Top Seven in all of his MotoGP races at the Circuit Bugatti, and has finished inside the Top Two in nine of his last 10 races at Mugello, so if he doesn’t perform well at either, if not both, of those two races, there will be some serious question marks regarding Lorenzo’s future.

So, who will win the 2019 French Grand Prix?

I think the safest bet will be Marc Márquez, but I think Álex Rins on the Suzuki, Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales on the Yamaha, as well as Andrea Dovizioso on the Ducati will be his closest challengers in Le Mans.

2018 French GP – Preview

After a dominant victory for Sebastian Vettel in Montreal, achieving his 50th win in Formula One career in the process, becoming just the fourth driver in Formula One history after Michael Schumacher, Lewis Hamilton, and Alain Prost to achieve this feat, and a disappointing fifth-place finish for Hamilton at the Canadian Grand Prix, Round Eight of the 2018 FIA Formula One World Championship takes place at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet in France for the first French Grand Prix since 2008, but the first one at the Circuit Paul Ricard since 1990, with only a point separating the two main championship contenders.

Vettel (121 points) leads the world championship for Ferrari by a single point over Hamilton (120 points) heading into the French Grand Prix. Vettel has been good without being dominant in 2018 with his victory in Canada being his third of the season (the most of any driver), but his first since the second race of the season in Bahrain, while Hamilton has been trying to find consistent form for Mercedes with perhaps his two best performances of the season so far being in Australia, where a win was taken away from him due to the circumstances of the virtual safety car back in the opening race of the season, and in Spain, where he won by a dominant 20.593 seconds over his teammate Valtteri Bottas to claim his second victory of the season in a Mercedes one-two in backing up the surprising victory he had in Azerbaijan.

However, beyond Vettel and Hamilton, the battle in the championship is starting to heat up beautifully for third in championship between Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo, Kimi Räikkönen, and perhaps Max Verstappen.

Bottas (86 points) has regained third in the championship after an impressive second-place finish in Montreal, making it four-straight podiums for the Finnish driver in Canada, while Ricciardo (84 points) slips to fourth for Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer after finishing fourth.

He is ahead of Vettel’s teammate Räikkönen (68 points) in the championship after finishing a disappointing sixth, but is still ahead of Ricciardo’s teammate Verstappen (50 points) in the standing, despite the Dutch driver having his cleanest, and best weekend of the season so far, finishing third from third on the grid after topping all of the practice sessions.

In terms of the battle towards the back-end of the top 10 in the championship, Fernando Alonso and Nico Hülkenberg are both locked on 32 points in seventh and eighth in the championship for McLaren-Renault, and Renault respectively, with Alonso ahead of Hülkenberg in the championship due to a fifth-place finish in Australia, compared to two sixth-place finishes for Hülkenberg.

Alonso will be coming into the French Grand Prix on a high after winning the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans for Toyota Gazoo Racing alongside Sébastien Buemi (Scuderia Toro Rosso driver 2009-2011), and Kazuki Nakajima (Williams driver 2007-2009), completing the second leg of the Triple Crown (Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Indianapolis 500) he is attempting to achieve after winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice (2006 and 2007), which has been a huge subject in regards to his future in Formula One, as well as the competitiveness of his McLaren.

Only time will tell in terms of what he does next.

Completing the top 10 in the championship is Hülkenberg’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. (24 points), and Haas-Ferrari driver Kevin Magnussen (19 points).

As far as the Constructors’ Championship is concerned, Mercedes (206 points), with a new power-unit coming in time for this weekend, leads by 17 points over Ferrari (189 points), with Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer (134 points) in a comfortable third in the championship. Behind them, Renault (56 points) have pulled away from McLaren-Renault (40 points) in the battle for fourth after a double-points finish for the French constructor in Canada, with Force India-Mercedes (28 points) sitting in sixth position ahead of a battle for seventh in the championship between Scuderia Toro Rosso-Honda (19 points) and Haas-Ferrari (19 points), while Sauber-Ferrari (12 points), and the hapless Williams-Mercedes (four points) complete the standings.

So, who will win the first French Grand Prix since 2008?

Looking at the Circuit Paul Ricard, the layout of the circuit suits Mercedes and Ferrari a little better on paper compared to Red Bull Racing-TAG Heuer, but I am not willing to pick a definitive winner given how tight this season has been, but I think it will either be Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, or Kimi Räikkönen lifting the winner’s trophy come Sunday.

 

 

2018 French GP (MotoGP) – Preview

After a dramatic Spanish Grand Prix, whereby Marc Márquez took what was a dominant victory in the end, the biggest talking point was the remarkable racing incident which took out Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, and Andrea Dovizioso, which has changed the complexion of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship, which now heads to the home of French motorsport Le Mans to race on the shorter Circuit Bugatti.

Márquez (70 points) leads the world championship for the Repsol Honda Team by 12 points over Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Johann Zarco (58 points) heading into Zarco’s home race.

Márquez was dominant in the race at Jerez, but has been down just a touch on his normal performance over a qualifying lap, but overall, Márquez is heading towards the form that won him the first 10 races of the season back in 2014, and I sense he could go on a winning streak!

However, Zarco will be keen to stop him at his home race, where he picked up his first MotoGP podium last year, and at the moment, Zarco looks to be the only Yamaha that is genuinely capable of winning races!

This might be a disservice to the winner of last year’s French Grand Prix, Maverick Viñales (50 points), who sits in third in the championship for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP after finishing a satisfying, but ultimately disappointing seventh at the Spanish Grand Prix. However, after almost 12 months since his last victory in MotoGP, you don’t get the sense that the winless run for Viñales is going to end this weekend.

It is more likely though that either Andrea Iannone (47 points) for Team Suzuki Ecstar, or Dovizioso (46 points) for the Ducati Team will challenge for the win after their recent performances, particularly Iannone after two-straight podiums, but also Dovizioso after challenging for the podium in Jerez before the spectacular end to his race.

However, Valentino Rossi (40 points) will be in the same boat as his teammate Viñales, with the chances of victory being unlikely at Le Mans, while Cal Crutchlow (38 points), who took pole position for the Spanish Grand Prix will be hoping to stay on his bike after failing to score in the last two races. He cannot afford another mistake if he wants to remain in championship contention, because at the moment, he is wasting the potential of the bike, and himself!

Meanwhile, Jack Miller (36 points) is making good use of last year’s Ducati Desmosedici GP17 for Alma Pramac Racing with four top 10 finishes, and is just ahead of his teammate Danilo Petrucci (34 points), who is riding the newer Ducati Desmosedici GP18.

Tito Rabat (24 points) completes the top 10 in the championship for Reale Avintia Racing after four-straight points-scoring finishes.

So, who is going to win the French Grand Prix?

At the moment, you cannot go past Marc Márquez winning his third race in a row, but I think it is going to be competitive behind, with Jorge Lorenzo to show the form that he showed in Jerez before the crash to take second-place, with Johann Zarco to finish in third in front of his home crowd in a huge battle pack!