F1 2021: 5 Drivers Who Need a Good French GP Today
The fact that no Red Bull driver has ever won at Le Castellet or on any other circuit at the French Grand Prix should make Sunday’s supposedly dreary and sleep-inducing contest plenty of fun, sprinkled with thrills.
Moreover, with Max Verstappen occupying P1 on the grid, he denied both Mercedes drivers the glory of the pole. This is poised to make the 2021 French GP a slugfest of speed and one with unending surprises for how Max can convert pole into victory.
Who knows which driver will become the first to see the checkered flag?
But what about the rest of the grid? Which drivers need to contest a strong race for the 53 lap contest based on recent form and their Saturday’s qualifying result?
For a driver who’s yet to really put a fantastic, eye-opening lap together during Saturday’s all-important qualifying session, Lance Stroll has ahead of him really testing 53 laps for Sunday.
Not only because he failed to set a lap time and finds himself down in eighteenth, even behind Kimi Raikkonen, but also because it won’t ever be easy to make it count, especially when one begins so far behind the grid.
Moreover, the pressure to keep himself embroiled in the battle with a visibly superior teammate in Sebastian Vettel will always put that extra bit of pressure on the talented Canadian. P18 was a disappointing result in quali at the end of the day, but come race day, Stroll would want to extract every bit of pace from a car that’s more than some insipid midfield machine.
Contesting a race for the very first time at the exhausting Circuit Paul Ricard, young Yuki found it really difficult to negotiate Turn 6 of the track. His spin and contact with the barriers prompted the red flags to come out again during qualifying.
The result of this incident-marred run was that the talented Japanese is to begin his maiden French GP drive from the very back of the field.
Though he’s aligned with a car that’s visibly quicker than the likes of Alfa Romeo and Aston Martin, the question is, can Tsunoda vault ahead right at the beginning and make amends for a horrid quali result?
Surely, moving past the likes of Raikkonen and the Williams of Latifi shouldn’t take an awful lot of effort. Moreover, one reckons, Tsunoda will have the extra motivation to make up for the lost chances at races like Monaco and Spain, where he endured a DNF and P16, respectively.
Yet to open his account in Formula 1, quite like his fledgeling fortunes last year, if there’s one driver who’s been quietly operating under the radar then it’s the Canadian Nicolas Latifi.
Though, credit must be given to the young Williams man for keeping the nose of his Williams ahead of that of Kimi Raikkonen’s for a sixteenth place, but Sunday’s contest will see him amid an interesting challenge.
While the Alfa Romeo driver will fancy his chances early on to pass the Williams, what Latifi will also have to contend with is the fact that Mick Schumacher, provided the German’s mechanics manage to put together his car in one piece following that scary spin at Turn 6 in Q1, wouldn’t be so keen to allow Latifi to pass through his defences.
So, can the Montreal-born 25-year-old contend solidly and gather a respectable finish at the French Grand Prix?
Finding himself outpaced by his teammate yet again, Ricciardo, not in the greatest form this year, is set to begin his French GP challenge from tenth on the grid. Meanwhile, his teammate is already on P8.
But we know Ricciardo’s prowess at real racing, he’s not called the master of late braking for nothing. Having failed to score at Monaco and managing a somewhat lowly P9 at Baku, this is his golden opportunity to make amends and score some decent points.
A finish ahead of Norris, if at all possible, should serve him the mental advantage that all’s not lost yet since the 2021 world championship is a pretty long and arduous season anyways.
Moreover, with a best-place finish of P6 at Imola and Spain, it doesn’t appear as if Ricciardo has got the hang of the MCL 35M thus far. Probably, about time to get to his best on-track performance.
If there’s ever been a woeful season for the most experienced driver on the grid, then surely 2021 is it. A man who was easily outpacing a much younger teammate in qualifying for much 2020, has found the tables turned this time around in 2021.
How can it even be when with the same Alfa Romeo he got only a lowly and very shabby seventeenth on the grid whilst his teammate found himself a respectable P13?
Is the Ice melting? We don’t know. What we do know is that it’s best to leave Kimi Raikkonen alone, for perhaps this time, he doesn’t know what he’s doing. So maybe the answer at improving and rising back again can only come from him, not us speculative fans!
Grid Talk Podcast
Want more reaction to qualifying? The Grid Talk crew reviewed the French Grand Prix qualifying right after the session concluded yesterday. Ruby Price hosted Tom Horrox and Steve Jackson in their latest podcast. Both audio and video versions of the show are linked below: