F1: French Grand Prix Preview, Predictions, and How to Watch

F1 - CIrcuit Paul Ricard - French Grand Prix
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Sometimes hailed as the world’s oldest, the French Grand Prix was first contested in 1906. 116 years later, Formula 1 drivers are still going at it year after year in France.

It has been over a month since Max Verstappen won a race, his last victory coming at the Canadian Grand Prix. In the meantime, both Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc captured well-earned wins for Ferrari, with Leclerc’s win in Austrian moving him past Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez for second in the standings, setting the Ferrari driver up well for this weekend’s French Grand Prix.

The race, which was revived in 2018 after a nine-year hiatus, has been won twice by Lewis Hamilton and once by Verstappen since it returned to the Formula 1 calendar, with no race being contested in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although Mercedes’ performance in 2022 has been somewhat unremarkable, team principal Toto Wolff hinted that Hamilton could grab his fourth podium in a row with “new developments” on the Mercedes W13.

Things are a bit different for Red Bull. Although his driver has a 38-point lead in the championship, Christian Horner’s squad is facing upcoming regulations targeting “flexi floors” which may hamper the Milton Keynes-based team’s performance. However, as those regulations don’t take place until after the summer break, Horner’s primary concern may be a bit surprising: track limits. “I expect Paul Ricard to be a bigger problem because you can really gain time there. And of course you have hectares of asphalt there, so that also invites you to drive off-track…”

The Circuit

Opened in 1970 and billed as an innovator in motorsports safety, the Circuit Paul Ricard boasts a mind-boggling 167 different possible track configurations. The circuit, located in the commune of Le Castellet in Southeastern France, can be easily identified by fans due to its trademark red and blue markings surrounding the racing surface.

The 5.8-kilometer circuit starts out with a main straight that measures just under a kilometer, which leads drivers into a chicane style turn one and two which sends drivers parallel to the adjacent Le Castellet Airport. Turns three, four, and five are a quick right-left-right section that concludes sector one and have caused chaos in past races.

Turn six is a fast and lengthy right-hander which puts drivers in position for turn seven, a speedy left that precedes the Mistral straight, which presents the circuit’s first DRS zone and primary overtaking opportunity. After a kilometer-long stretch of straightaway, drivers brake hard and turn into the Mistral chicane, which makes up turns eight and nine of the circuit.

Going into sector three now, drivers go into the Signes corner, one of the fastest on the entire Formula 1 calendar, where drivers frequently top out at over 300 kph. Sector three continues with the extended hairpin that is turn 11, which sends drivers to turn 12, a similar turn that slowly turns drivers back to the left on their way back to the pit straight. Turn 14 is a slow, curving left that feeds directly into turn 15, a slow right-hand turn that serves as the circuit’s final corner, completing the full 5.8 kilometers.

Circuit Paul Ricard Track Layout

Image Credit: RacingCircuits.info

Championship Standings

Although he lost out to Charles Leclerc in Austria, Max Verstappen still finds himself sitting pretty on top of the driver’s championship standings.

  1. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing – 208 points
  2. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari – 170 points
  3. Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing – 151 points
  4. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari – 133 points
  5. George Russell, Mercedes – 128 points

Race Predictions – French Grand Prix

Ferrari has had the upper hand in the past few races, and I think that will continue at Paul Ricard on Sunday, but not without a fight from Max Verstappen and Red Bull. Charles Leclerc will take victory in France, closely followed by Verstappen and Leclerc’s Ferrari teammate Carlos Sainz.

  1. Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
  2. Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
  3. Carlos Sainz, Ferrari

How to Watch: United States (All Times in EST)

  • Free Practice 1: Friday, 7/22 – 7:55 A.M. on ESPNU
  • Free Practice 2: Friday, 7/22 – 10:55 A.M. on ESPN2
  • Free Practice 3: Saturday, 7/23 –  6:55 A.M. on ESPN2
  • Qualifying: Saturday, 7/23 – 9:55 A.M. on ESPN2
  • Lenovo French Grand Prix: Sunday, 7/24 – 8:55 A.M. on ESPN

How to Watch: International

For a full list of Formula 1 broadcasters by country, click here.

Fans can follow along with live timing on the official F1 app, available for free on the App Store and other stores.

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