RACE DAY RUNDOWN: LE CASTELLET
FRENCH GRAND PRIX, CIRCUIT PAUL RICARD, 20 JUNE 2021
Hello everyone! I have been waiting for what feels like a lifetime for some Formula 1 action… does anyone else feel like it’s been absolutely years since Baku? What a weekend that was… from matching the record amount of red flags in one Qualifying session (that’s four red flags) and to that restart (I know you know what I’m talking about). Did anyone else notice their heart rate was well over 150BPM at that point?! Anyway, we move on from that and look at France, for what is typically known as a boring Grand Prix. We need some excitement today.
Qualifying was more exciting than the past two, thank goodness, with the session actually running to the chequered flag, meaning the race for Pole was very much on until the final few seconds. We’re back to the same old top three, though, just in a different order to what we’d expect. I predicted HAM-VER-BOT, and we got that, just not in that particular order. Can I class it as a successful prediction?
With grey clouds looming over the circuit pre-race, it looks like there could be a chance of rain, but, the forecast has changed all weekend, so who knows anymore? Paul Ricard is known to be quite boring, so a bit of rain would actually maybe spice things up a little bit.
Tsunoda is starting from the pit lane after AlphaTauri changed parts on his floor overnight due to his crash in Q1 yesterday, but everyone else is lining up on the grid as usual. I don’t actually feel too nervous for this race – I do wonder why – and I think it has something to do with the lack of usual excitement at Paul Ricard. But, with no race here last year due to COVID, maybe 2021 will bring something different – we know that anything is possible.
Max is still leading the Championship after both him and Lewis failed to score points last time out in Baku. Is anyone else loving this Championship battle as much as I am? I really hope Max wins today, but that Lewis also finishes on the podium, so it can remain tight at the top for as long as possible. I’ve got my top three finishers predicted already – VER-HAM-PER – since I think Perez is really starting to shine in the second Red Bull, especially after his win in Baku. But, it’s France, and anything can happen. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…
Max is off on the first lap! I was not expecting that today. With the potential of a penalty too… things could go from bad to worse for the Championship leader as it stands. Hamilton leads the pack, and by the time no penalty for Max is confirmed by the stewards, we’re back at the pit straight. Lewis has a one-and-a-half-second lead over Max already. The nerves have already increased since I have a feeling there’s actually going to be plenty of excitement at the front now. The strategy seems to be a one-stop today; Mercedes and Red Bull are going to have to time their pit stops well to keep their track position. It all sounds a bit too stressful for me… I could never be a strategist.
I’m back! Nothing much has really happened up until now… Red Bull brought Max in for his pit-stop and the undercut on Lewis has been successful, by the absolute smallest of margins! For a second there I wasn’t too sure who would take turn one first, but Max leads the French Grand Prix once again! This demonstrates the Championship battle so well at the moment – a literal demonstration, too – because Lewis is so close to Max in the standings, and my goodness, I thought he was going to be ahead on track, too!
I’m just vibing in between all the excitement (yes, excitement, at Paul Ricard). A two-stop strategy for most teams and their drivers seems to be more of a possibility than before. For Checo and Red Bull, however, it could be a one-stop race, since his first stint on the Mediums lasted longer than anyone else on track. Max comes in for Red Bull on lap thirty-two. I feel nervous about this stop. It needs to be quick! I’ll stick with not wanting to be a strategist; imagine the pressure of needing to get this right for your driver and your entire team… I’ll stick with writing about pit stops, thank you. Ah, two-point-five seconds for Max, and he re-joins the race in P4 on a set of Mediums. Surely Mercedes will have to respond to Red Bull pitting?
There’s a McLaren battle out on track right now, and Lando, who is on fresher tyres, has just passed Danny Ric. I’m so pleased for McLaren this weekend – things are looking good for them, on both sides of the garage, and this is exactly what us Papaya fans have been waiting for. Hopefully, McLaren can take back that third in the Constructors’ Championship.
Oh… my… gosh! How close is this going to get?! Max passes Lewis for the lead, and there’s only one lap to go until the chequered flag! Who knew Paul Ricard could actually bring this much excitement, and on the last lap, too? Speechless. Checo is also in P3, after passing Bottas who didn’t really do much defending. I know that after Baku there’s a lot of questions being asked and rumours in circulation about Bottas’ future at Mercedes.
But there’s only one thing to focus on right now, and that’s the battle for the top spot in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championship. Today’s result (my prediction of VER-HAM-PER was right, I swear this is my first correct one!) means that Max and Red Bull are flying. As it stands in the Drivers’ Championship, Verstappen is on 131 points, Hamilton is on 119. When looking at the Constructors’ Championship, Red Bull are thirty-seven points ahead of Mercedes (215 to 178 respectively). This season is going to bring so many close, on track battles.
And I can’t wait!