Formula 1 starts this weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard with the first triple of the season. After the French Grand Prix, the teams will fly straight to Austria for two consecutive weekend races at the Red Bull Ring, but first eyes are on the race in France, which was last held in 2019.
Circuit Paul Rijkaard was missing from the revised F1 calendar last season due to the coronavirus. After the Australian Grand Prix, the first race of the season, was canceled at the last minute while the entire circus was already in Melbourne, an alternate calendar was put together. Several circuits that would initially have been visited were missing, including Paul Ricard. So for the last edition of the French Grand Prix we have to go back to 2019, when the cards on the track were shuffled differently than now.
Hamilton is the last driver to win in France
At the time, Mercedes was still dominant and proved to be barely ahead of the team. In the year Lewis Hamilton won his sixth world title, the German team booked several double points, including France. Hamilton took the lead on Saturday, ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc. In the race nothing has changed in that order, so Hamilton also set off on full loot on Sunday after his good qualifying. The Briton crossed the finish line more than eighteen seconds ahead of Bottas. Bottas in turn had to pull out all stops to keep Leclerc behind, but Monegask was unable to overtake Bottas, meaning the top three finished off the start.
Weekend at Verstappen
Max Verstappen’s last race in France was fairly colourless. The Dutchman qualified for fourth place, half a second behind Leclerc, who is third. The difference to Hamilton’s fastest time was more than one second, which is something we can’t imagine this season. The race didn’t produce a spectacle for Verstappen either. The Red Bull driver finished just like the top three where he started and was basically driving in no man’s land. When he crossed the finish line Verstappen was sixteen seconds behind Lecerc, while also not being threatened by Sebastian Vettel, who finished fifth, by 28 seconds.
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The top ten in 2019 consisted mainly of drivers still active in Formula 1. Carlos Sainz, who was still driving for McLaren at the time, finished sixth, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. With eighth place, Nico Hulkenberg was the only driver in the top ten on behalf of Renault who is no longer competing in the top motorsport class. McLaren driver Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly, at the time, Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate, completed the top ten. Romain Grosjean was the only one to drop out of his home race.