The primary a part of the 2022 season will finish with a double-header that begins with a visit to the south of France, so listed below are a number of the matters that have gotten us excited forward of the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard.
1. Ferrari constructing some momentum
Crimson Bull’s run of six straight victories had led some to say the battle for each championships was already over even earlier than we had reached the midway stage of the season. However that view discounted Ferrari, and neglected the risk they’d posed at most of these six races.
It’s true that Ferrari hadn’t managed to take their probabilities in that point, however that modified over the previous two race weekends as Carlos Sainz gained at Silverstone and Charles Leclerc took one other victory in Austria to remind Crimson Bull that the Scuderia haven’t gone wherever.
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The 2 groups have been carefully matched for a lot of the season thus far, and there’s no apparent motive to anticipate the scenario to be any completely different heading to France, the place Ferrari struggled with tyre put on a 12 months in the past however discovered invaluable classes that helped them enhance.
Leclerc is now as much as second within the drivers’ championship and has closed the hole to Max Verstappen by 11 factors – to 38 – over the previous two races. When you’d nonetheless slightly be the championship chief, if Leclerc can claw again some extra factors this weekend then the strain may begin to construct slightly on the defending champion.
2. Mercedes prone to be sturdy once more
I’m positive you don’t want reminding, however at Silverstone we had a fully epic race as Mercedes managed to offer a risk to the highest two groups, whereas Lewis Hamilton within the combine for victory.
Finally Hamilton needed to accept third place, however the British driver’s transfer on each Leclerc and Sergio Perez on the last nook because the three scrapped it out in entrance of a partisan house crowd will reside lengthy within the reminiscence.
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Luckily, we don’t have to attend lengthy for the possibility to doubtlessly see one thing related, as Paul Ricard is a monitor that has some similarities to Silverstone, with high-speed cornering and a easy monitor floor that ought to play into Mercedes’ arms slightly greater than Austria did.
The highest two groups will probably be anxious, as a result of Mercedes being within the combine and doubtlessly taking factors off them provides an unpredictability to the title battle. There’s an opportunity that Hamilton or George Russell may take factors off certainly one of Crimson Bull or Ferrari, benefitting the opposite staff and both closing up the standings or opening up gaps even wider.
3. French backing for Alpine
A really sturdy double-points end for Alpine in Austria resulted within the staff drawing stage with McLaren within the battle for fourth within the constructors’ championship, with McLaren holding the benefit courtesy of Lando Norris’s podium in Imola.
However it feels just like the momentum is with the French staff, and heading to their house race, they’ll be seeking to transfer away from McLaren into fourth.
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The end in Austria was led by Esteban Ocon’s wonderful fifth place, which continued his very sturdy season thus far, but it surely was backed up by tenth place from the again of the grid from Fernando Alonso. And it was Alonso who helped guarantee Alpine picked up extra factors than McLaren at Silverstone per week earlier, pipping Norris to fifth on that event on a monitor that’s corresponding to Paul Ricard.
The proud French help will probably be backing their staff at Le Castellet, and the performances of each Ocon and Alonso thus far this season present loads of causes for optimism heading into Alpine’s house race.
4. Schumacher hitting his stride
Momentum appears to be the buzzword of the function this week, and one other driver who has loads of that’s Mick Schumacher. The younger German has actually discovered type in latest weeks, and whereas he needed to wait 31 Grands Prix for his first factors to lastly arrive – courtesy of an eighth place at Silverstone that additionally included an exhilarating battle with Verstappen – he backed that up in spectacular model in Austria.
A primary top-six end for Schumacher on the Crimson Bull Ring additionally shaped a part of a consecutive Haas double-points rating, shifting the staff again as much as seventh place within the constructors’ championship, having been down in ninth previous to the British Grand Prix. And slightly than a pair of fortunate outcomes, they really feel like simply reward for the potential Haas have proven thus far this season.
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And don’t overlook, Paul Ricard was the scene of Schumacher’s first Q2 “look” final 12 months. Okay, he crashed in Q1 when inside the highest 15 and the following purple flag noticed him advance however unable to participate – but it surely was a extra aggressive displaying regardless of the relative lack of tempo of the 2021 Haas, so there’s each likelihood of the run persevering with for a 2020 System 2 champion who’s clearly rising in confidence.
5. Driver foolish season developments
Within the time between the System 1 paddock packing as much as depart Austria and getting arrange in France, there was quite a bit occurring at McLaren. IndyCar star Colton Herta examined a 2021 automotive for the staff at Portimao final week, after which simply after that take a look at completed, they introduced the signing of defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou to their wider racing programme.
Whereas there are contractual points nonetheless to type with Palou and no readability over the place he’ll race, the announcement did state he would additionally take a look at a 2021 automotive in some unspecified time in the future, all of which solely serves to extend hypothesis over Daniel Ricciardo’s future.
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Ricciardo has come out and said he’s going nowhere, as he has a watertight contract till the top of 2023. However it’s no secret each he and the staff are usually not happy with the way in which this season has panned out thus far.
Such hypothesis solely results in scrutiny over different seats and potential actions, with a number of world champions Alonso and Sebastian Vettel two who’re but to verify their future plans – and seats nonetheless technically obtainable at six of the groups on the grid.