RACE DEBRIEF

    Ferrari seek a third win on the bounce in the 2022 French Grand Prix, but with Red Bull raring to hit back – and Mercedes making a case against the front-runners – it might not be so simple for the Scuderia. Join in and play the official F1 Play predictor game.

    Vying for pole

    Max Verstappen is the form man come qualifying, having taken P1 on the grid in Canada and the Red Bull Ring. But Circuit Paul Ricard may suit Ferrari and Mercedes a lot better than previous tracks on the calendar.

    Ferrari have taken seven out of 11 pole positions this season, Charles Leclerc responsible for six of those, while Verstappen has delivered three of Red Bull's four poles in 2022. The team in red certainly know how to turn up the pace on Saturdays.

    Mercedes, however, must be considered challengers for pole even if they remain outsiders.

    WATCH: 5 of the most dramatic moments from the French Grand Prix

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    Verstappen took pole last time out in Austria

    A constant stream of upgrades has seen the Silver Arrows claw back the pace and begin to trouble the top two teams, and even in Austria – where Mercedes never expected to be the fastest – Lewis Hamilton and George Russell were threats up until Q3, when both crashed out of contention.

    This time around, on Paul Ricard's long straights and smooth surface, Mercedes will be itching to join the fight for pole position. Moreover, they will be bringing further developments to their W13 machine.

    READ MORE: Our writers share their defining memories of Lewis Hamilton, ahead of the seven-time champion's 300th Grand Prix

    Pole positions 2018-2021

    • 2021 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2019 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    FAN VIEW: The battle for P1 in qualifying at Paul Ricard on Saturday should be quite something - title rivals Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc are both showing blistering speed and it should be Red Bull vs Ferrari for pole once again. Right now, Max holds a distinct edge in the voting as we head deeper into race week.

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    Both Mercedes crashed out of Q3 in Austria – but will they be able to make it count in France?

    In the mix for victory

    The last three Grands Prix have seen three different winners, Verstappen having taken victory in Canada before Carlos Sainz delivered for Ferrari in Great Britain and Leclerc last time out in Austria.

    While Sainz will be hoping to make up for his retirement late on in Austria, which saw him lose out on a likely P2 and useful championship points, the Spaniard might not be considered as likely to win the French Grand Prix as either Leclerc or Verstappen, both of who are still battling it out at the top of the standings.

    READ MORE: Perez looking to bounce back in France, as he insists he is 'still in contention' for the championship

    Leclerc has a chance to take consecutive victories for the first time this season, but amid soaring temperatures, strict track limits and the lingering worry of Ferrari's reliability issues, he has numerous obstacles to surmount.

    Verstappen will make it a close battle for the lead while, the Mercedes drivers will be hoping that they do in fact find a renewed turn of pace in France, which is expected by many to suit their car far better than the tighter and twistier circuits of Austria and Canada that hosted the previous two rounds.

    If Mercedes do make it work, this weekend we might see three teams challenging for supremacy...

    Wins 2018-2021:

    • 2021 – Max Verstappen (Red Bull)
    • 2019 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
    • 2018 – Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

    FAN VIEW: It is Verstappen vs Leclerc again for the win in France, with Max having a significant edge in voting. Interestingly a distant third in the pre-race poll is a certain Lewis Hamilton - that trio of consecutive podiums in Canada, Britain and Austria has clearly made believers again of some F1 Play gamers.

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    Verstappen's tyre deg struggles saw him lose out to Leclerc in Austria

    Podium outsiders

    If Mercedes aren't in the chase for victory they should surely be competing for the podium, Hamilton now having taken three top-three finishes in a row. It might be a bit unfair to dub them rank outsiders this weekend, however, given the expectation that they might pick up the pace.

    When it comes to the podium in France, no one outside Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes has landed on the rostrum since the French Grand Prix returned in 2018, meaning that an outsider here is very much considered an outsider.

    READ MORE: Betting odds for the French Grand Prix – Who are the favourites at Paul Ricard?

    Furthermore, with the weather set to stay dry and sunny throughout the weekend and the relative lack of DNFs in France – just four retirements in the last three Grands Prix and just one Safety Car – there might not be as many opportunities here.

    That said, Alpine are the team on form entering France, and will be wishing for a fairytale result in theirs and Esteban Ocon's home race.

    Podiums 2018-2021:

    • Mercedes – 4
    • Red Bull – 3
    • Ferrari – 2

    FAN VIEW: There are only two drivers to mention here – the Mercedes pair of Hamilton and George Russell. They are both coming in for strong support to make the podium and pretty soon they will no longer qualify as outsiders. Outside the top six on the grid, it is slim pickings for any other drivers on F1 Play.

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    Hamilton has taken three consecutive podiums, his last one from P8 on the grid

    Points potential

    This is a much tougher one to call; Haas ripped up the Form Guide with a terrific Austrian Grand Prix performance that saw both Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen score. In fact, Haas netted 14 points from the Red Bull Ring, as many as Alpine.

    As mentioned before, Alpine are the midfield team on form going into France, with seven consecutive points scores and the might of the home crowd behind them. They're level with McLaren heading into Paul Ricard, having outscored the team in orange for the past four races.

    READ MORE: Gasly hoping for a 'big step up in performance' from AlphaTauri upgrades in his home race

    AlphaTauri may not have scored points for the last three races but they hope to bring some joy to home hero Pierre Gasly's face with a significant update this weekend, and will be aiming to score as well. Aston Martin (who are carrying the marque's original logo on their car in France) saw a four-race scoring streak end last time out in Austria.

    Finally, we haven't seen Alfa Romeo score for the past two races, but there's no doubt they have the pace to take points this weekend – if they can get on top of reliability troubles.

    Points scored 2018-2021:

    • Mercedes – 104
    • Red Bull – 81
    • Ferrari – 51
    • McLaren – 28
    • Alpine/Renault – 14
    • Haas – 8
    • Alfa Romeo/Sauber – 7
    • AlphaTauri/Toro Rosso – 6
    • Aston Martin/Racing Point/Force India – 3

    FAN VIEW: It is a home race for Alpine this weekend and their duo of Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon are fancied to go really well by gamers. Man of the moment Mick Schumacher is also being backed to finish in the points again after those excellent results at Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring.