How Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc and other French F1 drivers are performing so far this season

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On of the eve of the French Grand Prix, we take a look at the performances of the French drivers so far this season.

ESTEBAN OCON

Age: 21

Team: Force India
Results in 2018: 12-10-11-retired-retired-6-9

The Evreux native may be off form and also the pace that saw him clinch 18 top-10 finishes last season, but he produced a masterclass over the last two races, finishing sixth in Monaco and ninth in Canada.

With 10th, 11th, 12th and two DNFs in his first five races respectively, Ocon showed flashes of confidence in the last two rounds after a poor start to his second season in F1.

In a long season, the 21-year-old has time on his side to transform his form and push Force India into a high midfield place again. He needs a consistent run if he is to be considered for a potential Mercedes seat in the future.

He’s the leading light of the young generation of French drivers, but Leclerc could be even better in a similar car.

PIERRE GASLY
Age:
22
Team: Toro Rosso
Results in 2018: Retired-4-18-12-retired-7-11

The Rouen native continues to cement his reputation as a real talent for the future.

On his second start of the season in Bahrain, he delivered a sumptuous performance to finish fourth, with one slick overtake on Kevin Magnussen midway through the race for one of the standout moments.

In Monaco, he showed superb composure to hold off Nico Hulkenberg to finish seventh. His qualifying performance, making it to Q3 for the first time would have been particularly pleasing for the Red Bull-backed team.

Starting from 16th in Montreal, he showed serious confidence to overtake multiple cars and finish 11th – unable to catch Leclerc in the end for a share of the points but still seriously impressive.

Red Bull will certainly be eyeing up the 22-year-old should Daniel Ricciardo opt to leave at the end of the season.

CHARLES LECLERC
Age: 20
Team: Sauber
Results in 2018: 13-12-19-6-10-18-10

The former GP2 and GP3 champion has demonstrated maturity beyond his years in his first three months in F1 and has gone on to score three top-10 finishes in seven races.

With Leclerc’s 10 points added to the two that teammate Marcus Ericsson netted in Bahrain, Sauber now have 12 points in the constructors’ championship – over twice as many as they scored in the whole of 2017.

Although he may struggle with a team who finished last in the drivers’ standings in 2017, he has to start from somewhere and this season is the perfect building block to his future development.

His performances in Baku, Barcelona and Canada are all sure to be the start of something special for the Monaco resident.

Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull will all be needing replacement drivers over the next three seasons so now is the perfect time for Leclerc to step up and continue to show his mettle as a rising star and future champion.

ROMAIN GROSJEAN
Age:
32
Team: Haas
Results in 2018: Retired-13-17-retired-retired-15-12

After a torrid campaign, the 32-year-old produced his best performance of the season in the last round in Montreal, finishing 12th.

The Geneva native’s best days may well be behind him, but as the senior driver at Haas, he has showed little to stamp his authority over the first third of this season, with teammate Kevin Magnussen achieving more formidable results in six of the seven races.

Now back in his home Grand Prix as such, Grosjean needs to step up after two high-profile mistakes in Baku and Barcelona have put him under great scrutiny. In Baku, he crashed out under the Safety Car period and spun out on the first lap in Barcelona – earning a grid penalty for Monaco.

Although his result in Canada added some riposte, he needs to bounce back again or he could be under pressure for a seat in 2019.

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Alain Prost's stunning win in 1990 and other memorable French Grand Prix

David Cooper 20/06/2018
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Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and the rest of Formula One’s elite drivers have descended on Marseille for the French Grand Prix this weekend.

Ahead of Sunday’s race, the first since 2008, we look back at five dramatic moments of the French Grand Prix.

1999

Starting from 14th, Mika Hakkinen produced a masterclass of overtaking and ended up finishing second.

The Finnish driver chased down Rubens Barrichello for the win after passing Jean Alesi, Michael Schumacher and Olivier Panis.

The two-time world champion attempted an overtaking manoeuvre on Barrichello before spinning and falling back to seventh.

He then made back the lost positions by lap 60 and held the lead briefly until pitting along with Barrichello, leaving a clear field for Heinz-Harald Frentzen to clinch the win.

The race concluded with 11 of the 22 drivers who started the race and Frentzen, Hakkinen and Barrichello sealing podium places.

1985

A race full of gearbox failures, with three of the top ten drivers retiring due to various mechanical issues.

Nelson Piquet started from fifth, but overtook four drivers and subsequently held the lead by nearly twenty seconds after 38 laps.

He went on to take his first win of the season, but the battle for second lasted until the final lap when Keke Robserg surged past Alain Prost.

Ayrton Senna, Niki Lauda and Jacques Laffite all suffered mechanical failures during the race and were forced to drop out.

]

1981

A race of two halves, but one that would end up being the first of Prost’s eventual 51 Grand Prix wins.

In a race that stopped after 58 laps due to heavy rain and then restarted, Watson finished second, while Piquet finished third.

Piquet had been leading up until the restart, but his pace slowed and Prost stormed to a maiden win on home soil.

The Brazilian, meanwhile, went on to clinch the first of his three world titles that year.

1977

Mario Andretti managed a flawless race weekend in France – qualifying on pole position, running the fastest lap during the race and then going on to win it.

But for all his efforts, he did not have a stunning start, with James Hunt, Jacques Laffite and John Watson storming past him with ease.

The American continued to fight back for the rest of the race, and in the final frenetic laps, Watson’s engine slowed and Andretti immediately went past to take his third win of the season.

1990

An extraordinary race for more than one reason.

Starting on pole, Nigel Mansell led with Gerhard Berger and Senna close behind.

Remarkably, Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin, who started seventh and tenth respectively, seized control of the lead when opting not to pit for fresh tyres.

Unfortunately, Leyton House’s strategy backfired and Gugelmin was forced to retire on lap 58. Capelli, meanwhile, continued to lead despite pressure from Prost for more than 20 laps, until his own engine started giving problems.

The Italian driver finished second behind Prost, with Senna in third.

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Lewis Hamilton to step up and other talking points ahead of French Grand Prix

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The Formula One circus this week heads to Le Castellet for the eighth round of the season in France.

Defending champion Lewis Hamilton trails Sebastian Vettel by one point following the Ferrari driver’s victory last time out in Montreal.

Here, we take a look at the key talking points ahead of Sunday’s race.

French GP returns to calendar

Following a decade-long absence, Formula One makes its return to France. Magny-Cours was the home of the French Grand Prix for several years, but Paul Ricard – a track F1 has not visited since 1990 – will be the host for France’s comeback.

France is one of the founding fathers of the sport, and is among the original rounds of the world championship which started in 1950.

Paul Ricard is situated 25 miles to the east of Marseille in the south of France, and despite it not being a race venue for nearly 30 years, the circuit has been used by Pirelli for a number of tyre tests in recent seasons.

After two processional races in Monaco and Montreal, F1 is in need of an exciting race, and hopefully the unpredictable variables that are synonymous with a new track can provide just that.

Will we see the ‘real’ Hamilton?

Aside from his impressive displays in Australia and Spain, F1 is waiting for Hamilton to turn up this year.

Traditionally stronger in the second half of the season, the defending champion has made somewhat of a sluggish start.

Hamilton may have had an old engine in Canada, and admitted he was relieved to have finished fifth, but team-mate Valtteri Bottas was also down on power, and he managed to get his car over the line in second.

The Briton also made unusual mistakes on the Saturday in Montreal to qualify only fourth at a track where he usually excels.

The 33-year-old has not been poor this year, but he has not been at his best either.

And with Vettel, who dominated in Canada, now one point clear in the championship race, the Brit can ill-afford another off-colour weekend.

Red Bull take Honda gamble

Red Bull confirmed on Tuesday that they will be powered by Honda engines next year.

It is a gamble, but one Red Bull believe they must take to stand any chance of usurping Mercedes and Ferrari. It works financially for Red Bull, too.

Indeed unlike their previous deal with Renault, the former world champions will not have to pay Honda for their engines.

McLaren pinned the blame of their miserable run on Honda, and paid roughly £60million to sever ties with the Japanese manufacturer and switch to Renault power this term.

But while McLaren have made little to no improvement, Honda have steadily impressed with Red Bull’s sister team Toro Rosso this year, and Red Bull have seen enough positives to make the switch.

Imagine the embarrassment at McLaren if Red Bull and Honda become a winning combination in 2019?

What next for Alonso?

Fernando Alonso completed the second leg in his pursuit of motorsport’s Triple Crown last Sunday by winning at Le Mans.

Alonso, 37 next month, now needs the Indianapolis 500 to add to his Monaco Grand Prix and Le Mans wins and emulate Britain’s Graham Hill as the only driver to have triumphed at all three prestigious races.

The Spaniard is out of contract with McLaren next year, and there are suggestions the Spaniard will turn his back on F1 and make the permanent switch to IndyCar.

Alonso, however, pockets upwards of £20million-a-year racing for McLaren, and he will struggle to get even 10 per cent of that in the inferior IndyCar series.

One would not be surprised to see him stay at McLaren, and instead miss next year’s Monaco Grand Prix (as he did in 2017) to take on the Indy 500.

Start time moved for World Cup

The French Grand Prix has been pushed back by two hours with F1 keen for the race not to clash with England’s World Cup group match against Panama.

The race will now start at 4:10pm local time (6.10pm in the UAE). Qualifying will also take place at 4pm (6pm in UAE).

The French GP kicks off F1’s first triple-header with the Austrian and British Grands Prix to follow on consecutive weekends.

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