What does the French Grand Prix mean to Formula 1?

This weekend sees, for the first time ever in Formula One’s 68-year history, three race weekends on the bounce, starting at the returning French Grand Prix. Ahead of the weekend, let’s take a look at what the upcoming French GP means to our sport.

In a word; everything. Paris was where motorsport was born; the first ever motor race was held in France, and it was from there that the idea of championship racing in single-seater race cars was formed. F1, without France just, well, wouldn’t be what it is today.

It also sees a look back to the hallmarks of, unforeseen to us back then, a great rivalry in F1 today. In the last race in France in Magny Cours in 2008, Lewis Hamilton was given a penalty for an overtake on… yep, you guessed it, a young German by the name of Sebastian Vettel.

It would have seen a dominant win for Kimi Raikkonen. However, with a massive lead, his exhaust came loose. It saw a remarkable scene of the exhaust pipe bouncing along the ground, causing a severe drop in power and the risk of the Ferrari donkey imploding. He was caught and passed by team mate Felipe Massa, and Ferrari remarkably still managed a one-two finish.

This weekend will be the home Grand Prix for Pierre Gasly, who has made an extremely impressive start to his F1 career, Esteban Ocon of Force India,  and Romain Grosjean for Haas; what a time this would be to score his first points of the season and end his draught. It will also be Renault’s home Grand Prix, headed by French boss Cyril Abiteboul and advised by Alain Prost, this will be a big weekend for them. Look out also for the continuation of their exciting battle with Force India and McLaren for fourth in the Constructor’ Championship.

This weekend, however, the race will be staged away from Magny Cours; at the Circuit in Le Castellet in South East France; just a short trip away from the beautiful city of Marseille. Paul Ricard last hosted a Grand Prix way back in 1990, won by home hero Alain Prost.

So who are the favourites? On the face of it: Mercedes. Paul Ricard is very much a power track that will suit themselves and Ferrari very well, but perhaps more Ferrari with the location and the increased heat that is expected to suit their car. Looking at it now, it does not really appear as though Red Bull will be troubling them all that much, but as Murray Walker once said, anything can happen in Formula One, and it usually does, so let’s wait and see.

Formula One has come a long way since then; heroes have come and gone, circuits have opened and closed; while some things have stood the test of time.

Most of all, it represents a trip back to F1’s roots; a chance to appreciate the humble beginnings of what is now a global empire, and despite the changes since the takeover by Liberty Media, some things can never change. It’s good to have you back on the calendar, France.

Featured image courtesy of Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

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