Formula 1

Paul Ricard welcomes F1 for the first time since 1990.

Preview: Why Formula 1 fans will likely be left disappointed as the French GP returns

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Formula 1 begins the first of three race consecutive weekends for the first time in its history with a welcome return to the home of Grand Prix racing as Paul Ricard becomes the new venue for the French GP.

Though the season is delicately poised with just a single point between Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton at the top of the Drivers' standings, the epicness of their title battle is being overshadowed by the lack of action on the track following processions in Spain, Monaco and Canada.

And expectations for that to change aren't exactly high heading to Le Castellet, which last hosted F1 all the way back in 1990.

Known primarily as a test track, the layout at Paul Ricard doesn't exactly scream excitement with two technical sections comprised of long, slow corners linked by the pit straight and the more famous Mistral Straight, which has been split into two thanks to the inclusion of a chicane.

The fear is, however, despite efforts to promote better racing, the corners are so technical that following another car closely is going to prove very difficult and make DRS less effective.

Another thing that really can't be missed is the miles of painted run-off that surround the circuit meaning errors are unlikely to be punished.

F1 Grand Prix of France - Previews

Still, it is still a big moment for France having not held a race since 2008 when Magny-Cours brought a memorable 17-year stint on the calendar to an end and hopefully Paul Ricard can prove those doubters wrong.

Mercedes on the rebound?

Looking ahead to the weekend, a very close battle should be in store between Ferrari, who reasserted themselves at the front in Montreal, and a rejuvenated Mercedes who will have the new, upgraded engine that was meant to be introduced two weeks ago.

Also in the German manufacturer's favour is the use of the same tyres as Barcelona which have a thinner tread to avoid overheating on the newly resurfaced circuit and allowed Lewis Hamilton to take a dominant victory last month.

AUTO-PRIX-F1-ESP

Therefore, it will be interesting to see if Ferrari have made progress on the tyre front since Spain and whether the different layout characteristics will suit their car more.

A familiar story at Red Bull

Much of the attention at Red Bull will be on their decision to switch to Honda power from Renault for 2019, as was announced on Tuesday.

On the track though, their competitiveness will again depend on whether the RB14 chassis will have enough of an advantage through the corners to negate the deficit down the Mistral Straight in particular.

F1 Grand Prix of France - Previews

Max Verstappen will be hoping to continue the momentum he picked up in Canada with his excellent performance all weekend to claim third in the race.

Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo faces the prospect of another race with a weaker engine or a new unit which would see him take a grid penalty and have to make his way through from the back.

The midfield a fight for French pride

In the midfield, there is likely to be a very strong French participation from manufacturer Renault, who have been the most consistent performers this season, and the nation's best drivers with Esteban Ocon, Romain Grosjean and Pierre Gasly all keen to perform well.

Canadian F1 Grand Prix

It was Ocon's Force India that took the fight to Carlos Sainz and Nico Hulkenberg at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and with the two tracks sharing some similarities, the Silverstone-based team is likely to be a strong contender again.

Grosjean's Haas team brought major upgrades at the last race but a groundhog and engine problem in qualifying prevented France's most successful current driver from making the most of it.

As a result, it will be interesting to see just how competitive the American outfit is at Paul Ricard.

AUTO-PRIX-F1-FRA-PRESSER

Then there's Gasly's Toro Rosso squad who hailed the improvement of Honda in Canada, something that led to Red Bull's decision. The 22-year-old has scored two key-note results so far in Bahrain and Monaco and he could be a dark horse to do so again in France.

Alonso back after Le Mans triumph

An honorary Frenchman this weekend will be Fernando Alonso, who heads to Le Castellet after winning the Le Mans 24 Hours alongside Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima at Toyota just five days ago to secure a second leg of the Triple Crown.

His return to the F1 paddock comes as McLaren find themselves in flux after two consecutive poor races and a car that could well struggle again on the straights and through the bends of Paul Ricard.

Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Qualifying

Sauber have enjoyed a good run of results thanks to Monegasque Charles Leclerc scoring points in three of the past four races.

The Ferrari junior is certainly appearing to out-perform his car right now, which isn't a regular midfield runner but can shine on its day. The key now will be maintaining that as the season enters its busiest period on circuits that may not suit the Swiss team quite as well.

Finally, Williams problems continue with seemingly no end in sight right now and another tough weekend of trying to not sit at the bottom of the timesheets awaits for Lance Stroll and Sergey Sirotkin.

Canadian F1 Grand Prix - Previews

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Topics:
Pierre Gasly
Renault
Esteban Ocon
Sebastian Vettel
Max Verstappen
Daniel Ricciardo
Romain Grosjean
Toro Rosso
Fernando Alonso
Lewis Hamilton
Force India
Ferrari
McLaren
Mercedes
Red Bull
Formula 1

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