F1 Database preview: form guide to the 2018 French Grand Prix

by Peter Higham on 21st June 2018

Circuit Paul Ricard returns... but which manufacturer has the most wins at the French Grand Prix, and how many of the current drivers even remember a Formula 1 race at Paul Ricard? Your form guide, from the database

After 10 years, the French Grand Prix returns to the Formula 1 calendar this weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard, a venue with 167 potential layouts.

Seven circuits have held the French GP before: Le Mans, Clermont-Ferrand, Rouen, Dijon, Reims, Magny-Cours, and, of course, Paul Ricard – which will hold its 15th race and the 59th French World Championship round since 1950.

The last winner here was Alain Prost, who won at Paul Ricard in his Ferrari 641 in 1990. But Michael Schumacher has won the race a record eight times –  two more than local hero Prost. Both drivers have contributed to Ferrari’s record 17 wins at the French Grand Prix, and Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to carry on the Scuderia’s streak of three wins stemming from 2006-08.

Vettel has never actually won at the circuit, and only four of the drivers on the current grid started the last race at Magny-Cours in 2008: Vettel, Kimi Räikkönen, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton. Of those four, Räikkönen was the last to taste Champagne with victory for Ferrari in ’07. The Finn almost scored his breakthrough win at Magny-Cours in 2002 and chalked up four podiums since, always finishing in the top seven. If he takes pole here, he’ll become the oldest polesitter since Nigel Mansell at the 1994 Australian GP.

Alonso, taking a short trip back from Le Mans, took French GP victory in 2005 and has two pole positions in France under his belt. He became the sixth driver to win both the Monaco GP and the Le Mans 24 Hours last weekend, emulating Tazio Nuvolari, Maurice Trintignant, Bruce McLaren, Jochen Rindt and Graham Hill.

But Ferrari’s Vettel also joined an exclusive club recently, taking his 50th GP victory in Canada to join Schumacher, Hamilton and Prost. He made his breakthrough with Toro Rosso, took 38 more with Red Bull and has won 11 with Ferrari.

Title rival Hamilton, while perhaps reeling from a fifth-place finish in Canada – his worst result of the year so far – has still scored 32 successive points finishes and helped Mercedes score in every race since the calamitous 2016 Spanish GP. Another record is in the midst; nine more runs to the chequered flag and he could equal Nick Heidfeld’s consecutive finishes.

Mercedes, however, has only taken one victory at the French GP (and never at Paul Ricard) way back in 1954 through Juan Manuel Fangio’s win through the wet over team-mate Karl Kling at Reims. The weather this weekend should be much improved: 30deg C on Friday and around 26deg C on Sunday. But on Saturday, there is rain on the horizon…

Just 10 out of 20 drivers on the grid weren’t born when the last F1 race took place here in 1990, and France’s fragmented history as a fixture on the F1 calendar means that the form guide starts on a clean slate at Paul Ricard.

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