Which Paul Ricard records can be broken at the French GP this weekend? Mercedes and F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton have the chance to break four records when Formula One visits Le Castellet for the 2021 French Grand Prix.
The circuit near Marseille welcomes F1 back this weekend after a one-year hiatus brought on by the pandemic. France was one of several countries to lose its round on the 2020 calendar, alongside the likes of Singapore, Japan and the United States.
But Paul Ricard kicks off a triple-header of events this year, with the French Grand Prix followed by two rounds in Austria after the cancellation of Turkey. Its return following races in 2018 and 2019 now offers Hamilton and Mercedes the chance to break several records.
The seven-time Formula One drivers’ champion, and the constructors’ champion of the past seven years, are the only ones to have won at Paul Ricard since its return. Hamilton fended off teammate Valtteri Bottas for the win in 2019 and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen in 2018.
First team to win three French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard in a row
Should Mercedes maintain their dominance at Paul Ricard after a challenging start to 2021, the Silver Arrows would become the first team to win three-straight French Grand Prix at Le Castellet.
McLaren, Williams and Renault have previously won two-in-a-row like Mercedes, who trail Red Bull in both championships. Alain Prost won back-to-back events for McLaren in 1988 and 1989, while Nigel Mansell did the double for Williams the previous two years.
Rene Arnoux and Prost, meanwhile, secured victories for Renault in 1982 and 1983 between rounds at Dijon. Paul Ricard alternated hosting duties with Dijon and Charade in the 1970s and early 1980s, which often denied drivers the chance to win two-in-a-row at the same track.
Magny-Cours also hosted the event each year between 1991 and 2008, which saw Michael Schumacher claim eight victories. Renault, though, won the first three French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours with Mansell and Prost.
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First driver to win three French GP at Paul Ricard for the same team
While only Schumacher’s eight wins eclipse Prost’s six French Grand Prix victories, Hamilton can become the first driver to win three times for the same team at Paul Ricard on Sunday.
Schumacher never raced at Paul Ricard after entering Formula One in 1991 when the event moved to Magny-Cours. Prost, meanwhile, switched to Ferrari for 1990 when he would claim a hat-trick after back-to-back French GP victories for McLaren.
Prost also denied Mansell a hat-trick of Paul Ricard wins when suspension failure ended the 1992 champion’s race in 1988. Although Mansell was also driving uncompetitive machinery that year against the dominant McLaren MP4/4.
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First driver to claim three successive Paul Ricard poles
Over the previous 16 runnings of the French GP at Paul Ricard, only Hamilton and Prost have taken successive poles. The Mercedes driver now has the chance to set the record with three-in-a-row to claim another record this weekend.
Prost took pole position for the 1988 and 1989 runnings of the event, along with his first in 1983. The four-time F1 champion is the only driver to claim the top spot in qualifying three times at the circuit.
Jackie Stewart (1971, 1973) and Mansell (1987, 1990) each have two French Grand Prix poles at Paul Ricard like Hamilton (2018, 2019).
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Only team to claim back-to-back one-two finishes at French grand Prix
Paul Ricard has been a happy hunting ground for McLaren, Renault and Williams in the past. It has also proven strong for Mercedes in more recent French Grand Prix. But on previous trips to the track, it has usually been one driver, rather than both, bringing home the results.
Hamilton led Bottas in a one-two for the Silver Arrows in 2019 after fending off Red Bull’s Verstappen in 2018. Bottas only finished seventh when F1 returned to Paul Ricard in 2018 after contact with Sebastien Vettel at the start.
Mercedes can now become the first constructor to claim back-to-back one-two finishes if Hamilton and Bottas can repeat 2019’s result. Prost had led Ayrton Senna for a McLaren one-two in 1988 and followed Arnoux home for Renault in 1982.
Mansell also led Nelson Piquet for Williams in 1987, while Ronnie Peterson followed Mario Andretti home for Lotus in 1978. Stewart, meanwhile, led Francois Cevert over the line for Tyrrell in 1971 as the first to claim a one-two finish.
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