|2021 French Grand Prix|
|Race 7 of 23[a] in the 2021 Formula One World Championship|
Layout of the Circuit Paul Ricard
|Date||20 June 2021|
|Official name||Formula 1 Emirates Grand Prix de France 2021|
Circuit Paul Ricard|
Le Castellet, Var, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
|Course||Permanent racing circuit|
|Course length||5.842 km (3.630 mi)|
|Distance||53 laps, 309.690 km (192.432 mi)|
|Driver||Red Bull Racing-Honda|
|Driver||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing-Honda|
|Time||1:36.404 on lap 35|
|First||Red Bull Racing-Honda|
|Third||Red Bull Racing-Honda|
The 2021 French Grand Prix (officially known as the Formula 1 Emirates Grand Prix de France 2021) was a Formula One motor race which took place on 20 June 2021 at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, Var.[b] The race was the seventh round of the 2021 Formula One World Championship. It was the 61st time the French Grand Prix has been included as a round of the Formula One World Championship since the inception of the series in 1950.
Red Bull Racing driver Max Verstappen qualified on pole position, ahead of the Mercedes cars of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas. Verstappen went on to win the race after he overtook Hamilton on the penultimate lap, while also setting the fastest lap.
The event, officially known as the Formula 1 Emirates Grand Prix de France 2021, took place at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, Var on the weekend of . The French Grand Prix returned to the calendar during the 2021 Formula One World Championship after the 2020 edition was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic; this marks the 61st time it has appeared on the world championship schedule, and the 89th edition overall. It was the seventeenth Grand Prix held at Le Castellet, one of sixteen different venues which have hosted the race since the 1906 French Grand Prix, seven of which have hosted world championship races.
The race had originally been scheduled for , but was moved forward one week following the cancellation of the Canadian Grand Prix and the postponement of the Turkish Grand Prix. As a result of these changes, the French Grand Prix formed the first of three races on consecutive weekends, with the next two intended to take place at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria. The addition of a fourth group of three back-to-back races to the already-crowded calendar received criticism, with concerns expressed over the workload and its effect on the mental health of workers who travel to the races. There were two people who worked at the event who had positive tests for the SARS-2 coronavirus (which can cause COVID-19) during the course of race week.
Attendance was capped at 15,000 spectators per day because of the COVID-19 pandemic in France. The large size of the venue allowed for social distancing measures to be put in place, allowing more spectators than other events in France during the pandemic. Some spectators cancelled their bookings following the date change; the organisers re-sold returned tickets. It had been planned that Romain Grosjean, who had suffered injuries at the 2020 Bahrain Grand Prix, would make a demonstration run for Mercedes at the event, and then test for them on the Tuesday after. The former was cancelled because the rescheduled race clashed with his Indycar Series commitments at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin; while the latter was postponed due to unfavourable quarantine requirements.
A lap at the recently resurfaced circuit measures 5.842 kilometres (3.630 mi) and has fifteen corners, some of which have been reprofiled since the 2019 French Grand Prix. Changes have also been made to the pit lane entrance. There are two drag reduction system zones; one is located on the start-finish straight and the other between the seventh and eighth turns, on the first half of the Mistral Straight. The FIA Formula Three Championship and the Renault Clio Cup held support races during the weekend.
Sole Formula One tyre supplier Pirelli brought the middle range of compounds in terms of hardness (the C2, C3, and C4) with the smooth tarmac at the circuit not expected to excessively wear the tyres. Following high-speed tyre failures for both Lance Stroll and Max Verstappen at the 2021 Azerbaijan Grand Prix two weeks earlier, questions had been put to Pirelli about the safety of their tyres. Pirelli's investigation into the incidents concluded that neither they nor debris on the track were responsible for the failures; rather, they concluded that "the running condition of the tyre" was to blame. The FIA, the sport's governing body, instituted new protocols for checking tyres to ensure that similar incidents would not happen again. The intention is to stop teams from running tyres at below the prescribed minimum pressure, which had been raised by two pounds per square inch (14 kPa). New scrutineering tests would also be introduced checking the flexibility of the rear wings of cars.
Ten constructors entered two drivers each for the race, all of whom have previously raced at Le Castellet, with no changes from the season entry list. Roy Nissany drove for Williams in the first free practice session in place of George Russell. The event was Jost Capito's first Grand Prix as the team principal of Williams. The Honda engines used by Red Bull Racing and Scuderia AlphaTauri would receive upgrades at this event. Red Bull entered the event with a shortage of spare parts following Verstappen's crash in Baku. The Aston Martin team chose to display the logos of queer inclusivity organisation Racing Pride, a long-term partner, on their cars to mark pride month. Branding relating to tobacco company Phillip Morris International (which had featured on Ferrari's cars at previous races in the season) was removed, starting from this Grand Prix, for the remaining European rounds of the championship.[c]
Mercedes were the dominant team in the previous two races held at Le Castellet since the venue's return in 2018, with Verstappen expecting his rivals to be stronger than they were at the previous two races in Monaco and Azerbaijan. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said he hoped new directives on tyre usage would create greater equity between teams. Scuderia Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc had taken pole position at those two events, but team principal Mattia Binotto noted that those tracks were outliers in the schedule, being unusually suited to his team's car. McLaren driver Daniel Ricciardo expressed optimism for the race, believing that the track layout would help him adapt to driving for a new team after he was significantly slower than his teammate Lando Norris at the previous two rounds. Haas Formula team principal Guenther Steiner said that reports of rancour between his team's drivers were exaggerated.
Before the race, Verstappen led the Driver's Championship with 105 points, four points ahead of title rival Lewis Hamilton. They were followed by Sergio Pérez on 69 points, three points ahead of Norris in fourth. In the Constructors' Championship, Red Bull led with 174 points, holding a 26-point lead over Mercedes; Ferrari was third with 94 points and McLaren was fourth, two points further back.
A trio of one-hour long free practice sessions took place, two on Friday and one on Saturday before qualifying. Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas was fastest in first practice, ahead of Hamilton and Verstappen. Aston Martin driver Sebastian Vettel hit a wall during the session, but was able to return his car to the pit lane. The front wing of Bottas's car was damaged when he hit a kerb, prompting Mercedes to lodge a complaint about its location, with sporting director Ron Meadows calling the kerbs "too aggressive". Ex-driver and BBC Sport pundit Jolyon Palmer argued that the fact they caused minor damage helped to enforce track limits, and that it is what fans wanted.Mick Schumacher's car was also damaged in an incident; the Haas driver span and tagged a wall. Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr's tyres were damaged by the abrasive run-off area after he went off the track.
In the second free practice session Verstappen set the fastest time, 0.008 seconds ahead of Bottas. The front wing on Verstappen's car was damaged when he hit a kerb, prompting Red Bull to lodge a complaint about its location. A virtual safety car period was called, with drivers required to slow down so marshals could safely recover the debris, which Red Bull wanted to be returned to them. Teams raised concerns about the financial cost of cars being damaged following the introduction of rules restricting their spending for the 2021 season. Michael Masi (Formula One's race director) noted that teams have requested measures such as kerbs to be put in place to stop drivers from gaining an advantage by leaving the track. The kerbs are the same as they were in 2019, but the new, smoother tarmac allows teams to use stiffer suspension and for drivers to pilot their cars through corners faster. Unlike some other tracks, the kerbs at Le Castellet are positioned perpendicularly to the direction of travel, increasing the force of impacts.
In the final free practice session Verstappen was once again fastest ahead of Bottas, with Sainz third fastest. Starting from the third session, lap times were deleted if drivers left the track at the exit of the sixth corner. The FIA investigated issues regarding kerbing and decided against making changes before the session.
Qualifying started at 15:00 local time on the Saturday, in dry conditions at a temperature of 28.4 °C (83.1 °F). Qualifying consisted of three sessions,[d] with the slowest five drivers eliminated after each of the first two sessions. The first part of qualifying (Q1) was paused after AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda span off into a barrier, and then stopped with half a minute remaining on the clock when Schumacher crashed. His crash prevented some other drivers from having an opportunity to set a faster lap than him, allowing him to qualify fifteenth, the best result of his career up to that point. Stroll, who had had a lap time deleted after he went off the track at the sixth turn, was unable to set a representative lap time because of the premature conclusion to the session. Kimi Räikkönen and Nicholas Latifi were also unable to complete their final runs; Latifi qualified sixteenth with a time 0.002 seconds slower than his Williams teammate, Russell, in fifteenth.
Bottas was fastest in the second session (Q2), where most drivers set their times on the medium tyres. Russell used the soft tyres for his first run, before improving on the mediums on his second run, while Alfa Romeo Racing driver Antonio Giovinazzi changed to the softs to beat Russell to thirteenth. Alpine F1 Team driver Esteban Ocon was unable to replicate his pace in Q1 during this session and qualified eleventh. Vettel similarly found himself slower in Q2, qualifying twelfth. Norris had to abandon his final run because his car was running out of fuel, but his earlier time was sufficient to allow him to progress to the final segment. Schumacher's Q1 crash meant his Haas was too badly damaged to participate in Q2, although the team were able to repair the damage before the race without incurring penalties.
Verstappen set the fastest time of the final segment (Q3) to claim pole position ahead of Hamilton. While Hamilton set the fastest time through the first sector, Verstappen was quickest through the second and third, and set a time a quarter of a second faster than his rival. The soft tyres used in Q3 were prone to overheating through the final sector, and the Red Bull car's better ability to handle this problem gave them an advantage over Mercedes. Verstappen was also the only driver to set a time under ninety seconds. This, the fifth pole of Verstappen's career and the first for Red Bull at the French Grand Prix. Hamilton was glad, as he felt the result disproved claims that a chassis swap with teammate Bottas was negatively affecting his performance. Bottas and Pérez qualified third and fourth, with Mercedes boss Wolff feeling that his team's cars were not the fastest. Pérez hit a kerb during his final attempt, which slowed him down.
Sainz qualified fifth and Leclerc seventh, with both Ferrari drivers reporting difficulties keeping the front tyres of their cars to a suitable temperature. Alpha Tauri driver Pierre Gasly qualified sixth after changes were made to his car before qualifying. Fernando Alonso qualified ninth, sandwiched by the McLarens of Norris and Ricciardo; Alpine had ranked higher in free practice, but Alonso felt their qualifying performance was representative.
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing-Honda||1:31.001||1:31.080||1:29.990||1|
|4||11||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull Racing-Honda||1:31.560||1:30.971||1:30.445||4|
|5||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||1:32.079||1:31.146||1:30.840||5|
|12||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1:32.132||1:31.767||N/A||12|
|15||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas-Ferrari||1:32.942||No time||N/A||15|
|17||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari||1:33.354||N/A||N/A||17|
|107% time: 1:37.371|
|--||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||2:12.584||N/A||N/A||191|
|--||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda||No time||N/A||N/A||PL2|
The race started at 15:00 local time on Sunday. It was run over 53 laps with a distance of 309.690 kilometres (192.432 mi).[f] Tsunoda started the race from the pit lane due to damage his car sustained in qualifying and subsequent car repairs. The weather was cooler for the race than it was for the free and qualifying practice sessions. It had rained on the morning of the race, removing rubber from the track and thus changing the driving conditions. The tarmac was rougher than it had been before, increasing the rate at which tyres would become worn out and lose grip.
Pole-sitter Verstappen made an error on the first lap, and was overtaken by Hamilton. The 2016 Formula One world champion Nico Rosberg said that the error may have occurred because Verstappen "took a bit of unnecessary risk" in the 40-kilometre-per-hour (25 mph) tailwinds. Norris also lost positions at the start. Alonso lost three places on the eleventh and twelfth laps when Ricciardo, Norris, and Vettel overtook him, demoting him to eleventh place.
On the fourteenth lap Leclerc became the first driver to pull into the pit lane for new tyres, beginning the initial round of pit stops. Ricciardo came in for his tyre change on the sixteenth lap, one lap before Gasly, which allowed him to move ahead of the Alpha Tauri driver. Alonso made a pit stop on the eighteenth lap to allow his teammate Ocon clear air. Mercedes called Bottas in for a pit stop on the seventeenth lap, with Red Bull doing the same for Verstappen on the eighteenth lap and Hamilton coming in on the nineteenth. Bottas's tyres needed to be changed because they had formed a flat spot. Bottas was over a second closer to Verstappen after the Red Bull driver emerged from the pit lane.
Verstappen overtook Hamilton after the first round of pit stops, using the additional traction provided by the new tyres to overturn a three second deficit, and took the lead when Pérez made his pit stop on the 24th lap. Norris also pitted for his only tyre change on the 24th lap. Norris was in fourteenth position after his pit stop, but had a tyre advantage. On the 28th lap Vettel lost a significant amount of time when his car was blown off the track by strong winds. With the advantage of fresh tyres established, both Verstappen and Hamilton were keen to beat the other to making a second stop once the end of the race was close enough.
Verstappen made a second stop for new tyres on the 32nd lap, while Hamilton continued without stopping again. Verstappen emerged from the pit lane eighteen seconds behind Hamilton. Pérez allowed his teammate past to pursue the Mercedes duo, who had inherited the top two positions. The new tyres gave Verstappen a significant speed advantage. Mercedes had used a comparable strategy at the 2021 Spanish Grand Prix, but on that occasion the circumstances were more favourable to the team making the second pit stop.
Aston Martin started both of their drivers on hard tyres and waited until the 34th lap for Stroll's only pit stop and the 37th for Vettel's stop, which allowed both drivers to move up into the top ten. Aston Martin and Vettel had also found an advantage by pitting late at the preceding rounds in Monaco and Azerbaijan. Tyre wear meant Leclerc had to pit again on the 38th lap, dropping him to sixteenth place. Verstappen caught Bottas by the 44th lap, and passed him when he made a mistake. With five laps remaining Verstappen started to catch Hamilton rapidly, as the tyres on the Mercedes had become very worn out.
The race was won by Verstappen, who overtook Hamilton on the penultimate lap. Rosberg expressed surprise that Hamilton did not do more to prevent Verstappen from passing him. Hamilton said that his tyres were badly worn by the race's conclusion, and that Red Bull "had a good strategy". This was Verstappen's thirteenth Grand Prix victory. He also claimed the additional point for setting the fastest lap time of the race. Pérez came third after overtaking Bottas late in the race. The Red Bull driver was investigated for leaving the track after making the pass, but it was ruled that he had not gained an advantage and he was not penalised. Bottas was unhappy with the Mercedes team's decision to only make one pit stop for new tyres. The result extended Red Bull's and Verstappen's respective leads in the Constructors' and Drivers' championship standings.
McLaren were more competitive during the race than they were in qualifying; Ferrari were in the opposite situation as both of their drivers failed to score. Ferrari experienced severe tyre wear compared with their competitors. Norris made numerous overtakes to claim fifth place. His teammate Ricciardo followed him in sixth, moving McLaren up to third in the Constructors' Championship standings. Gasly remained within drag reduction system range of Ricciardo en-route to a seventh place finish. The Alpha Tauri driver felt he had maximised his car's potential. Alonso passed both Ferrari drivers after his pit stop to finish eighth. Stroll gained nine positions to claim the final point in tenth, behind his teammate Vettel. Russell finished twelfth, allowing Williams to move ahead of Haas for ninth in the Constructors' Championship standings. All drivers finished the race, for the tenth time since the inception of the world championship in 1950 and for the sixth time since the 2014 season.
|1||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing-Honda||53||1:27:25.770||1||261|
|3||11||Sergio Pérez||Red Bull Racing-Honda||53||+8.811||4||15|
|9||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||53||+1:19.666||12||2|
|10||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||53||+1:31.946||19||1|
|11||55||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Ferrari||53||+1:39.337||5|
|12||63||George Russell||Williams-Mercedes||52||+1 lap||14|
|13||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Honda||52||+1 lap||PL|
|14||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine-Renault||52||+1 lap||11|
|16||16||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||52||+1 lap||7|
|17||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing-Ferrari||52||+1 lap||17|
|18||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams-Mercedes||52||+1 lap||16|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas-Ferrari||52||+1 lap||15|
|20||9||Nikita Mazepin[e]||Haas-Ferrari||52||+1 lap||18|
|Fastest lap: Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing-Honda) - 1:36.404 (lap 35)|
Come on Ron, you know they are there! They are painted yellow, it's pretty hard to miss. Don't go over them!", "We like it. It's proper track limits ... drivers have got to stay on the track ... to not damage the car.