French F1 Grand Prix 2022: Odds, Preview and Top Storylines
Ferrari holds a small advantage over Red Bull on the starting grid for the French Grand Prix, but Charles Leclerc's team will have to fight harder to keep the polesitter in front of the race on Sunday.
Leclerc won the pole position on Saturday thanks to help from Carlos Sainz. Leclerc used the slipstream from Sainz's car to gain an edge on the second half of the track to produce a faster lap time than both Red Bulls.
Ferrari utilized that strategy because Sainz incurred a grid penalty following replacements made to parts of his power unit. Sainz opted to help his teammate earn pole on Saturday because his qualifying position did not matter.
The Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez will start second and third, respectively, and they are expected to put pressure on Leclerc from the start.
Red Bull should have the advantage throughout the race because it can attack Leclerc with two drivers, and potentially two different strategies, to land first place.
Sainz and Kevin Magnussen will start on the final row, but there is plenty of potential for both drivers to move up the grid. Sainz has one of the fastest engines at his disposal and Magnussen proved to have pace in qualifying that could propel him up the grid.
Most of the attention on Sunday will be centered on the ongoing Ferrari-Red Bull title duel, but there could be plenty of action in the midfield.
McLaren came to Le Castellet with upgrades to its cars, and both of its drivers outperformed their Alpine counterparts. McLaren and Alpine enter the weekend tied for fourth in constructors' standings with 81.
French Grand Prix Odds
Max Verstappen (-105; bet $105 to win $100)
Charles Leclerc (+130; bet $100 to win $130)
Lewis Hamilton (+1300)
Sergio Perez (+1300)
George Russell (+2200)
Carlos Sainz (+4000)
Lando Norris (+13000)
Fernando Alonso (+20000)
Daniel Ricciardo (+50000)
Yuki Tsunoda (+50000)
Esteban Ocon (+60000)
All Other Drivers (+100000)
How Will Red Bull Attack Charles Leclerc?
Ferrari won the qualifying battle with Red Bull, but it may struggle to win the weekend at the Circuit Paul Ricard.
Ferrari took advantage of Sainz's back-of-field start to catapult Leclerc into first place on the grid. The thinking behind is that Leclerc can get off to the fastest start and cruise ahead of the Red Bull cars on the opening lap.
Recent history in France suggests that was the right decision. Each of the last three winners in Le Castellet have come from the pole. Lewis Hamilton won in 2018 and 2019 and Max Verstappen took first in 2021. There was a decade-long gap in between races in France prior to Hamilton's 2018 win.
Pole position does not guarantee Leclerc of a victory, but it at least puts him in the best spot possible to deal with whatever Red Bull throws at Ferrari.
Red Bull's first strategy will be for Verstappen to overtake Leclerc on the opening lap. Verstappen was three-hundredths of a second behind Leclerc in the final qualifying round, but that was with Sainz towing Leclerc along part of the course.
Red Bull has the speed to match Ferrari, and that could give Verstappen the confidence to overtake Leclerc from the start. That would likely send Ferrari away from its main race strategy.
If Leclerc holds off Verstappen, Red Bull could wait in second and third with the reigning world champion and Sergio Perez. Red Bull may try to match Ferrari with pace later in the race, or it could use an alternate pit strategy to have fresher tires than Ferrari.
Of course, there is always a chance Ferrari self-destructs and hands the race to Red Bull. Ferrari's season has been littered with poor pit strategy that has cost Leclerc race victories and engine mishaps. Sainz retired from the Austrian Grand Prix two weeks ago because his engine blew up during the race.
Ferrari could put its internal problems behind it and run a strong race, but no matter how strong it looks, it needs to fend off not one, but two strong Red Bulls behind Leclerc for 53 laps.
Carlos Sainz, Kevin Magnussen Will Try to Gain Ground from Row 10
The rear of the Formula One grid usually is not as compelling as it will be on Sunday.
Carlos Sainz and Kevin Magnussen will start alongside each other on Row 10 following fixes that were made in the week off following the Austrian Grand Prix.
Sainz has the most pace in his car of anyone starting in the back, and he should be able to get by a handful of cars throughout the first few laps.
Ferrari's plan with Sainz should be for the Spaniard to gain as many positions as possible before his first pit stop.
Two potential strategies could be in play for Sainz. Ferrari could put him on the grid with a different and longer-lasting tire compound so that he can gain multiple places as others pit. Or Ferrari could pit Sainz earlier than others to jump more drivers on the grid while they hit the pit road first.
No matter the strategy, Sainz is expected to find himself inside the top 10 before the end of the race. His toughest competition will come from the Mercedes, Alpine and McLaren cars that will be dueling with each other for spots in the race order behind the Red Bulls and Leclerc.
Magnussen may be able to follow Sainz's path up the grid if he shows the same pace in his Haas car that he did on Saturday. Magnussen had the eighth-fastest car in the second qualifying round. He did not produce a time in the final qualifying session to preserve energy and tires for Sunday.
The Haas cars have performed well despite starting at the back in recent weeks. Magnussen placed 10th at the British Grand Prix after starting 17th. Mick Schumacher earned an eighth-place finish from a 19th-place start at Silverstone.
Haas is trying to record three straight double points (top 10) finishes. The team qualified and finished its cars in sixth and seventh two weeks ago in Austria.
As long as Magnussen does not get caught up behind slower cars at the start, he should make a push alongside Schumacher, who starts 17th, to get into the top 10.
Can McLaren Hold Off Alpine?
McLaren and Alpine enter the Circuit Paul Ricard on Sunday tied on 81 points for fourth place in the constructors' standings.
Fourth place is a best-of-the-rest award behind Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes, but it will still make for some compelling drama over the second half of the season.
McLaren's Lando Norris had the only car from outside the top three teams land in the top six in qualifying. Norris will go off from the grid in fifth place.
Norris starts two spots ahead of Alpine's Fernando Alonso. McLaren's Daniel Ricciardo will start in ninth with Esteban Ocon from Alpine next to him on Row 5. Ricciardo and Ocon moved up two spots on the grid since Sainz and Magnussen will start at the back.
McLaren likely will not be in the mix to win, but the car upgrades it brought to France make it seem like the team could have an edge over Alpine in Le Castellet.
The Norris-Alonso battle will be fascinating to watch throughout the race. Norris is the only driver not from Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes to reach the podium at any race this season. The McLaren driver has eight top-10 finishes and four top-six finishes this season.
Alonso has been inside the top 10 for each of the last six races, but he breached the top five on a single occasion.
Ocon has been more consistent than Ricciardo this season, but the Frenchman has been unable to crack the top 10 in practice and qualifying for Alpine so far this weekend.
Ocon should drive with extra motivation to place high in his home Grand Prix, but the McLaren upgrades in Ricciardo's car could make him difficult to pass.
McLaren will try to keep both drivers ahead of the Alpine cars at all costs on Sunday, and that should lead to some intriguing head-to-head clashes on track, as well as some compelling strategy decisions.
The McLaren-Alpine showdown may not have the theatrics and stakes that the Red Bull-Ferrari clash has, but it is still something worth watching over the next few weeks.
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