French F1 Grand Prix 2018: Start Time, Drivers, TV Schedule and More

James Dudko@@JamesDudkoFeatured ColumnistJune 23, 2018

TOPSHOT - Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the second practice session at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, southern France, on June 22, 2018, ahead of the Formula One Grand Prix de France. (Photo by Boris HORVAT / AFP)        (Photo credit should read BORIS HORVAT/AFP/Getty Images)
BORIS HORVAT/Getty Images

Lewis Hamilton will attempt to reclaim top spot in the Driver Standings from Sebastian Vettel at the 2018 Formula One French Grand Prix on Sunday.

Hamilton hasn't won in his last two races, with Vettel the winner at the Canadian Grand Prix earlier this month. It was left to Hamilton's Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas to keep pace with Vettel in Montreal.

Mercedes and Ferrari can't afford to be too focused on each other, though, not when Red Bull Racing stars Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are also involved.

Verstappen finished third in Canada, with Ricciardo ending the race in fourth. The latter also won in Monaco and China earlier this season.

This race marks a return to France for the first time since 2008, with F1 heading back to one-time favourite venue the Circuit Paul Ricard.

      

Date: Sunday, June 24

Time: 3:10 p.m. BST/10:10 a.m. ET

TV Info: Sky Sports F1. ESPN2.

Live Stream: Sky Go. ESPN Player.

         

Being separated by a solitary point only heightens the already intense battle between Hamilton and Vettel. They are each vying for a fifth world title, with Vettel looking the more impressive so far.

Vettel is the driver in form after his win at Montreal.
Vettel is the driver in form after his win at Montreal.Claude Paris/Associated Press

Vettel proved he merits the early edge by winning in Montreal, where Hamilton had traditionally held sway. However, maintaining even a slender advantage over Mercedes won't be easy.

BBC Sport's Andrew Benson noted how "Mercedes were using an engine coming towards the end of its life" in Canada. He also pointed out how the team wasn't equipped with enough of the fastest tyres after asking "for only five sets of the softest and most fragile rubber."

These decisions put Hamilton at a disadvantage against Vettel, whose vehicle is running faster this season. However, Mercedes have put in new, upgraded engines for this race, according to Pete Gill and James Galloway of Sky Sports F1.

Hamilton showed off the new capabilities of the Mercedes car and its running power by finishing fastest in two practice sessions on Friday, per the F1 official website.

Hamilton is armed with a new engine after struggling in Canada and Monaco.
Hamilton is armed with a new engine after struggling in Canada and Monaco.Charles Coates/Getty Images

The improved specs are the best reason to believe Hamilton can snap his recent struggles and get back to winning ways.

If a challenger is going to put pressure on the top two, he will be racing for Red Bull. Ricciardo finishing fourth in Montreal is why Hamilton lost top spot in the standings. The Australian has repeatedly proved he can up his game in the big races.

Meanwhile, Verstappen is quickly building his own reputation for brilliance. The 20-year-old made a fast start in Canada, but he sounded worried about a debut race at Paul Ricard.

Verstappen has conceded Red Bull lacks the power for straight circuits, per Charlie Malam of the Daily Express. Verstappen knows similar challenges await him this Sunday: "From what I have seen it is a power track with long straights but there are still a few corners in there where we can make a difference."

Ricciardo has proved his ability to win already this season.
Ricciardo has proved his ability to win already this season.Charles Coates/Getty Images

Expect Verstappen to put early pressure on the top two again, but Hamilton will eventually assume control and take full advantage of the extra power in the new Mercedes engine to usurp Vettel in the race for the championship.

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