Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2021

Trends in F1’s pecking order emerge at Paul Ricard

Lap time watch: 2021 French Grand Prix

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After the seventh qualifying session of the 2021 F1 season, the pecking order of the teams has come into clearer focus.

Despite Paul Ricard being a very different layout to the Baku circuit which F1 visited two weeks ago, the relative competitiveness of the teams has changed little. In fact, only Red Bull and Ferrari have swapped places in the hierarchy compared to the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

Red Bull set the quickest individual lap at Paul Ricard – only the second time this year they have definitively set the pace, though there undoubtedly were other occasions when they might have done. Ferrari have slipped to third behind Mercedes. The other seven teams rank exactly as they did in Baku.

McLaren are Ferrari’s closest competition for third in the championship, yet here again they have been beaten to fourth place by AlphaTauri. That will be a concerning development for the Woking team.

Earlier in the season it seemed Ferrari were towards the lower end of the top five. Yet following two pole positions in a row prior to France, they are increasingly a fixture in the top three, even if they’re not on a par for pace with Mercedes and Red Bull.

Alpine and Aston Martin are trending towards sixth and seventh on outright pace respectively. Then there is a gap back to the rest, with Haas consistently slowest in ever race so far, which makes Mick Schumacher’s appearance in Q2 yesterday all the more unlikely.

By taking pole position at what was previously considered a Mercedes stronghold venue, Max Verstappen has seriously bolstered Red Bull’s championship credentials.

Paul Ricard gave further evidence of how the teams’ wings have been clipped by the off-season change in the regulations, however. Verstappen’s pole position time was little quicker than that Lewis Hamilton set in 2018 when F1 first returned to the French track.

Teams’ performance rankings at each race during 2021

RaceMercedesRed BullFerrariMcLarenAlphaTauriAlpineAston MartinAlfa RomeoWilliamsHaas
Bahrain21354678910
Emilia-Romagna12435679810
Portugal13527469810
Spain12357468910
Monaco32145867910
Azerbaijan23154678910
France21354678910

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

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2021 French Grand Prix

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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3 comments on “Trends in F1’s pecking order emerge at Paul Ricard”

  1. It seems a little bit weird to just using the quali sessions to draw conclusions over the pecking order. That can be misleading, because teams might be gambling on quali-setups and compromising their race a bit (i.e. Alpine at Barcelona).
    Race pace (average lap time in clean air on a comparable set of tires) needs to be included in such an analysis, because it reflects the performance of the car a lot better than raw quali pace.

    So far it seems RB have the edge over Mercedes on stop-and-go tracks with slow corners and long straights (plus street circuits), while Mercedes is better on more flowing circuits which offer a variety of corners (they are fastest in medium speed corners).

    The front of the midfield is at least 0.5 behind them on average lap time. Ferrari seem to have the best overall package (fastest of all in low speed and fastest of the midfield in medium speed corners, but loosing on the straights and through high speed corners). McLaren and Alpha Tauri seem to be pretty equally matched (fast on straights and high speed corners, solid in low speed and medium speed corners, but slower than Ferrari).

    Aston Martin are good through full-throttle-sections and in short radius corners, but tend to struggle in medium speed and generally in long radius corners.
    Alpine are very hard to judge, because sometimes they are fast through low speed corners (Barcelona) and sometimes they are just completely off the pace (Monaco). Their performances are impossible tor read.

    Alfa Romeo have an overall efficient design, but are lacking downforce. Their main problem seems to be medium speed corners.
    Williams seem to have similar strenghts to Aston Martin, but their car is far too wind sensitive and lacks downforce in medium speed corners.

    Haas…..well, they are slow everywhere, let’s be honest. It generally lacks downforce and seems to be rather unpredictable (it’s not just the rookies, this car has a nevous rear end). It doesn’t look too bad in low speed corners (Mick did very well at Portimao), but is loosing a massive amount of time in medium and high speed corners.

    1. Indeed, the chart is just Q results.

  2. Instead of taking the fastest time of a team, maybe better to take the average of the fastest time per driver per team.

    Q3 times soft
    Red Bull 1:30:218
    Mercedes 1:30:312

    Shows Mercedes and Red Bull to be much closer, also the fastest times were in Q3 on the Softs, if you look at Q2 on the mediums it shows Mercedes faster by a bigger margin than Red Bull had with the softs. Mercedes has been stronger on mediums so far this season that Mercedes is quicker on mediums.

    Q2 times medium
    Red Bull 1:31:026
    Mercedes 1:30:762

    Given that bar safety cars, accidents, FLAP attempts etc that neither teams will use the softs in the race, Mercedes should have the faster car in contrary of what above article states.

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