It took 10 years, but Formula One is firmly back in France.
It was a race dominated by the first-lap action, but there was more to take away from it than just chunks of broken carbon-fibre, as Chris Fawcett gives you his top-five talking points.
Kimi clinging on
I’ll be honest, I expected, but not hoped to be writing about another so-so performance from Kimi Raikkonnen and an impressive showing from someone touted for his seat for next year. On recent form that’s the way it’s been heading, like it or not.
As a personality, Kimi is still near the top of the mountain, he may not say a lot but it’s his true-to-life on-screen persona that is captivating: He takes no nonsense in interviews, press conferences or over the radio and it creates enjoyable viewing.
Like his fellow Finnish counterpart at Mercedes, he started the season brightly enough but it soon became clear that he was once again falling into the de-facto number two role at Ferrari. In truth, his results haven’t been good enough again this season, and in a car that is arguably the quickest on the grid come Sunday, he should be challenging for the top step more regularly than he does.
Potential seat-stealer Charles Leclerc had been on a points-scoring roll as of late and following an impressive 8th position start at Paul Ricard, the young man from Monaco was able to bring home another valuable point for Sauber.
This will once again have impressed upper management in the Ferrari ranks, but against current form, Kimi rose to the occasion and took a fighting third, his fourth podium of the season.
While this may have been the tonic the prancing horse needed after a headache-inducing performance from Sebastian Vettel, it’s given them a real dilemma, because just when you think it’s logical to bring someone new into the Ferrari mix, the Ice-man pulls one out of the bag.
Where we go from here I don’t know….
Looking back with rose-tinted glasses
Let’s keep this brief because I don’t want to bring the mood down.
I think we’re all a bit nostalgic at heart, so to see McLaren and Williams occupying the lowly positions for the majority of the race, it was slightly soul destroying. Especially as continuous references were made about the huge length of time that French fans have had to wait to see Formula One cars once again taking to their tarmac: 10 years since the last Grand Prix in France and 28 years since Paul Ricard hosted the pinnacle of motorsport.
To think back to the 90’s you think of Williams, McLaren and stellar drives from names like Mansell, Senna and Hill.
Who’d have ever thought back then that teams of their caliber could be in the position they see themselves now?
The future for Fernando
If Fernando Alonso doesn’t make the switch to IndyCar next year I will be shocked to the core. It makes perfect sense, especially if McLaren does indeed invest in a stateside project.
It’s clear after last week’s performance at Le Mans that he is still a supreme talent, but at present, he’s growing more and more frustrated at the prospect of life in Formula One with McLaren. Another radio outburst on lap 40 complaining about tyre life and brake wear just compounded his misery.
When a couple is in a love/hate relationship they need time apart to try and make things right again, IF this (second time) marriage is to work out, Fernando needs to make that leap, achieve his triple crown and Indianapolis and feel fulfilment once again.
If not, it will be another ugly break up, and at the age of 36 and no sign of the “big” teams looking to sign him up, it could be a fantastic career ending in an unfortunate fluster.
It was great to see some French racing legends making an appearance on our TV screens over the weekend, Rene Arnoux and Franck Montagny being just a couple.
One man who it was also a pleasure to see (but not hear) was Jean Alesi. It was amazing to watch one of the happiest and most emotional drivers in the history of the sport look out of his depth at the post-race interviews.
I want to believe that he was thrust into the role at the last minute and lacked preparation time before his chat with Max Verstappen, because questions like “Good Sunday?” doesn’t really cut it, neither does stuttering your way to asking if you saw the start of the race.
Jean has done interviews on the podium before and knows what it’s like to talk in front of a camera, so I can only imagine technical issues or a language barrier were at fault for his performance after the race.
It seems risky to have ex-pros doing these interviews without experience in the role because although it may be nice to celebrate their achievements, it can sometimes come across as unprofessional and a bit messy.
As if the bright colours of the run-off areas weren’t shocking enough, it turns out that there was indeed a bright red statue of a gorilla on the podium, quickly followed by four smaller gorilla’s painted in the colours of the French flag in trophy form.
A local artist was apparently behind the design. I’m not against it but I am still struggling to see the connection, either way, it was an unusual sight, to say the least.
It got me thinking, I bet we don’t get a red bull in Austria next week!