French GP: McLaren unsure of ‘pecking order’ heading to Paul Ricard

French GP: McLaren unsure of ‘pecking order’ heading to Paul Ricard

With the French GP kicking off the first triple-header of the 2021 Formula 1 season, McLaren are unsure just where they lay in the ‘pecking order’.

The French GP sees Formula 1 return to a more traditional racing format at the Circuit Paul Ricard. After the last two rounds were held at street circuits in Monaco and Azerbaijan.

From what we’ve seen of the McLaren MCL35M to date, high hopes should be held for the Woking-based team heading into this weekend’s grand prix. With the long straights and higher speed corners of Paul Ricard playing to the advantage of the MCL35M.

Monaco and Azerbaijan unfortunately favoured Ferrari. With their car excelling in slow speed corners, resulting in Charles Leclerc securing pole position at both circuits. But while Ferrari did manage to jump McLaren in the Constructors’ Championship, we now head a track where the Scuderia theoretically should underperform compared to the McLaren.

While Ferrari have shown us they have a strong car in tight tracks with slower speeds, they have still struggled to compete with the top teams, including McLaren, on tracks where drivers can really open the throttle.

Despite this, McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl is still unsure just where the team sits in the so-called ‘pecking order’.

“After taking the time to analyse and understand the data from Baku, it’s clear that we still need to continue to take steps forward as a team and extract the most out of our package as we compete in a very close battle with our competitors,” Seidl said.

“The Circuit Paul Ricard is a different style of track compared to previous races and therefore it’s difficult to understand the pecking order ahead of the weekend. Our priority going forward is to qualify well in order to put ourselves in the best position possible to score the most points on Sundays. We remain focused and determined to once again fight for good points this weekend.”

Looking to continue building on the progress he’s made with McLaren this year, Daniel Ricciardo is excited to get the triple-header underway. Despite knowing the amount of work associated with it.

After the French GP, the F1 circus moves on to back-to-back races in Austria. In what will be a repeat of 2020.

“Three back-to-back races can be seen as a challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity to get continuous time in the car and really build on the progress we’ve made so far,” Ricciardo said. “Being able to consecutively put more miles in over the next three weekends combined with the work we’ve done in the simulator will hopefully get us to a good place and continue to build my confidence in the car.

“We definitely had a productive weekend in Baku with several positive moments. I’m looking forward to racing at Paul Ricard this weekend. It’s a much more conventional and forgiving track than Baku that also comes with slightly fewer risks.”

While Ricciardo has experienced positive moments where it looked like he had progressed with the MCL35M, he has also had plenty of negatives. We are still waiting to see the grand prix winning driver show the talent we all know he has.

Carlos Sainz, Sergio Perez and Sebastian Vettel all appear to be fairly comfortable with their new 2021 rides. Three race weekends in a row, on tracks that he is familiar with, may just be what Ricciardo needs to get him over the line.

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