Last weekend, Fernando Alonso got one step closer to completing his dream of winning the triple crown. He’s already won Monaco, twice actually, now he’s a 24 Hours of LeMans winner too. Only thing left is an Indianapolis 500 triumph. But, before he can focus on Indy, he has his focus of this weekend’s French Grand Prix (10 a.m. ET/ESPN 2).
Can Alonso pull off the rare France sweep in a span of seven days?
“It’s not often we get to drive on new tracks, or tracks that are new for most of us but already have a strong legacy behind them, so after my Le Mans experience it’s great to be staying in France and heading to Paul Ricard,” Alonso said ahead of this weekend’s race. “Winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans still feels like a dream and it was an incredible week. It’s finally sinking in now and I’m already looking forward to getting back in my car and going racing again.
“I’ve never raced at Paul Ricard in Formula 1, but I drove there in testing a few years ago and I’ve seen the designs of the new circuit configurations. I think it looks like it has the potential to be a mega track, and going to a new venue always makes things exciting, as we’re all in the same position learning its characteristics from scratch.
“From what we do know, it’ll be a tough race for the cars and drivers, and a tricky technical challenge to set the cars up. It does look like there are a few overtaking opportunities though, which should hopefully provide some exciting racing. After a couple of disappointing weekends, I hope we can bounce back in France with a more positive result.”
Alonso, has had a solid but no where close to where he needs to be season in F1. Prior to retiring from the last two races (Monaco and Canada), the popular Spaniard has eight straight top 10 finishes, three of which dating back to the end of the 2017 season. With a new powerplant in 2018, the hopes were higher that he’d be closer to contending. While they are, it’s still not race wins like he’s wanting.
With the series heading back to France for the first time since 2008 and the first time at this track in 28 years, the playing field is a little more level than in most races. Alonso, could hopefully use that to his advantage.
So could his teammate Stoffel Vandoorne. He’s one of the few drivers to have actually driven on the road course.
“Although Formula 1 hasn’t visited Paul Ricard for a long time, I’m actually one of the only drivers on the current grid that has driven the track – I drove there during a Pirelli test in 2016, which was a really cool experience, and I also raced there in my Formula Renault days,” Vandoorne said.
“It looks like a great track which has been very much modernized, and I think it’ll provide some great racing. It’s a technical circuit, with a mix of high-speed and low-speed sections, and some of the corners like Signes are extremely challenging and really good fun. There are also some areas where overtaking is definitely possible, so hopefully it should help to mix up the pack a little bit.
“There will be a lot of fans coming to Paul Ricard to experience this race for the first time, so there should be a great atmosphere all weekend. It’ll be great to visit a new city and see how our package performs on a new track – it’ll be unknown territory for all of us, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and hope we can put our last couple of results behind us.
“Congratulations to Fernando for his win at Le Mans – I watched the last few hours at home and was hoping nothing dramatic would happen right at the end. I know Fernando did a lot of preparation and it was a well-deserved victory for the whole team.”
While no one other than Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull has won an F1 race since 2013, McLaren is hoping they could be the first ones since Lotus to do so this weekend.