1. Will Mercedes hit back?

It was a disastrous two races for Mercedes as it surrendered the lead of both championships. 

In both Monte Carlo and Baku, Mercedes simply didn’t have the pace to beat Red Bull, however, uncharacteristic errors from the team compounded a miserable pair of races for the reigning world champions.

At the Monaco Grand Prix, a botched pitstop cost Valtteri Bottas a podium while Lewis Hamilton could only finish seventh after struggling for pace all weekend. 

Hamilton should have won in Baku, but an uncharacteristic error meant he was unable to capitalise on Max Verstappen’s earlier retirement after suffering a tyre blowout. 

Thus, Red Bull has opened up a 26-point advantage in the constructors’ championship, leaving Mercedes to openly admit it is currently not operating at the level “it takes to win championships”. 

The good news for Mercedes is that the run of street venues is over as F1 heads to the Circuit Paul Ricard in France before a double-header in Austria.

Hamilton dominated the French Grand Prix from pole position in 2018 and 2019, securing a 1-2 finish in the most recent race at Paul Ricard.

Getting the tyres into the window proved to be the main sticking point for Mercedes as street tracks like Baku lack any high-speed or high load corners that help the tyres to get up to temperature quickly.

France is a more ‘traditional’ track layout with a combination of high-speed and medium-speed corners, which in theory should help Mercedes with its tyre issues. 

Mercedes should return to form in France, but we thought that would be the case for Baku.

2. Can Bottas save his season?

Bottas has endured his worst start to a season since joining Mercedes in 2017, and while it hasn’t been entirely his fault, the Finn has to return to form in the upcoming triple-header.

The Finn was robbed of a guaranteed podium in Monaco but his performance across the Azerbaijan GP weekend was arguably the worst of his career, struggling for pace throughout. 

With Sergio Perez looking like he has finally adapted to the Red Bull RB16B, taking his first victory for the team last time out in Baku, Mercedes will be relying on Bottas to assist its push in the constructors’ championship, while being a useful pawn against Verstappen in Hamilton’s pursuit of the drivers’ championship.

If the latest rumours are to be believed, he is on his way out of the team in favour of Russell but Bottas will know he’s fighting for his F1 career with limited competitive seats available on the grid for 2022.

If Bottas is indeed dropped for next season, Mercedes will have to be wary of how it handles its second driver and ensure it doesn’t suffer as Ferrari did with Sebastian Vettel with having a disillusioned, unmotivated driver on its hands.

The good news for Bottas is that Mercedes loves the Circuit Paul Ricard and the Finn himself has an immense record at the Red Bull Ring, which hosts the Styrian and Austrian Grands Prix.

3. A true gauge of Ferrari’s progress

One of the biggest talking points from F1’s run of street circuits was the form of Ferrari.

Charles Leclerc scored back-to-back pole positions, surprising everyone.

Sainz confirmed Ferrari’s impressive turn of pace in Monaco with second after Leclerc was unable to take to the start following his crash in the dying moments in Q3.

Leclerc didn’t have the race pace in Baku to maintain a podium, although still came away with fourth.

Team boss Mattia Binotto doesn’t believe it is a true representation of Ferrari’s true pace.

“I think obviously there are two cars ahead of us [Red Bull and Mercedes] which are still stronger, no doubt,” Binotto said.

“It was great to have pole position both in Monaco and here in Baku, but I don’t think that is reflecting our true performance overall. I think there are two cars which are stronger.”

Ferrari leads McLaren by just two points in the race for third in the constructors’ championship and the Italian marquee will be hoping it can carry some of its form into this weekend’s French GP.

4.  Is the Vettel ‘of old’ truly back?

Sebastian Vettel was back to his best in Monaco and Baku as he propelled himself up into ninth in the drivers’ championship.

Before Monaco, Vettel hadn’t scored a point leading to question whether the four-time champion still has what it takes to compete at this level.

The German hit back spectacularly in Monaco with an impressive overcut allowing him to get ahead of Pierre Gasly and Hamilton for fifth.

Similarly, a long first stint in Azerbaijan moved him up the order before overtaking Gasly and Leclerc for fourth on track.

Vettel ultimately scored his and Aston Martin’s first podium of the season, inheriting second after Verstappen’s tyre failure and Hamilton’s mistake at the red flag restart. 

Like Ferrari, Aston Martin’s upturn is probably circuit-related but it doesn’t take away from Vettel’s two recent stunning performances. 

5. Another Paul Ricard snoozefest?

The Circuit Paul Ricard isn’t top of fans’ list of F1 circuits with its last two grands prix being snoozefests.

The track layout itself does lend itself to some opportunities with the long Mistral Straight a prime opportunity to overtake. 

The sample size is very small so it would be unfair to completely write off this French circuit.

A competitive battle between Hamilton and Verstappen at the front; a late Safety Car or some rain could easily change fans’ perceptions.

For this year’s race, the circuit has undergone an extensive resurfacing and reprofiling programme which has consequently seen the reprofiling of a number of corners. 

The changes will not only improve the drainage but likely pose more of a challenge to drivers and thus leading to potentially more battling on track.

Conversely, the new track surface will make the circuit smoother and potentially easier to drive with fewer bumps under braking and so on.