Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Picture: REUTERS/ALY SONG
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Picture: REUTERS/ALY SONG

Le Castellet — Lewis Hamilton can expect a welcome boost in engine power this weekend as Formula One embarks on an unprecedented triple header at a French Grand Prix returning to the calendar after a decade’s absence.

Le Castellet’s Paul Ricard circuit last hosted a Formula One race in 1990, before 10 of the current 22 drivers were born, and has been reconfigured from the one fondly remembered by older generations.

France’s most recent grand prix was at Magny-Cours in 2008, the year Hamilton won his first world championship with McLaren, and it remains a rare country in which the Mercedes driver yet has to triumph.

If the four-times world champion does so on Sunday, he will take another record from retired great Michael Schumacher; that of the most wins at different grands prix.

The pair are tied on 22, although Hamilton already holds the record for different tracks (25) after winning in Azerbaijan in 2018.

Hamilton is one point behind Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel after seven races, with the German taking the lead in Canada two weekends ago.

Ferrari and other rivals had an engine upgrade for that race and Mercedes did not.

Reigning champions Mercedes had delayed the introduction of their planned upgrade due to what they said was a "quality issue".

That should change this weekend, with Mercedes planning on making the change.

The France-Austria-Britain sequence of races poses a fresh logistical challenge for teams hitherto committed only to back-to-back weekends.

The three-in-a-row format was scheduled to avoid a clash with the World Cup football final in Russia on July 15.

"France should be an interesting race. We don’t often get to race on a track where we have little to no historical data," said team boss Toto Wolff.

"It makes preparing for the weekend a bit trickier than usual, but that element of the unknown also adds to the challenge," he said.

"The triple header will test all F1 teams to their limits, but also offers the chance to score a lot of points over three weeks, which is precisely what we’re setting out to do."

McLaren’s Fernando Alonso and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen are the only current drivers to have won a grand prix on French soil.

Renault will have plenty of support for their first home race, as will the country’s Formula One drivers Romain Grosjean (Haas), rookie Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) and Esteban Ocon (Force India).