Is F1 in serious trouble right now?

The French Grand Prix was one of the worst races in F1's recent history. After the race the man who won, Lewis Hamilton, was defending his current dominance and urging the powers that be to listen to him and his fellow drivers on their opinions about the key 2021 regulations.

Our F1 writers Laurence Edmondson and Nate Saunders join columnists Maurice Hamilton and Kate Walker in discussing the biggest talking points of the moment.

Is F1 just going through a bad spell, or is it in serious trouble?

LE: The French Grand Prix highlighted F1's problems in a 90-minute broadcast, but for anyone who has followed the sport for any length of time, those issues are hardly new. If the same problems still exist after the next major regulation change in 2021, then F1 is in real trouble, but hopefully races like France (and the fan backlash that goes with them) will help focus some minds as we head toward the October deadline for the 2021 rulebook.

NS: The sport is definitely not in a healthy place. I don't know why a casual fan or someone who started watching at the start of 2019 would still be watching now. And it's not just about the Mercedes dominance, there's so many other factors in play -- inequality in performance and budget or the penalties, just to name a few -- muddying the waters. 2021 can't come soon enough.

MH: It's a continuing saga. We've said it before but, until F1 does something about an over-reliance on aero and the excessive influence of tyres and whether or not they're in 'the window', the overall impression is not going to get better. The race on Sunday was not helped by such a bland racetrack but proof that F1 itself is more at fault came with F2 races that, while not being brilliant, were certainly more lively,

KW: For as long as I've been travelling with F1, fans have found reason to complain. It started with Red Bull winning everything, now Mercedes are winning everything, and in the middle we've had DRS, Pirelli rubber, and the hybrid power units all blamed for ruining F1 forever. F1 will always be dull occasionally, and F1 fans will always find something to moan about. Fact.

Do you think the 2021 rules will find the answers F1 is looking for, or do you think F1 will be in a similar place five years later?

LE: The 2021 rules are the first step toward a healthier sport. A cost cap and fairer revenue distribution are essential, although the levels that are being talked about won't turn the sport on its head. The biggest issue is that the teams are still involved in the decision making process and that always has the potential to scupper even the best laid plans. Hopefully they will see the bigger picture this time.

NS: I'm sceptical. It's hard to have faith in the current rule-making process as too many people have a say who shouldn't, like the teams. I am encouraged to see Hamilton and his fellow drivers on board in the discussions, though, as their opinions have too often been overlooked.

MH: That's a key question, for which we don't have an answer right now. I'm bothered by the latest postponement despite people saying this is actually a good thing because it shows all the F1 teams are working to the common good. This may be a cynical view but I find that hard to believe given the teams' money-driven self-interest. F1 is trying too hard to please everyone. Now is the time for the FIA and Liberty Media to say: 'Right, guys, we've studied all the feedback and research. These are the rules. Sign here if you want to be a part of it.'

KW: F1 teams see rules as a challenge to be beaten. However well they work at first, in time the teams' combined brainpower outwits the regulations and everyone converges on similar performance and overtaking becomes impossible. 'Twas ever thus. The 2021 regs might bring a short-term answer to our current problems, but the teams will find their way around them in time.

Toto Wolff says Lewis Hamilton is the greatest driver F1 has ever had. Do you agree?

LE: I can see him eclipsing Michael Schumacher's records by the end of his career, so from a sporting perspective you can definitely make that argument. But what I'm most impressed by is his desire to make the sport a more diverse place while working with rule makers to improve the show. If he succeeds in those areas too then the argument that he's the greatest gets even stronger.

NS: I think that phrase should be banned in Formula One. It is a fun debate in other sports but in F1 there are too many variables. He's clearly in that elite group of drivers who were just on another level.

MH: You just can't make claims like that. Given the totally different scenario when, say, Fangio raced 60 years ago, it's like comparing apples with oranges. Lewis Hamilton is unquestionably the greatest driven of the current era. But, no disrespect whatsoever to Lewis, that's as far as I would go.

KW: No, because I'm wary of making sweeping statements, especially when I wasn't around to see the likes of Senna or Fangio racing in their primes. And that's before considering differences in era or equipment. I do think Lewis is the greatest driver currently competing in F1, no question.

What should Red Bull do about the Pierre Gasly situation?

LE: Draw a line under the first eight races and set him a target of closing the performance gap to Max Verstappen over the rest of the season to at least 0.2s. Meanwhile, look at other options and consider offering the likes of Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez a drive for 2020 if Gasly doesn't improve.

NS: I think there's two options. Stick it out with Gasly all year, knowing there's no one else who could go a better job right now in the Red Bull programme. Or, and this is less likely, ditch the attachment to the junior drivers and sign a hungry but unfulfilled midfield talent like Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez as a stop-gap until someone else from the programme is ready to contend with Max Verstappen week in, week out.

MH: Having listened to Christian Horner's postrace interview -- and knowing how Red Bull work -- I think they've already decided to ease him out at the earliest convenience. The only thing preventing an immediate 'Thank you and Good Night, Pierre' is finding a replacement capable of scoring the big points they need.

KW: Put Daniil Kvyat in the seat till the end of the year, as he's a known quantity. Alexander Albon is definitely worthy of a drive with the senior team, but I'd rather he saw out the year at Toro Rosso before making the move up -- Alex is a good talent getting steadily better, and the pressure of a too-early promotion could stop his career in its tracks.

McLaren's French Grand Prix performance: A flash in the pan or a sign that it's the team to beat in the midfield?

LE: The championship standings make it clear that McLaren is the midfield team to beat at the moment. The layout at Paul Ricard certainly suited the MCL34 but McLaren has done a great job to haul itself back up the standings this year. I can see them staying there until the end of the year.

NS: Every team in the midfield has experienced some fairly wild fluctuations in form this year, but McLaren has been very impressive. The team is clearly on the right path, finally, and I'm already impressed with what I've heard from new team boss Andreas Seidl. I think they'll be fighting Renault all year.

MH: Recent results say it's not a flash in the pan but neither do the results say McLaren is the team to beat in the midfield. But it's heading that way. There's the impression, judging by the driver interviews, that they're not entirely sure why the car is working so well. McLaren just need to build on the obvious progress they've made and the fact that this team is now in a much happier place.

KW: McLaren have sat comfortably in fourth in the constructors' standings since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix, even maintaining that position after their points-less Montreal race. While the rest of the midfield has been fluctuating wildly, McLaren have been consistently 'best of the rest' behind the big three for much of this season on the points front. So far, it's Woking's best season in years.

Is the Paul Ricard circuit worthy of a place on the F1 calendar?

LE: No. The circuit in its current form was designed to be a test track and simply doesn't work as an F1 race venue. The run off areas are great if you don't want to ding your Ferrari on a track day, but they remove any element of excitement from an Grand Prix. F1 should be very selective about where it races, and while I think a French Grand Prix is important, Paul Ricard is not the place to hold it.

NS: Not in a million years. It is everything an F1 circuit shouldn't be.

MH: No. I never thought much of it in the '80s and think even less of it now. It may be colourful and in a lovely part of the South of France. But it's nothing more than a test circuit masquerading as a racetrack. Nothing to see here; move on.

KW: No. But the locale is great, and I propose we use Ricard for a midseason tyre test each June. One that's about a week long, limited to only two hours of running a day followed by extensive tyre talk at a seaside restaurant over buckets of moules frites and litres of chilled rosé ...