2018 French Grand PrixView

By on Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The worldwide web did not exist. The demolition of the Berlin Wall began. And Channel Tunnel workers from the United Kingdom and France shook hands for the first time 40 meters (131 feet) beneath the floor of the English Channel. It was 1990, and it was the final year of the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard. Countryman Alain Prost won for Scuderia Ferrari to score his third win of the season in a battle for the championship with eventual title winner Ayrton Senna. Also notable in the 1990 French Grand Prix was the performance of privateer Leyton House and its drivers Ivan Capelli and Mauricio Gugelmin, who ran first and second for much of the race, with Capelli leading a race-high 45 laps.

Twenty-eight years have passed since the FIA Formula One World Championship last visited Le Castellet, France, home to Circuit Paul Ricard. But come Sunday, the French Grand Prix returns to a revamped layout in the heart of the Bandol vineyards. The circuit has evolved to become one of the most technically advanced in the world. In fact, it is the first entity to be designated as a “Centre of Excellence” by the FIA.

Facts and stats

Circuit Paul Ricard returns to Formula One in 2018 after a 28-year absence. The track was built in 1969 thanks to the deep pockets of industrialist and pastis magnate Paul Ricard. It opened on April 19, 1970 with a two-liter sports car race before Formula One became the headliner a year later. The 1.8-kilometer Mistral Straight and the elongated track design is the signature of Circuit Paul Ricard. Built on a plateau, the track is very flat, but that doesn’t mean it’s boring. In fact, it’s a bit of a chameleon with 167 possible configurations ranging from a short .826-kilometer course to the full, 5.842-kilometer layout used by Formula One.

The long circuit was used from 1971 to 1985, while the shorter club circuit was used from 1986 to 1990. With the departure of Formula One, the track transitioned to motorcycle and local racing. After Ricard’s death in 1997 at age 88, the track was sold in 1999 to Excelis, a company owned by former Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone. The track was rebuilt into an advanced test facility, where it was renamed the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track or Paul Ricard HTTT. It has since returned to its original name, Circuit Paul Ricard.

The colorful runoff areas at Circuit Paul Ricard aren’t just for show. The thick stripes of blue, black and red serve a practical purpose. The black and blue runoff areas feature a surface with a mix of asphalt and tungsten. A second, deeper runoff area colored in red features a more abrasive surface designed to maximize tire grip and, subsequently, minimize braking distance. Altogether, it makes for an extremely practical layout instead of the traditional gravel used at most tracks.

Circuit length: 5.8 km

Turns: 15

Direction: clockwise

Race laps: 53

First Grand Prix: 1971

Weather prediction: lows will range from 17-18 degrees Celsius to highs of 26-29 degrees Celsius.

Tyres: soft, supersoft, ultrasoft

Timetable (GMT +2):

Friday 22 June

Practice One: 12:00 – 13:30

Practice Two: 16:00 – 17:30

Saturday 23 June

Practice Three: 13:00 – 14:00

Qualifying: 16:00

Sunday 24 June

Race: 16:10

 


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