Prixview – French Grand Prix


Round eight of the seasons sees Formula One return to the Mediterranean for the French Grand Prix. The Circuit Paul Ricard returned to the calendar after a twenty-eight-year hiatus and brought the worlds oldest Grand Prix back following a ten-year hiatus.

Grand Prix is French for Grand Prize, the first Grand Prix was held in 1908 and was the world’s first international motorace, called Grand Prix as the prize was 45,000 francs in today’s money around £175,000. The earliest races alternated between Le Mans, Dieppe, Amiens, Lyon, Strasbourg, and Tours.

Despite its prestigious Le Mans have never held a world championship Grand Prix, historically before the formation of the world championship Mercedes have been really strong. Scoring a 1-2-3 in 1908. the last race before the outbreak of the first world war, saw another 1-2-3 for the Silver Arrows in 1913 at Amiens, despite five being killed, in that race five were killed during practice and the race.

Racing resumed at the Sarthe Circuit at Le Mans when its opened in 1921, before returning to the Strasbourg the following year. The race was a very close fight between Bugatti and Fiat – and Felice Nazzaro won in a Fiat, although his nephew and fellow competitor Biagio Nazzaro was killed after the axle on his Fiat broke, threw a wheel and hit a tree.

The first British winner was William Grover-Williams, he raced through the 1920’s and 1930’s winning both in 1928 and 1929, he was later killed by the Nazi’s at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in the spring of 1945.

The race then became part of the world championship with Juan Manuel Fangio taking victory for Alfa Romeo, he would also take Mercedes first win in 1954.

The 1955 race was cancelled after the disaster at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but France bounced back the following year with a race Reims in 1956, another spell at a lengthened Rouen-Les-Essarts in 1957 and back to Reims again from 1958-1961, 1963 and one last event in 1966.

The race moved to Le Castellet for the first time in 1971, the circuit remains dominated by the Mistral Straight that is followed by the high-speed right hand Signes corner. Requiring high speed and downforce, this season the circuit has reverted back to the original layout following the drivers request to remove the chicane.

The 1979 race was another classic, with the famous end-of-race duel for second place between Frenchman René Arnoux and Gilles Villeneuve in a 3-liter Flat-12 Ferrari. It is considered to be one of the all-time great duels in motorsports. Then the race then moved to Magny-Cours where it would remain for seventeen years but the race was dropped a decade ago because of years of financial problems.

Paul Riccard is a circuit which requires good downforce and high speed, its long straights proved to be an advantage to Mercedes. With there x wins so far this season, Lewis Hamilton could be on course for another win, it has elements of Montreal as it requires attacking driver and those who take risks.

Off track organisers will be looking to avoid the chaos of last year, with many fans unable to reach the circuit because of traffic problems. Some personnel and spectators queuing for hours to get to the track. This was despite the circuit not being at full capacity.

Facts and figures

Round 08 of 21
Race Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Prix de France 2019
Venue Circuit Paul Ricard, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France
Circuit Length 5.842km (3.630 mi)
Laps 53
Race Distance 309.626km (192.393 mi)
Lap Record 01:30.029 qualifying (Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 2018)

01:34.225 official (Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes, 2018)

Most wins drivers Michael Schumacher (6)
Most wins manufacture Ferrari (17)

Fast facts

  • The distance between Monaco and Paul Ricard by road is less than a Grand Prix distance at 187km or 116mi.
  • Renault won the first French Grand Prix in 1906, then had to wait another 73 years for its second victory in 1979!
  • The 1989 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard is best remembered for a huge first-corner crash caused by Mauricio Gugelmin in the Leyton House, who locked his brakes and hit the back of Thierry Boutsen’s Williams. The Leyton House ended upside down on Nigel Mansell’s Ferrari, and the race had to be restarted.
  • The Circuit Paul Ricard’s distinctive blue and red run-off areas are designed to slow cars down without the need for gravel traps. Made of a mixture of asphalt and tungsten, the blue areas slow cars gradually, while the more abrasive red areas slow the cars more aggressively.

Event timetable





P1 11:00-12:30 10:00-11:30
P2 15:00-16:30 14:00-15:30


P3 12:00-13:00 11:00-12:00
Qualifying 15:00-16:00 14:00-15:00


Race 15:10 14:10

What happened in 2018?

For the first time since 1990 F1 returned to Paul Ricard for the French Grand Prix. As expected, Mercedes were on it from the very start topping all three practices. The circuit was one where Mercedes had the clear edge, Hamilton was dominant in qualifying with him two tenths faster than Bottas and half a second faster than Vettel.

It wasn’t a great start for Grosjean for his home race, he spun off and crashed the car at L’ecole as he exited onto the Mistral Straight. Starting ahead of fellow Frenchman Ocon, while Gasly would start thirteenth.

Hamilton went on to dominate the race after pulling away from both Bottas and Vettel. In another botched move, the German hit the Finn as they went into the first corner, Bottas spun off and that earned Vettel a stop-go penalty, dropping both to the back of the field.

Yet again it was Vettel’s mistakes costing him points, with him not only dropping back the stewards awarding him a stop and go penalty. Verstappen was the main benefactor finishing second with Raikkonen third.

Raikkonen took third from Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, as he fought through the field using a faster strategy. Ricciardo was strong position in the closing stages, however, he was struggling with downforce as he lost a piece of his front wing.

The man who triggered the drama Grosjean had no luck, taking both fellow Frenchman out and finishing eleventh.

Also impacted by the incident was Alonso, the McLaren attempted to go through the race non-stop. That wouldn’t pay off as he stopped later in the race before a suspension failure on the last lap forced him to retire

Race Result – 1) L. Hamilton, Mercedes, 01:30:11.385, 2) M. Verstappen, Red Bull – Tag Heuer, +7.090, 3) K. Raikkonen, Ferrari, +25.888

What to watch for?

Paul Ricard is a high speed and downforce circuit which could set us up for another Mercedes race where they are very strong. You need to believe that the next seven weeks are going to be key in the title fight, as Lewis Hamilton is very good at circuits like Paul Ricard, Silverstone and Budapest.

The question is can Ferrari deliver the pace they showed in Montreal and beat Mercedes? However, I believe that will be a tall order as this circuit suits Mercedes. Ferrari’s upgrades did bring them a lot closer to Mercedes in Montreal. So its whether that continues.

This is a big question as we head into the rest of the season and Paul Riccard, is can Ferrari emerge as a challenge to Mercedes. Red Bull I believe will be not in the mix as this is a power circuit, but never rule them out completely.

There could be some great midfield scraps as overtaking was common in last years race. But it could be difficult race for them to remain on the lead lap, as the faster cars out paced half the field. It can also be a close battle in the midfield, that can cause VSC’s and affect the leaders.

2017 vs 2018 Race Data

P1 Fastest

P2 Fastest

P3 Fastest

Q1 Fastest

Q2 Fastest

Q3 Fastest

Race Time

Fastest Lap


01:32.231 01:32.539 01:33.666 01:31.271 01:30.645 01:30.029 01:30:11.385 01:34.225


+28.242 +33.146 +29.264 +23.361 +.143 N/A -03:18.381 +26.203


01:05.473 01:05.473 01:04.402 01:04.512 01:04.402 N/A 01:33:29.606 01:08.402

Use as rough guide due to circuit layout changes

A lap of Le Casstellet

Lewis Hamilton begins accelerating as he exits Virage du Pont, putting the power down on the outside on the long run to Verriere. He then heads to line his Mercedes down the middle of the the track, keeps going all the way to the inside before breaking a 100m before Verriere. Running close to the apex before crossing to turn two. Going through the kink he carries speed until he breaks for Chicane. He hits the apexes and stays in low speed approaching five, that leads him through Saint Beaurne.

He then puts the power down on exit of the corner and through L’ecole, going onto the first part of the Mistral Straight. Carrying the speed to the chicane breaking, before hitting the apex, gets good exit putting the power down. Goes to the outside for Signes, backs off brief through Beausset running the car to the outside before returning to the apex.

Slows the car and crosses the track through Bendor, runs closes to the apex through Village and slow through Tour. Gets good exit carries speed through Virage du Pont and carries it across the line.




White Hard (C2)

Yellow Medium (C3)

Red Soft (C4)

L. Hamilton

Mercedes 1 3 9
V. Bottas 1 3


S. Vettel

Ferrari 1 3 9
C. Leclerc 1 3


M. Verstappen

Red Bull – Honda 1 4 8
P. Gasly 1 3


D. Riccardo

Renault 2 1 10
N. Hulkenberg 1 2


K. Magnussen

Haas – Ferrari 1 2 10
R. Grosjean 2 1


C. Sainz Jr

McLaren – Renault 1 3 9
L. Norris 2 2


S. Perez

Racing Point –Mercedes 2 3 8
L. Stroll 2 3


K. Raikkonen

Alfa Romeo – Ferrari 1 2 10
A. Giovinazzi 1 2


D. Kvyat

Toro Rosso –Honda 1 2


A. Albon

2 1 10

G. Russell

Williams –Mercedes 1 3 9

R. Kubica

2 2




Jack is responsible for the day-to-day running of Formula One Vault. He brings you all the brilliant content. Has an obsession with all things Formula One and anything with an engine.

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