Prixview – French Grand Prix

Features Prixview

Round eight of the season sees Formula One return to Le Cassett in southern France for the first time in twenty eight years. The current layout is new to all the drivers however racing in France in nothing new. The word Grand Prix are actually French for Grand Prize.

The first Grand Prix was held at Le Mans in 1906 and won by Renault and Frenenc Szisz. Ferrari’s parent company won the following year and then Mercedes, so all four of the sports major manufacturers have won multiple times over the last century. In the early days of the race the circuit moved around the country to Lyon, Le Mans and Strasbourg.

After a hiatus during the war, the first race was won by Louis Chiron, with over half the drivers retiring. France would form part of the first 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 bounce 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 1958 race was marred by the fatal accident of Italian Luigi Musso, driving a works Ferrari, and it was also Fangio’s last Formula One race.

The first race here in Le Castellett was held in1971, it was the first modern circuit to hold a race, the following season saw the end of street racing in France after Red Bull’s advisor Dr Helmut Marko’s racing career was brought to a close after he was blinded by debris.

Over the next decade, the race would be dominated by Ford who won nine out of ten races between Le Cassett and Doijon, with Niki Lauda being the only non Ford car to win here. Honda then dominated here for five of the last six races.

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. The story of the next decade would be failed bids including street circuits in Paris, not the one currently used by Formula E, near Flins and even at Disneyland.

Le Casset’s original bid for the 2012 race also failed, but n 2016 a deal was made for 2018.

Looking at Le Cassett on paper the circuit appears to be one which requires speed because it has long straights and fast flowing corners. Most of the data teams have will be out of date as technology has moved on a lot since the last race. However, all the teams have been given data from Pirelli’s tyre test last year.

Ten French drivers have won there home race since 1906, however Alian Prost has been the only driver to win in Formula One. He also won the race six times at three different circuits.

This race is a bit of an unknown, but looking back at the 1980’s it looks as if engine power and speed which are very important here. That would suggest based on performance Mercedes could be the favourites this weekend.

Facts and figures

Race Formula 1 Pirelli Grand Prix de France 2018
Venue Circuit Paul Ricard, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France
Circuit Length 5.842km (3.630 mi)
Laps 53 (TBC)
Race Distance 309.626km (192.393 mi) (TBC)
Lap Record 01:39.914 (Keke Rosberg,Williams-Honda, 1985)*
Most wins drivers Michael Schumacher (6)
Most wins manufacture Ferrari (17)

*Old configuration

Fast facts

  • 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 is owned by F1 chairman emeritus Bernie Ecclestone and his family trust and his second wife Slavica.
  • Renault won the first French Grand Prix in 1906, then had to wait another 73 years for its second victory in 1979! Renault has won a total of six French Grand’s Prix, most recently in 2005.
  • This will be Mercedes-Benz’s first ever F1 race at Paul Ricard in any form. After the Le Mans disaster of 1955, they pulled out of the sport and didn’t return until 1993 as an engine supplier to Sauber.
  • The distance between Monaco and Paul Ricard by road is less than a Grand Prix distance at 187km or 116mi.

Event timetable

Session Local BST
P1 12:00-13:30 11:00-12:30
P2 16:00-17:30 15:00-16:30
P3 13:00-14:00 12:00-13:00
Qualifying 16:00-17:00 15:00-16:00
Race 16:10 15:10

What happened in 2008?

Felipe Massa took victory despite losing the lead of the race to his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen. Raikkonen lost out when he made his first stop on lap twenty one, before retaking the lead retaining it until the half way point. He then lost pace allowing Massa to retake the lead of the race.

Raikkonen’s right exhaust pipe broke, which caused the engine to lose power. Massa, in second place, began lapping quicker than Raikkonen, and he caught and passed him

It was a difficult afternoon for Lewis Hamilton, the McLaren driver started thirteenth after a penalty for driving into the back of Raikkonen in Montreal. But he was later awarded a penalty for cutting the final corner dropping him back to thirteenth.

What to watch for?

This weekend we are effectively going to a new race because we haven’t raced at Le Casste since 1990, this means the data teams have is unusable though we have had tyre testing here in recent years. Drivers will be pushing themselves to find the limits which could make practice interesting.

Le Casste has long straights and fast corners that should give Mercedes the edge you would think but we know that this season to solve some of the divaish tendencies. Mercedes and its customers are all getting an upgraded power unit this weekend, this will be important not only for the works team but the customers.

We are heading into a bit of an unknown teams I think will be approaching the weekend as it were a new circuit which it is. Some data will be reused but as we know that is irrelevant, but we last raced here it was at the end of the hybrid era and that favoured Honda which then had the power.

1989 vs 1990 Race Data

  P1 Fastest P2 Fastest Q1 Fastest Q2 Fastest Overall Qualifying P3 Fastest Race Time Fastest Lap
1990 01:05.473 01:05.473 01:04.402 01:04.512 01:04.402 01:07.779 01:33:29.606 01:08.012
Diff -2.309 -2.888 -3.518 -2.591 -2.801 -2.621 -5:00.215 -4.078
1989 01:07.782 01:08.361 01:07.920 01:07.103 01:07.203 01:10.400 01:38:29.411 01:12.090

* Note – Sessions in order of running and different layout so use as a rough guide

A lap of Paul Ricard

A Red Bull comes out of the final corner Virage du Pont, gets the speed down on the run down to Turn One running along the inside breaking at the fifty-metre board. They go to the outside taking a bit of kerb before quickly crossing the track for S de la Verreie. Goes to the outside, before lining the car up through the centre of the track carrying speed all the way to 50m before Virage de l’Hotel. Takes kerb on entry and exit. Gets brief bit of speed before breaking into the Virage du Camp.

Goes to the outside gets the power down through Tirge de la Sainte Beaune through the exit kink. This is where the power will be key as they go along the first part of the Mistral straight, breaks a 100m before the Nord Chicane, slow entry but gets the power down on exit.

They carry the speed through Courtbe de Sighes, going to the outside of the circuit. Then through the slow speed long loop Beautssart, good through the first apex and good exit. Breaks late through Bendor, gets kerb before carrying the speed through the sweeping Garlaban and Loc. Breaks into the final corner, before getting the power down and crosses the line



Team Ultrasoft Supersoft Soft

L. Hamilton

Mercedes 9 3 1
V. Bottas 9 2


S. Vettel

Ferrari 9 3 1
K. Raikkonen 9 2


D. Ricciardo

Red Bull – Tag Heuer 9 3 3
M. Verstappen 9 3


S. Perez

Force India – Mercedes 8 2 3
E. Ocon 8 2


S. Sirotkin

Williams – Mercedes 10 2 1
L. Stroll 10 1


F. Alonso

McLaren – Renault 8 2 3
S. Vandoorne 9 2


P. Gasly

Toro Rosso –Honda 8 4 1
B. Hartley 8 3


R. Grosjean

Haas – Ferrari 8 3 2
K. Magnussen 8 4


N. Hulkenberg

Renault 9 2 2

C. Sainz

9 3


M. Ericsson Sauber – Alfa Romeo 9 2


C. Leclerc 9 3



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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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