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2018 F1

Preview 2018 French GP – Circuit Paul Ricard

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Perched on a plateau of Le Castellet in Provence, the Paul Ricard circuit is located amidst scenic hilly surroundings between the cities of Toulon and Marseilles. The French Grand Prix returns to this circuit for the first time since 1990 and it will be the 15th Formula 1 race to be hosted here. The last time a French Grand Prix was held it was at the Magny-Cours Circuit in 2008 and was won by Felipe Massa when he drove for Ferrari.

Although Formula 1 returns to this circuit after a 10-year hiatus, many of the drivers are familiar with this circuit as it has been used by Pirelli for several slick and wet tyre tests for the last few years. The junior drivers on the grid namely Pierre Gasly, Esteban Ocon, Charles Leclerc have raced here before in the French F4 series, and Carlos Sainz who has raced here before in his years with the Formula Renault World Series. This circuit is heavily used as a test circuit by both Formula 1 teams and tyre suppliers but also by junior teams in F2, F3 and lower single-seater series. However, driver familiarity with the circuit does not guarantee much, as the race configuration of the circuit is new and has also been resurfaced to suit the 2018 tyres.

The full course layout of the track features two high-speed straights and two DRS zones, along with a mix of many heavy braking zones and complex, technical, low-speed sections. All three sectors of the circuit have different offerings including several long radius corners and is being used in its full race length for the first time since 1985. A popular corner, anticipated to be the quickest corner of the circuit this weekend, is the Turn 10 Signes corner, which is at the end of the Mistral straight in sector two. The corners and turns at this circuit can be very tricky and challenging and when it comes to overtaking it won’t be as bad as the last two circuits Montreal or Monaco, but it wont be as exciting as Shanghai or Bahrain either.

A factor apart from braking at this circuit will be the Mistral winds, which are the cool north-western winds that blow across this area, dropping the temperatures and also causing a lot of gust at fast sections of the track. On Friday, in the practice sessions, teams will be busy testing different downforce levels, and different aerodynamic setups till they get the right one to suit their package, which extracts the maximum performance. Coming to a circuit where the current F1 generation car has not been driven before can be a challenging scenario, which means making the most out of the practice sessions. There could be a lot of tyre degradation in the heat, which could mix up the grid a bit, slow some cars down, and make some surge up the grid.

According to the statistics, triple World Champion Alain Prost is the most successful driver at this circuit with four victories at Paul Ricard. The Frenchman’s final win at Ricard also marked Ferrari’s 100th. The last driver to take pole position at a French Grand Prix was Kimi Raikkonen at Magny-Cours in 2008, a race that was won by his then team-mate Massa.

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