Grand Prix racing was born in France, and the French Grand Prix has enjoyed many different homes since it first joined the calendar in 1950. A mainstay throughout the 1970s and ’80s, the Circuit Paul Ricard has become one of the most popular circuits in the world for validating car set-up. Reaching almost 300km/h (217mph) along the legendary Mistral Straight before pulling 5G through the snaking Beausset curve, Paul Ricard is a true test of car and driver.
The flowing nature of Paul Ricard, and the absence of any particularly big stops, means that following closely and overtaking are trickier than at many other circuits. Our strategy engineers have analysed historic data and recent car performance to predict the key factors that could determine the result on Sunday, presented in partnership with our Title Partner Cognizant.
Cognizant's Keys to the Race
The French Grand Prix is traditionally a one-stop race, partly due to low degradation but also because of the heavy time-loss in the pits. Due to a pitlane speed-limit of 60km/h, drivers will lose roughly 24 seconds to a stop, which is three seconds more than last time out in Baku, and 20s at Monaco.
Another reason that the race is likely to be a one-stopper is due to the Pirelli compounds. The Italian manufacturer is bringing its mid-range C2, C3 and C4 tyres to France. It’s one step harder than the last two Grands Prix (Monaco and Baku), and the lack of tyre degradation means the quickest race strategy is a single stop.
There were just 29 overtakes following the first lap of the 2019 French Grand Prix, which was below the average for dry-weather races that year. With cars so evenly matched, little degradation and historically few race-defining interruptions (2018 had a four-lap Safety Car at the start and a late Virtual Safety Car), passing is difficult.
Paul Ricard's distinctive run-off is deceiving, as is the flat nature of the circuit, so those who underestimate the circuit will struggle to find the optimum lap time. With breath-taking high speeds and G-forces, as well as technical and challenging slow corners, hooking up a lap at Paul Ricard is a test of driver and car. Our official Cyber Security Partner SentinelOne presents the key technical facts and stats behind a single lap of the track.
Unlocking the lap
The circuit has been resurfaced for this year’s race, throwing an additional curveball into the race-weekend mix. The run-off at Paul Ricard may look forgiving, but the surface is grippier and abrasive to help slow cars down, with the cost of heightened tyre wear.
Maintaining the flow and keeping high average speeds is key, so expect track infringements early in the weekend too as drivers discover the limits.
For a lap at Paul Ricard, the drivers will launch off the line down to Turn One and ideally allow the car to drift towards the right-hand side of the track at speeds of 185km/h (115mph) ahead of the S de la Verrerie corners, which dip downhill slightly on entry. The off-camber nature can also prove challenging.
There’s a short straight ahead of Virage de l’Hotel, allowing drivers to pick up the pace ahead of this medium-speed corner, which tightens on exit.
Drivers have a few different apices to choose from as they navigate Turn Four ahead of the low-speed, low-traction Turns Five and Six. Drivers often short-shift through this complex before the cars start to stretch their legs through the long right-hander out of Virage de la Ste Baume.
Unlocking the lap
They then flick the car to the left for the kink of Turn Seven, a smoother corner following resurfacing, and head into the key overtaking spot: the chicane that punctuates the Mistral Straight.
The kink opens onto the 1.8km Mistral backstraight, broken up by that chicane. Despite the shortened straight, drivers will still hit speeds of nearly 350km/h (217mph), before braking into the Turns Eight and Nine chicane. Spotting the apex is tricky but key to the corner approach.
Once through the chicane, the cars accelerate towards driver-favourite Signes, a fabulous, sweeping right-hander taken at almost 300km/h, and which really tests maximum downforce.
It’s this speed that makes the long right-hander of Beausset such a physical test because drivers feel forces as high as 5G. With two apices, drivers can carry a lot of speed, as long as they’re alert to the car potentially bottoming out slightly, and picking up understeer, as they move into the flowing Turns 12 and 13.
Another long sweeping left-hander greets drivers at Turn 14, which can also compound any understeer issues on exit. Drivers use plenty of kerb on the exit to maximise the long-right hander, before hitting the brakes hard for the final corner.
The tight right-hander can cause the rear end of the car to feel loose and proves a challenge for the set-up, before exiting onto the main straight.
There’s been time to celebrate Baku, but now I'm fully focused on maintaining our momentum in France.
"I think we’re coming into this race on a high after the success of Baku. There’s been time to celebrate, but now I’m fully focused on maintaining our momentum in France. We’ve brought home a decent points haul in Monaco and Azerbaijan, and we need to keep up the consistent form in what is proving to be an extremely close midfield battle this year."
My race in Baku ended in disappointment, but I'm determined to bounce back strongly in France.
"My race in Baku ended in disappointment, but the whole team can take positives from our race pace and the boost Sebastian’s podium gave us all. I’m determined to bounce back strongly in France. Paul Ricard is a good all-rounder and tests every aspect of a Formula One car, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the AMR21 performs this weekend."
The home of Grand Prix racing, now hosting Formula One on one of the most modern circuits on the calendar. From high-speed corners with incredible G-forces, to a storied history in Formula One, the French Grand Prix holds a unique spot in motorsport lore. NetApp breaks down the highlight facts and figures.
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