French Grand Prix to return at Paul Ricard in 2018

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The Paul Ricard circuit will host the first French Grand Prix for a decade in 2018 according to Christian Estrosi, the president of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region.

Paul Ricard has even more layouts now
Estrosi, a former Formula Three driver, held discussions with Jean Todt and Bernie Ecclestone about reviving the race as a means of bringing income into the area.

Paul Ricard was built in 1969 and held the French Grand Prix between 1971 and 1990. The race moved to the Magny-Cours circuit in Nevers the following year where it remained until 2008, when it was dropped from the calendar.

Ecclestone bought Paul Ricard in 1999 and converted the track into a dedicated testing facility. Ownership passed to his ex-wife Slavica Ecclestone following their divorce and racing activities were resumed at the track.

Single-seater categories which raced at the track last year included Formula V8 3.5, European Formula Three, Euroformula Open and the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup.

The track already holds an FIA grade one license which permits it to hold F1 races. The venue offers 167 possible track configurations ranging from 0.826km in length to over five-and-a-half kilometres.

Among the course options are ones which approximate the original long circuit, with the full Mistral straight (below), and the shortened version used for its final five F1 races.

The French Grand Prix appeared on the Formula One calendar without fail from the year of the first world championship until 2008, at a total of seven different circuits. Only the British, Italian, German, Monaco and Belgian Grands Prix have been held more often.

Paul Ricard 1A

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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51 comments on “French Grand Prix to return at Paul Ricard in 2018”

  1. Hourra pour le retour du Grand Prix du Français!

    Can’t say I am hugely excited about the return of Paul Ricard though, as a few mentioned the other day it isn’t the best circuit for racing. But at least we are back in France!

  2. Yes, very good news. I was waiting for it for very long!

  3. Isn’t it a parking lot?

    1. Michael Brown (@)
      6th December 2016, 0:14

      More so than Abu Dhabi

  4. I don’t get this. It’s a bad track. It’s terrible to watch with all those colours. It’s an empty, Abu Dhabi style parking lot.
    It’s owned by Bernie’s ex wife. There are barely enough grandstands. What’s the appeal?

    1. The long straight? Fast corners? The flat-out corner at the end of the straight?

    2. @hahostolze it’s in France, which I think is the biggest appeal. It’s not the best track but it’s certainly better than Abu Dhabi, at least it has corners at angles other than 90°.

      They will no doubt put grandstands in and it will hopefully be as busy as the Italian Grand Prix. Even if the circuit is rubbish, at least France is getting its race back, and it’s not some country with two spectators.

  5. Hope everyone remembers to bring their fold-up chairs.. ;)

  6. Glad to see France back on the calendar. With Renault back in the sport and some good French drivers around it’s a smart move.

    What’s key now is how much work the organisers are prepared to do in shifting the track from a testing venue back to being a racing circuit. More grandstands will be needed (hopefully). And they need to do something about the run-off areas in the slow sections which are way too easy to cheat (the high-friction run-off idea never really worked).

    And then there’s the question of which configuration they’ll use. Full Mistral, please, the chicane just ruins the track for spectacle and overtaking. A humble suggestion: poll the drivers on which version to use…

    1. Yeah, cause using a nearly 2km long straight worked a charm this season. Too long, ruins the racing.

      1. Well that depends. A 2 km straight followed by a fast right hander seems interesting. Never going to happen tho…

        1. ColdFly F1 (@)
          5th December 2016, 22:25

          I’d like to see the 0.826km length version.
          ‘bleu’ flags, overtake galore, dizzy drivers after 365 laps who can’t walk a straight line to the podium ;)

      2. At least it would give the calendar some variety.

        If they have the race on the “1A” layout the teams would have to run the cars in low downforce trim which is (a) a technical challenge and (b) would give the drivers a workout as they would be heading into Signes full chat. if they decide to use the chicane the teams will run their usual downforce levels…like they do at Abu Dhabi.

        1. 1A is the best. That is closest to pre-1986 configuration. Very dynamic.

          But they probably will go with 1A-V2. With slowest first chicane.

          1. I don’t mind 1A-v2 to be honest…as long as they use the full Mistral I’ll be happy.

          2. I really hope they use 1A, that fast chicane looks very exciting. However this is F1, and I somewhat reckon that they’ll use a slower chicane on safety grounds.

      3. Lewisham Milton
        5th December 2016, 16:16

        DRS would ruin whichever straight they pick. Hopefully it will be dead by 2018.
        I fear the chicanes would be a track-limits whine festival on the team radio, with too much of an easy way out instead of defending the corner properly.

      4. @hahostolze
        I thought the main straight in Baku worked pretty well actually, if that’s what you’re referring to. Even had some 3-wide moments.

      5. @hahostolze, but, of course, having the full Mistral Straight is traditional, and we have seen how many people bang on about wanting something “traditional”, irrespective of the quality of the racing that results from it.

        1. Yeah Yeah Yeah, but ‘Member the mistral Straight?

  7. YES! A world championship without the French GP doesn’t feel right. Hopefully Paul Ricard is a good track, I have only seen bits of it in other series. But good ti have the French GP back and hopefully Renault will be competitive buy then

  8. F1 will lose all epileptic fans.

    1. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
      5th December 2016, 18:37

      Cruel but absolutely funny!

    2. The number already took a hit after the 1st abu dabhi gp

  9. Hopefully the sprinkler system can be turned on if the race looks boring….

    1. To be fair it would actually be a good chance to test the system in a race. Even though it’s one of Bernie’s silly ideas, it’s certainly not one of his worst.

      If they told teams that the sprinklers will come on at a pre-determined time they could test it without being biased in the race.

  10. Very good news! Welcome again to F1, France!

  11. One of my favourite tracks.
    “A” configuration is epic, with 1.8 km straight and Signes bend at the end.
    Verrerie S after the start could be also very challenging (if they use the fastest version), as well as long right hand at the West border.
    If they break up mistral with a series of chicane it will be much less interesting, but it remains well far from Abu Dhabi. Just consider the series of bends from Signes to last corner…right, left, double apex, high and low speed, not a single 90 degrees corner…Great!

  12. I was going to complain about another crap circuit being added to the calender, but then I remembered that the TV deal for SKY’s exclusive rights will have been put in place, and I won’t be able to watch F1 then anyway.

  13. If they paint the run-off areas a nice blackish grey, plant some grass and invest in a few barge-loads of gravel, I’ll be delighted with this news.

    Until then… dreading it. Can’t even begin to imagine how awful it’d be watching cars being driven around that ghastly blue mess.

  14. I’m not an expert on the track, but just looking at the circuit diagram I can’t see any overtaking opportunities. Not one.

    I don’t undretsand why F1 does this too itself constantly. It’s so simple. If the track allows no overtaking there is no overtaking and the race is boring. I think that should be fairly obvious.

  15. Bonne nouvelle / Great news! I just hope that it will not be at the expense of Spa. I’ve read elsewhere that it even could alternate between the two. Hope it will not be the case.

    1. @spoutnik I think alternating was an idea proposed a few years ago, but was very unpopular with everyone, for the obvious reason that Spa is Spa and not having it would be horrible.

      However it is my understanding that France will take Spa’s end of August slot (and be back-to-back with Italy), and Spa will move to the last race before the summer.

      1. @strontium … and that could be a blow for Spa, wheather-wise. June is usually a dry and sunny month, first half of july is rainy and end of august / september is rainy too. I don’t mind but dates have to be carefully chosen.

        1. According to the BBC website: The 86-year-old said the race was likely to be held at the end of July. Lot’s of tourists over there at that moment, so I would think that should a good date.
          Anyway, smart(er) people will surely decide what’s the best place on the calendar…

  16. Great news! Not a proper f1 calendar without France, just need races in Germany, South Africa, Argentina and a second race in USA, I think they should use 1A-V1 layout

    1. As Homer Simpson would say: ‘Ummmm….nostalgia!’ :)

  17. Why should I believe that this isn’t just a pawn in another of Bernie’s threats against one of the existing venues on the calendar?

    Now, which races have their contracts up for renewal..?

    1. Because the people pushing for it have been the regional government, who want to bring the region up a bit.

  18. It’s not so much a good choice of tracks available but it sure is a sign of the new ownership of F1, instead of just going about and add another couple of races in the States it’s better to add a couple more in Europe first.

  19. Great news. I think, however that F1 will use the exact same layout that has been used for the Blancpain GT series and the Euro Le Mans series. There are 3 variants of the first 2 corners- I think they will use the slowest variant (as opposed to the fastest variant as pictured above) of those 2 corners but the rest of the layout is exactly the same- including the unbroken 1.1 mile straight.

  20. Grumbles about the run-off aside I think Paul Ricard is actually a good pick as the full 1a version (As shown in the article) was always a good circuit for racing & a very popular circuit amongst the drivers due to it’s varied mix of corners that offer challenges for both car & driver.

    The lack of grandstands isn’t going to be an issue as there’s plenty of time to build some new permanent structures & if they don’t want to do that it’s easy enough to get some temporary one’s up to fill demand.

    Here’s an F1 lap of the full circuit from 1983-
    And the last time F1 raced there on the short circuit in 1990-

    And something more recent, a 2008 F1 Ferrari from 2015 (including a chicane)-

    1. And here is a good clip of Alain Prost and Keke Rosberg racing each other at the ’85 French GP at Ricard:

    2. I agree. Great news ! Maybe not an epic track but still better than 80-90% of the actual calendar if the 1A layout is used. Track limits will be the biggest issue, they will have to think about it carefully.

  21. “The venue offers 167 possible track configurations …” Good lord, I would probably manage to get lost on that track! Here’s hoping it works out.

  22. Michael Brown (@)
    6th December 2016, 0:23

    I wouldn’t mind it if the chicane is used on the Mistral straight, but I would prefer no chicane. Either way, I see DRS ruining that straight.

  23. I don’t like Paul Ricard it self but welcome back France.

  24. Three quick points / questions:
    1. Are they sure there is enough run off for formula 1?
    2. You could have the ultimate joker grand prix and have them drive one lap of each configuration
    3.”And was it @keithcollantine that done the counting or did you let someone else count??

  25. hooray! 2km of DRS

  26. If DRS is an absolute must (sigh), can they at least put it on the home straight or the one after the first chicane? 1.8km will be enough to ensure drive-by highway passes without any assistance.

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