F1 to use chicane in Mistral Straight at Paul Ricard

2018 F1 season

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Formula One will not use the full 1.8-kilometre Mistral Straight at Paul Ricard when the track hosts the French Grand Prix in 2018.

The straight, one of the longest in Europe, will be interrupted by a chicane when F1 returns for its first race at the track since 1990 according to track officials.

The track layout for Paul Ricard’s 2018 F1 race
The full length Mistral straight which leads into the high-speed Signes corner was used by F1 from the first race at the track in 1971 until 1985. The straight was shortened for the final five races at the track following a testing crash which claimed the life of Elio de Angelis at the Verrerie S-bend.

F1 will use the North Chicane variant of the circuit, as raced on by series including the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup (see below) earlier this year. Another difference between the new version of the track and its previous incarnation is at Verrerie, which will be tighter than the version used until 1985. The track length will be 5.842 kilometres, indicating a race distance of 53 laps.

Paul Ricard was turned into a testing-only facility in 2002. The process included installing all-asphalt run-offs which use a combination of high-grip surfaces and artificial grass to discourage corner-cutting.

The circuit also features an automatic watering system which uses 35 sprinklers to douse the track for wet weather testing. This was used when F1 visited the track for wet tyre testing in January.

The track re-opened for racing activities in 2009. Among the series to visit the Paul Ricard this year were Formula V8 3.5, European Formula Three, Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup, European Le Mans Series and the World Touring Car Championship, using a range of the track’s 167 possible layouts.

2016 Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup

Paul Ricard circuit with North Chicane

2016 European Le Mans Series

Paul Ricard circuit with full Mistral Straight

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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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84 comments on “F1 to use chicane in Mistral Straight at Paul Ricard”

  1. Well that is disappointing and expected.

    I don’t find the thought of 22 cars driving in a straight line for 1.8kms particularly appealing, but it would have been unique and would have forced the teams to come up with something different in order to extract the best laptime from the cars.

    1. Disappointing? How? I know you explain it, but look at all the circuits that have the longest straights in F1 today: Baku, Yas Marina, Shanghai and Mexico. All are as entertaining as watching a turtle race a snail for 5 meters.

      Beyond the fact that 1800 meters (which is 50% more than all others I’ve mentioned!) is just so boring that it would probably be the only race I wouldn’t watch in full, just the 15 minutes highlights, it would also destroy their fuel economy making it boring for the rest of the lap as well, due to all the lift and coast.

      So unique? Possibly. Both not in a positive way, at all.

    2. I think we have kind of become inured to the speed. When you watch on TV, you don’t get it at all. It’s amazing that these cars with the cD of a sofa are running 225mph while being set up for a road course, i.e., as fast as Indycars running on banked ovals with asymmetric set ups at very low downforce. Also, with today’s reliability, sustained 220mph is no big deal. Back in the day, places like Hockenheim were known for cars showering the track with molten intake valves after one flat out run too many. These long straights represented a unique test of man and machine and an expression of raw power.

    3. Unique? Baku has the 2.2km straight and it is one of the worst parts of the circuits.

      1. The long straight forces the teams to remove downforce, which makes the twistier parts funnier to watch.

      2. The problem isn’t the straight, the problem is DRS, which gives an asymmetrical advantage to one car. Without DRS, you’d see true slipstream battles where yes, a car could easily get by, but the other could fight back—like Monza in the old days.

        1. Neither DRS or straights are problems. They bring a lot of speed and overtakes. Fundamental parts of Formula 1 and racing. 1980’s Turba Era with lots of slip streams and high speeds considered to be the best time of Formula 1.

          1. I don’t have a problem with speed nor overtakes—that’s what I’m trying to promote. Give DRS to both drivers and slipstreaming would actually increase in importance on a long straight as each driver would have an equal opportunity to fight.

    4. They literally went for the worst most boring layout. Why???

      Yet they question why people don’t watch. Nobody wants to see cars crawl through chicanes at 1mph. And there are two of them in this layout.

      1. Sometimes the best passes are made at chicanes, example, hulkenberg on bottas in japan

    5. That’s because slipsteaming happened before you were born

    6. Is better use the chicane, not for safety, but will be boring for f1 today, baku is an example,the straights in f1 should don,t be bigger than shanghai.

  2. I think that makes sense, not much point in having them bouncing of the limiter for that long – it’ll stop the best engines walking away with it quite as easily

  3. This is an utterly dull track. Always has been. Having the super-long straight was only ever a convenience for the testing which took place there otherwise.

    Good to have a French GP, so absolutely worth it, but why not Le Mans!? Does it not meet FIA standards?

    1. @psynrg Both Le Mans Bugatti (which hosted F1 in 1967 and was not popular) and the La Sarthe circuit for the 24 hour race are FIA grade two, whereas F1 requires grade one.

      1. @keithcollantine, not to mention that there is no chance of the ACO ever agreeing to F1 using the Circuit de la Sarthe and potentially upstaging the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

        In fact, are there any other motorsport series which have ever used the Circuit de la Sarthe for a motorsport race? It looks like other series (even the motorcycle endurance championships) have only ever been allowed to use the Bugatti circut.

        1. Isn’t there some Ferrari cup and GT3 Le Mans race since 2014?

          1. @xtwl, you’re right that there is the “Road to Le Mans” race for GT3 spec cars (and I believe that they also run an LMP3 race in the same event), but the ACO’s website seems to indicate that only started in 2016 and the ACO classify the event as the warm up act for the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
            You’re also correct that the Ferrari Challenge Series does use the circuit, and I suppose that, strictly speaking, there are the classic sportscar series which do use the circuit for races too.

    2. WeatherManNX01
      8th December 2016, 15:16

      No, it doesn’t. The Bugatti Circuit is a Grade 2 track and thus can’t host F1.

    3. Thanks both. Shame, I do like the 24hr layout, and indeed the chicanes down the Mulsanne make it much more interesting. F1 round this track would be awesome (it works nicely in iRacing.)

      1. @psynrg The La Sarthe is a pipe dream. It uses public roads for one, and it’s too dangerous as well. The Bugatti is one of the worst circuit layouts for cars in the world. utterly boring except for bikes. I tried to watch it when DTM was racing there and turned off the TV after 5mins.

        No suitable circuits in France apart from Paul Ricard. Magny Cours is even worse. Dijon and Clermont Ferrand aren’t up to modern standards and weren’t for 30 years

      2. The chicanes are more interesting because now the cars are so slow. 250mph sustained for miles on a rutted public highway, that was in itself hair-raising to me.

        1. @dmw, that was only reached once in the entire history of the race though, so that really isn’t representative of what the past normally was like.

          When you look back through the history of the event, it was more normal to see a top speed between 330-350kph (i.e. about 205-217mph). In recent years, the Audi R18 was topping the speed traps with recorded top speeds around the 345kph mark – still pretty quick by historical standards, unless you are saying that legendary Group C cars like the Porsche 956 (which clocked similar top speeds through the speed traps) were also slow…

  4. Bernie: “Alright, we can have a race here… You still have those sprinklers, right?”

    1. honestly, I would be for sprinklers as ridiculous as it sounds, you have to admit the racing would be spectacular

      1. It’s just wrong on so many levels. The excitement of a wet race is its unpredictabilty and wat thing the forecast 5 days before the race. There are subtleties at play and the more we take away, the more artificial everything gets and long term, the more fans walk away.

        1. But sprinklers would allow an unprecedented level of fan involvement!
          ‘Text RAINNOW’ to 8374939 to turn the sprinklers on.*’
          *Texts cost £100 plus network charges. Sprinklers will be turned on once 500 fans have sent a text.

          1. Or how about five minutes of random sprinkler actuation with the purchase of a Rolex… : )

  5. *sigh* The absurdly long straight would have been a fun feature to make the circuit unique. But hey, we can’t have the world’s fastest cars you know, going quickly.

    Also, are they planning on making any changes to the runoff areas? If not I can see the place becoming a track limits nightmare.

    1. @zazeems Either they’re going to change the run–off’s material, or you’ve given Pirelli way too much credit there.

    2. @zazeems In a straight line, these are nowhere near the worlds fastest cars. A low level Top Fuel dragster would leave them for dust. Indeed, there’s a few road cars that you can buy that would offer a serious challenge.

      It almost goes without saying, F1 is 95% corners and braking. Paul Ricard is boring enough as it is, believe me, the chicane doubles the spectacle.

      1. I doubt a drag car has the steering lock to make it around the proceeding corners, let alone the brakes to stop itself before the end of the straight without a parachute, as entertaining as it might be to watch a drag car try and lap a track. F1 cars are the quickest at what they’ve been designed to do :)

        1. I think you have the makings of a very interesting series! :)

      2. @psynrg Fully agreed. F1 has never been about the highest top speed. Indycar and all its previous iterations have always been faster in that regard, but on a full lap of the circuit (which to me is the de facto standard for quickness) F1 has been quicker always. More sophisticated aerodynamics and such allowed for this.

        That’s why the Bugatti Veyron is ridiculously fast in a straight line, both in acceleration and top speed, but isn’t even in the top 50 of Nürburgring lap times of production cars. So if they were racing Veyrons here, then they’d need to use the 1.8 km straight. Otherwise it’s just at least 800mtrs of running into the 8th gear limiter in F1.

  6. agreed it would have made for interesting set up options. shame. i wonder will they use it to host a ‘wet race’ though??

  7. Wish they’d go back to Dijon instead.

    1. In my ideal world they’d race at Clermont-Ferrand, on the old layout. Now THAT was a circuit

      1. I vote old Spa, but only after humans become immortal.

        1. Surely we could race at Rouen again! It is a shame that Les Essarts will only see F1 in video games, I love the layout. RIP Jo Schlesser.

  8. The circuit also features an automatic watering system which uses 35 sprinklers to douse the track for wet weather testing.

    An incredibly goot fit with Bernie

  9. I don’t see why people call the 1.8 km unique. Doesn’t Baku have a massively long straight as well?

    Track layout speaking. They probably are going to make two DRS zones there which is similar to Canada where you can pass on the first DRS zone and still have advantage at the second zone to run away.

    Why not the long straight without the DRS? Would’ve made Baku a lot more interesting as well. It just was too easy last year for cars to overtake on the main straight. Some of the overtakes were already completed even before the activation point.

    1. I know it is a controversial opinion to share on this site, but maybe we could get rid of DRS altogether? ;)

  10. I’m not sure that 1.8 km straight would’ve added anything to the track. It’s the rest of it that’s important. Kinda like Shangai… that enormous straight isn’t the best part of the circuit, nor the most challenging. And with the “lovely” feature we have this days in the name of DRS it’d have meant pretty pointless and boring overtakes 500 metres into the straight. That’s as exciting as me overtaking a fully loeaded lorry on a dual carriageway…

    So I’m not too disappointed with this.

    1. @fer-no65 agreed. not sure why so many are so attached to the idea of a mega straight. my problem is with the length of the track or rather the lack of laps. more laps is almost always a good thing – you just see more of everything (passing opportunities, errors, the crowd sees way more action).

      1. @frood19 Because that is where most of the overtaking happens & longer straights force teams to run less downforce which makes the corners more of a challenge due to the setup compromise.

        For all the hate Shanghai gets even before DRS ruined things that track used to produce a lot of overtaking & good side by side outbraking duels into the hairpin primarily thanks to the long straight & the same was true at Baku until DRS got enabled on lap 3.

        You very rarely see cars overtaking in corners, especially the higher speed stuff with shorter straights inbetween. It’s always the longer straights that promote the best slipstreaming, The best side by side racing & the biggest opportunities to outbrake into the corners at the end as long straights = higher speeds = longer braking zones which = more opportunities to pass via outbraking. shorter straights hinders all of that with or without DRS which is why you never used to see much overtaking at places like Imola.

  11. It is going to be a disaster to enforce the track limits…

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      8th December 2016, 15:38

      Should fit in well then….

  12. I would had used both chicanes, north/south instead of just the north.

  13. Have updated the article above as Paul Ricard have now confirmed the exact track layout which will be used. Note it is exactly the same as the one in the Eurocup video.

    1. I for one am glad there’s a chicane there. and hopefully #44 will have a licence to straight-line it.

  14. Yeah, why long straights? We’ve got DRS, that’s enough.

  15. Well, at least we can be assured that there won’t be 1.8km of DRS all in one go.

  16. List of French GP circuits in order of greatness imho (Post 2nd World War)

    1: Rouen Les Essarts
    2: Claremont Ferrand / Charade
    3: Reims
    4: Dijon
    5: Magny Cours
    6: Paul Ricard

    It is fantastic news that the French GP is back on the calendar, although I will reserve judgement on the choice of track until after the first race (maybe rain/sprinklers will help) but on the simulators it is dull as dishwater to drive compared to the others listed (yes I know the majority of the Rouen track has gone, same with Reims and Claremont Ferrand, and the charade track that is left would be too narrow for any decent F1 racing)
    Also, and this is again my opinion, but all those blue stripes are hideous on TV. Some of the old races from the 80’s are on youtube and the circuit doesnt look too bad with the sand and gravel on the outside of the tarmac, but now it just resembles a car park. Such a shame

    1. You would honestly put Magny-Bores above Paul Ricard?

      Also a lot of the other circuits you put above Paul Ricard were not that good for racing, Meanwhile Paul Ricard always tended to provide very good racing on the longer layout which there using.

      Magny-Bores on the otherhand was always way, way worse which is why fans gave it that name due to how utterly boring every dry race there always was.

    2. Rouen and the old layout at Spa were the most incredible tracks in my opinion.
      To compliment your list, how about pre- WW2 tracks? I for one would like to see F1 cars racing at Pau. Maybe we can arrange it so Monaco can have a year off?

  17. Michael Brown (@)
    8th December 2016, 16:26

    I suppose it would be difficult for the cars since they have fixed gear ratios. Something nobody asked for and nobody likes.

    1. And nobody likes difficult in F1. Make it easy.

  18. There’s no reason why sprinklers shouldn’t happen. There’s so much support because wet races are always the best by far. – Bernie

    The circuit also features an automatic watering system which uses 35 sprinklers to douse the track for wet weather testing. This was used when F1 visited the track for wet tyre testing in January.

    Oh god, it’s happening.

  19. Jonathan Parkin
    8th December 2016, 17:22

    I wasn’t watching f1 when it was first at Paul Ricard so wouldn’t mind it’s return, however I would have liked them to use the full pre 1986 track – although I would allow the small chicane halfway down the Mistral straight. I would however get rid of the all tarmac run offs and bring back grass and gravel traps because in it’s current guise it looks utterly hideous

    1. I would have liked them to use the full pre 1986 track

      They are, With the addition of the mistral chicane.

  20. Watched the formula 2.0 video posted below the article.. And my God is this race going to be boring. There is nothing special about this track.

    1. @david-beau drivers disagree. the full gp layout of paul ricard was always very popular with drivers both when f1 raced on it pre 86 & when it was used as a test track through the 2000s. it offers a nice mix of slow, medium, fast & very fast corners & sections which always challenged drivers, cars & setups which always led to good races & drivers that always enjoyed driving on it.

      As to the formula 2/0 video, those races tend to be bad everywhere. the formula v8 3.5 races at paul ricard generally tend to be good & the f1 races on the full layout pre 86 were also generally very good, certainly better than any of the dry races we had to suffer through at that awful magny-bores!

  21. The only positive to adding the chicane is that it diminishes the effectiveness of the inevitable DRS zone they’re putting there!

    I’d be more than happy (relatively speaking) for them to use 2 DRS zones (with 2 detection zones) before and after the chicane, so if one gets overtaken, they can at least have a go at their opponent coming out of the chicane.

    1. I guess they will put one drs on start/finish and one before the chicane. Signes with activated drs is not a good idea.

  22. Lots of work to be done on this venue before 2018. Tomorrow the pictures I can’t imagine the track looking the way it is now compared what it should look like. How many seats and tickets will they fill on a Sunday?

    1. Tomorrow the pictures? lol

  23. How are sprinklers any more artificial than tarmac? And surely there’s scope for some seriously amusing way of deciding when to turn them on and off.

    1. @lockup Oh, wouldn’t that be fun!
      You could have a sweepstake based on which minute of the race fans around the world had voted to start the sprinklers – “Gentlemen, start your Sprinklers!” I can hear it now.
      Or maybe race sponsors could decide: Perrier or Vichy would start sprinkling right at the start, Pirelli might wait until the 89th minute. How about the politicians deciding? It would be on – off – on – off before the end of the first lap!
      A little known fact about the system is that Bernie had a bed of nails buried on the outside of each corner at the same time as the sprinklers were installed. Able to be raised at the same time as the sprinklers get turned on . . .

      1. Yep @nickwyatt @john-h some kind of voting, where we can see the votes ebb and flow towards the trigger point [eek]. The F1 internet would explode at the proposal, but vote :)

    2. “Tweet to sprinkle.”
      What an awful awful dystopian future awaits…

  24. And as for Ross Browns idea that every F1 race should feel like a Super Bowl week, I couldn’t agree more. Now finding out a way to make that happen, best of luck. If you’ve been to the Montreal GP, the whole entire city, I mean everything, turns into a festival for a week. I’ve seen races live and I’ve watched races in bars. Stepping out for a smoke isn’t as nice as during the race you could hear the cars but whatever, hybrid days are here. But the city has a festival like feel to it. Special. Which is why every race, every qualifying session and most practices are sellouts.

  25. Ah well, at least we’ve got the French GP back

  26. “The circuit also features an automatic watering system which uses 35 sprinklers to douse the track ”

    Anyone else giggled?

  27. utterly dull track, wish they had used one of the shorter layouts at least…

    1. @watertank why? the short layout they began using in 1986 ruined the track. the races on the longer track which will be used were always very good, The races from 86-90 on the short layout however were truly awful.

      as to the track been dull, the drivers don’t think so as it was always very popular among drivers both when f1 raced on the full layout pre 86 & when it was used as a test track.

  28. I wish the road portion of Montlhery would be updated and have a whole new pits facility built there. Can’t use the concrete banking, however.

  29. The one thing I like about the French GP returning is that it is a new track for many. Ideally each season should have several of those.

  30. There is only one layout that we will all like… one lap each layout!! At least you get one lap of your preffered option.

  31. Does the circuit map indicate a figure of 8 is possible? A true test of drivers, machinery and team strategy with maybe one or two safety cars to mix things up. Whoever thought water sprinklers were needed to improve the show…

    1. Lewisham Milton
      8th December 2016, 23:41

      I wish more people recognised safety cars are only there “to mix things up,” and nothing to do with safety…

    2. @b194 Yes, a figure 8 with a crossing that isn’t grade-separated. Now that would be entertainment…

  32. This is the expected layout, as I think the full layout is only Grade 1T and this layout is a full Grade 1. I’m quite happy with this arrangement, as it worked well when ELMS visited Paul Ricard. Plus it has the large advantage that it won’t have the same starter as the 2011 ELMS race* did…

    * – For those wondering, in 2011 there was a so-bad-it-was-almost-funny-in-hindsight rolling start, where the Safety Car signalled to go round for another SC lap but the lights went green anyway. The prototypes could see the Safety Car and continued to be slow, but the GT field couldn’t and crunched spectacularly. While nobody was injured, every single Porsche was wiped out in one go and there was nearly a mutiny afterwards.

    1. There is no 1T grade anymore, afair.

  33. Organizers seem to be allergic to long straights these days, probably with the worthy safety reason, but there’s nothing like seeing a race car hurtling down a long straight in full throttle. I was so disappointed when Hockenheim lost its straights. Those straights were the most eagerly anticipated parts of the track. Watching an onboard video on a long straight is the best part – you see the driver’s helmet moving left and right as the throttle is on maximum attack for eternity. Of course with today’s lift and coast philosophy, it wouldn’t be ideal…

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