Paul Ricard, 2018

“Low-risk” run-off areas spoil Paul Ricard circuit – Sainz

2018 French Grand Prix

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Carlos Sainz Jnr says the challenge of driving at Paul Ricard is spoiled by the large run-off areas at the track.

The venue near Le Castellet is holding its first Formula 1 race since 1990. Since then the circuit has been redeveloped as a testing venue and all the run-offs have been covered with asphalt, much of which is painted with blue stripes.

The Renault driver says the generous run-off detracts from an otherwise exciting circuit.

“I like the layout of the circuit,” he said. “I think it has challenging corners, challenging braking points. Very special turn 11, turn 10, good overtaking points.

“It’s just the landscape, maybe. Surrounded by those blue lines it’s not a normal track and makes it a very low-risk feeling.

“I think the track layout is quite interesting especially that last sector. If we would have grass, gravel or close guardrails it would be an interesting challenge for the drivers.”

The forgiving run-off will increase the chance that car performance will dictate this weekend’s race, Sainz believes.

“Especially with no risk factor of doing a mistake, it will be who gets the best lap together with the sectors and the tyre understanding on one timed lap more than a driver making the difference,” he said. “It’s obviously a track [which] doesn’t penalise a lot a mistake or [have] that risk factor that you have in Canada or Monaco.”

Not all of the drivers have raced at Paul Ricard before but Sainz is among those who have. He won both Formula Renault 3.5 races at the track in 2014 on his way to victory in the now-defunct championship.

“It is exactly the same layout,” he said. “The Tarmac has changed and with the Tarmac some angles of the corners like turn one and turn five, I think. They’ve widened out some parts, they’ve resurfaced the whole track, but the layout is the same.”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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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  • 19 comments on ““Low-risk” run-off areas spoil Paul Ricard circuit – Sainz”

    1. Couldn’t agree more. We’ve seen drivers in other categories running off the road all over the place, despite the ‘abrasive’ tarmac.

      Shame really. The place has great history, and every time I’ve driven it in sims I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the flow of the layout.

    2. At least if someone does loose control of their car then there’s more room for everyone to else to try and avoid the wayward car. The space around you is one of your best friends when you’re driving.

    3. No chance of a safety car. It’ll be the most predictable race of the year.

      1. @fer-no65, of course, in the opening races we had people complaining about the safety cars having too much of an impact on the final result…

    4. Neil (@neilosjames)
      21st June 2018, 18:22

      I was really, really hoping they’d paint the lines black or some dark colour for the race. Places like COTA (that awful red strip) and Yas Marina (blue) are bad enough, but Paul Ricard is a whole different level of vile.

      1. Jonathan Parkin
        22nd June 2018, 4:55

        Thanks, I thought I was the only one to think that. And the multiple layouts don’t help either. Lewis has already mentioned those

    5. Duncan Snowden
      21st June 2018, 18:34

      It’s hard to argue he’s wrong. And I wonder how just how dangerous it would actually be to put up some temporary Armco in the slower sections. Or, if that’s beyond the pale, styrofoam barriers or something, to create a definite “hard” track limit. Even on TV, vast expanses of tarmac runoff are less visually appealing. I’m not against it entirely, but when there’s that much it looks less like a racetrack weaving through the landscape and more like an arbitrary pair of lines painted on the ground. On the upside, all the runoff might encourage drivers to take more risks, which can’t be bad in an era when overtaking is so hard.

      I can’t help thinking, though… who’d have thought, 10-15 years ago, that F1 would ever return to Mexico City and Paul Ricard, even if they’ve been tamed a little? Can we have something even vaguely resembling the old Hockenheim back too, please? :)

      1. I really don’t get the affection for the old Hockenheim circuit – it was a circuit that was probably one of the most heavily biased towards prioritising the car over the skill of the driver, and the only thing that seemed to spice up the races were random failures. In some ways, it’s rather like Monza now – without random mechanics breakdowns, in dry conditions the races have been fairly predictable and processional affairs for quite a few years now.

        The drivers never really seemed to have that much positive to say about the old layout (I think that Brundle, for example, said it was one of his least favourite circuits during his career as he found the races were pretty boring and there was no real challenge for the drivers), multiple commentators didn’t seem particularly interested – there’s even a famous moment during one race where James Hunt started ranting on air about how boring and processional the races were at Hockenheim and asked why F1 bothered to go there – and quite a few of the journalists writing about the races there talked about the races being “dull as ditchwater” and as monotonous and colourless as the track and its surroundings.

        It’s one of those things where there seems to be a contingent of the fans that enjoyed it a lot more than most of those who actually raced there thought of it.

      2. Even on TV, vast expanses of tarmac runoff are less visually appealing.

        Visually less appealing?! All those lines and colors…. I’ll have migraines after the race Sunday!

    6. Well, just deal with it. Yes, having tarmac run-off areas have their cons, but pros as well. I don’t think we’re ever going to revert to having primarily gravel run-off areas as gravel is nowhere near as good at slowing a car down than tarmac is.

      1. The problem however, is that the way most casual viewers ‘deal with it’ is simply by switching off the TV. Who wants to watch cars that can’t overtake driving around painted lines in a vast bitumen car park..?

        1. I agree with Aussie Rod, I will probably boycott this one due to the ridiculous blue lines. Shame really as I was quite excited about the race going back to Paul Richard, but so much has changed & definitely not for the better.

    7. I agree with him. While I understand the safety aspect of the large run-off areas, I could never understand why the FIA didn’t take the next step and automatically apply time penalties for exceeding the track limits by using sensors in the cars and circuit. Sure, trying to figure out who’s in front of whom by adding up the penalties would be painful, but I suspect it wouldn’t be an issue for very long once drivers start losing points and podiums as a result.

    8. Bring back grass.

    9. Keith Crossley
      22nd June 2018, 0:51

      Funny. I’m at the other end of the racing spectrum – SCCA Autocross. Great driving fun for us who love to drive as fast as we can and develop or skills.

      Anyway, for us it’s simple. The course is defined by orange traffic cones (in a big runway or parking lot). Knock a cone over or out of it’s chalked box you get a 2-second penalty. No debating, no fuss, no press conference, no internet hoo-ha. +1 cone = +2 sec.

      For F1, I imagine they could come up with ultra-expensive high-tech cones, costing tens of thousands of dollars. But really it’s simple – hit a cone, lose time.

      Take a look –
      (btw – Daddio’s at a different level than most of us)

    10. The drivers don’t want car-park style run off, the fans don’t want it, television doesn’t want it; makes you wonder who does and how we’ve come to this.

      I’d say, ‘Bring back gravel’ but H&S doesn’t have a reverse gear.

    11. I suffer from really bad vertigo and migraines and have been unable to watch any of the sessions as the lines in the run off areas are making me nauseous

    12. I agree. The lines are extremely distracting. Sometimes it is hard to see the cars at all. The track looks like an optical illusion. The bright colors are hard on the eyes. A subdued tennis green or dark grey would have been much better. I will not watch the race.

    Comments are closed.