Fans, Paul Ricard, 2018

Late start eases Paul Ricard’s traffic problems – for some

Paddock Diary: French Grand Prix day three

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Traffic problems persisted at the circuit Paul Ricard on Saturday, but the late start to sessions meant the stands did fill up. Is that the real reason for the unusual schedule, asks @DieterRencken.

9am Saturday

As related yesterday, I receive messages about traffic issues as I set off for Circuit Paul Ricard. My 10-mile commute takes just 20 minutes – in their zealousness to direct traffic the local police have closed off various roads, including the DN8 that leads directly (save for a 300-yard connection) from my cottage to the main gate. However, at the barrier I flash my credentials and am waved through.

I don’t know whether to cry for joy, or in sympathy with fans. In the end I’m annoyed at the arrogance of the promoters, who failed to heed advice, and have probably managed to kill all pleasure 65,000 fans hoped to derive from France’s return to F1 after a decade. I sincerely hope all ensuing claims are speedily settled.

After some catch-up with colleagues and team media folk its time to prepare for a small group Honda interview with Yamamotosan, who is tasked with sorting Honda’s return to F1 respectability.


Honda's Masahi Yamamoto (with translator) faced the press
Honda’s Masahi Yamamoto with translator Sonia Ito faced the press
Intriguingly, he tells RaceFans no contract yet exists with Red Bull Racing, only a Memorandum of Understanding, and that the contract has still to be finalised. Later I see Christian Horner, who confirms the status, but seems unconcerned, saying the MoU is a legal document. I put it to him that Sauber had an MoU in place and that deal was aborted after three months; still he is sanguine.

For the sake of both parties I sincerely hope there’s no slip ’tween (fine Japanese porcelain) cup and (Bull’s) lip…


Attend a presentation of Pirelli’s new Velo tubed cycle tyres, to be used by Simon Yates, one of the top athletes in the Mitchelton-Scott team in the upcoming Tour de France. He later presented the pole lap award to Lewis Hamilton.


Start of qualifying, and the main stands are semi-full – a relief, as it means the traffic measures at least half effective. I reflect on the weekend schedule: All main activities have been pushed out by two hours – a blessing for fans wishing to attend the race, for it gives them an additional two hours to reach the circuit, and I wonder whether that was the reason for the time shifts, rather than World Cup clashes.

We live, after all, in a time of endless replays, digital recordings and hand-held devices, so the clash excuse holds little water – and the World Cup seems a rather convenient excuse for the delayed schedule, rather than to admit the promoters have no sustainable plans in place to deal with the traffic. Next year will tell – if the schedule is still pushed out an hour or two, we’ll surely know.

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After qualifying I hit the interview sessions, the content of which will be reported in these pages over the next week or so, including an exclusive interview with Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Head of F1, about his company’s future plans.

About the only session of note is McLaren’s – setting aside ‘Freddogate’, which was admitted to but dismissed by the team as being mischievous – it is clear this once-dominant hasn’t a clue why it’s lost its former glory. When you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.


Hit the road again – after tweets suggest the traffic situation has calmed down. There were horror stories of FOM personnel taking 90 minutes to cover a mile, and of others taking three hours to reach Marseilles – and it is clear that plans that may have been devised don’t work in reverse.

Still, my commute is traffic-free on account of the barrier, which is still in place and manned by two officers – who could surely be better deployed elsewhere. I wonder idly whether they’ll still be there at midnight lest sneaky fans attempt to reach the circuit fully 16 hours before the start of the race…

After that it’s off to my trusty pizza place, and time to write to you. Mostly it’s been a normal F1 Saturday, which is a relief after all the shenanigans of Friday.

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2018 French Grand Prix

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    Author information

    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...

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    8 comments on “Late start eases Paul Ricard’s traffic problems – for some”

    1. Thanks Dieter enjoying the diary. Saturday was o.k with traffic leaving our hotel in Toulon at 5:30 a.m the car parks were opened yesterday at 6:30 a.m (originally set for 7:30…’a word rhyming with clucking’ clueless….) and signage was clear directing round to which never Public Parking area wasn’t open. Parking stewards were effective.

      Today left at the same time, with car parks set to be opened at 6:30…(really?) looks like they opened at 6:00 (hallelujah), stewards effective at maintaining traffic flow, arrived at circuit 1 hour after leaving hotel.

      Trust the organisers will learn for 2019 – issue zoned parking passes, open multiple car parks at once, keep cars flowing inside the car parks and don’t try and scan cars one by one!

      The debacle on Friday could easily have been avoided.

      On the plus side vs other circuits the spectator stands are fitted with an excellent P.A speaker system and decent bandwidth easy access Wi-Fi – will watch the England v Panama match over VPN.

    2. Great to read that positive change from Friday @ju88sy, enjoy the Sunday at the track!

    3. We considered attending this Grand Prix as we’re travelling thru the UK and it was the only race we could go to within our schedule.

      So glad we didn’t – I’d researched Paul Richard earlier this year and had worked out that travel to/from the circuit was going to be the biggest problem. Seems it certainly has been.

      Will save our money for Singapore – best race for us Aussies to go to other than our own.

      1. A detour to Paul Ricard from the UK doesnt sound very time effective either, take a couple of days in the highlands instead.

    4. Simon Yates isn’t riding the Tour de France – presume you mean his brother Adam

    5. @dbradock
      yes sounds like a bit of a nightmare – save for Singapore its a great venue to visit and lovely city. Start time tonight makes it near impossible to watch live as well- I hope (and doubt) the Americans are now tuning in with their better time in droves – will be interested to see the increase (if any) in USA viewing compared to lower Aussie viewing………… not that Liberty will care too much I suspect.

    6. ”Is that the real reason for the unusual schedule” – No, it’s (AFAIA) purely about England’s World Cup game today.

      – I wonder whether Yamamoto doesn’t speak English or does, but just doesn’t want to for some reason. It was the same in the Friday team personnel press conference for last season’s Singapore GP as well. The funny thing is that I actually happen to know quite a few Japanese words as well as even some phrases, but unfortunately nowhere near enough for a proper conversation, LOL.

    7. Keeley Casserley
      24th June 2018, 14:01

      Hopefully everything will be sorted for next year…
      Always teething problems when it’s the first time in years..
      Hope everyone is enjoying it though..
      Looks a fantastic venue

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