Start, Paul Ricard, 2019

New first sector at Paul Ricard will “create big opportunity for overtaking” – Boullier

2020 F1 season

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The French Grand Prix promoters hope to complete changes to the first sector of the Paul Ricard circuit before this year’s race in order to aid overtaking.

Eric Boullier, the former McLaren Formula 1 sporting director who has been appointed today as the new managing director of the race, explained the planned revisions in an exclusive interview for RaceFans.

Boullier, who was previously a strategic sports and operational advisor and ambassador for the grand prix, said “we are going to redesign all the first sector, basically.” Sector one includes the Verrerie S-bend which forms turns one and two, and turns three, four and five which lead to the Sainte-Beaume corners preceding the Mistral straight.

“There is a target which is to make the lap time a bit faster and maybe push the F1 teams to run lower downforce level,” said Boullier. “But we [will] also create another big opportunity for overtaking. Clearly this one help also the second one, which is before the chicane.”

The rest of the track, including the Mistral chicane which some drivers believe should be removed, will be left untouched. “The chicane stays in place,” Boullier confirmed.

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“We don’t want to change the DNA of the track. We have this famous Signes corner [turn 10] which maybe is the fastest one in the whole calendar, plus the double Beausset [turn 11]. So we have keep the DNA of the track. But we have found some opportunities to improve drastically the capacity of the cars to overtake each other.”

Boullier said the circuit owners will be able to complete the changes in time for this year’s race on June 28th if the FIA approves their plans soon.

“[For] a few months we had discussions with the track and with Liberty and FOM. We also used obviously the experience of people like Ross [Brawn]. But also they have a pretty powerful simulation tool where we have now basically agreed some what we could do to improve the show. This is validated with the track, validated by us, we even have a slot now where the track can operate and do the work.

“Now this is in the hands of the FIA because we need obviously an homologation for that changes. So we need them to look at it and come back to us and tell us ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or changes or not. We made a couple of suggestions so now we’re waiting for them to give us a green light.”

Start, Paul Ricard, 2019
Turns three and four will be changed if the plan is approved

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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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39 comments on “New first sector at Paul Ricard will “create big opportunity for overtaking” – Boullier”

  1. Would be nice.

    Though hordes will still moan and cry regardless of ANY action and ANY number of overtakes if Mercs win.

  2. Haven’t they got enough layouts to choose from??

    1. They should have enough layouts to do every lap on a different layout and still some parts of the track would be unused :)

  3. Can’t see any ‘new straight’ potential in the space they have at that end, so a new overtaking opportunity would probably be extending the current start-finish straight… but there’s a clump of trees about 50m past T1, so they can’t extend it straight on (unless they were naughty and cut the trees down).

    Maybe they could curve the end of the straight and just miss the trees, so it ran across the current chicane with a new T1 either somewhere in the tarmac wilderness between the current T2 and T3, or at the current T5.

    Or if they were feeling adventurous, they could go straight on at the last corner, over the pond, onto the runway, drive the full length of that, and rejoin at T5.

  4. Well as you pretty much imply, without even a basic diagram of the proposal, it’s impossible to comment on the merits of the proposed changes.

  5. How great would it be if they would show us a concept so the fans could actualy share their thoughts…

  6. By the sounds of it, Boullier is probably looking to use some form of the original Verrerie and tighten the entry to L’Hotel in order to create a much bigger braking zone. Regarding the Mistral chicane, if they insist on breaking up the long straight, then I’d prefer them to use the 1E version where it’s like the old Bus Stop at Spa or the Wall of Champions chicane, a fun little kerb-hopper rather than a frustrating chicane like Abu Dhabi or the current Bus Stop at Spa.

    1. @brickles
      Yes, they need to tighten up T1,2 complex and the mistral chicane. Also straighten out turn 3,4,5,6 complex into more like the t10 hairpin at CGV, just need to increase the runoff. The rest of the lap is fine, that will give 3 solid overtaking opportunities per lap.

  7. Lol guaranteed gonna be worse then before

  8. I wish they’d try without the Mistral straight-chicane for at least a single season, though.

    1. @jerejj
      Why? What would that accomplish? The most action has been at the mistral chicane thus far, why get rid if it? It actually needs to be tightened up.

      1. it will do a lot for the racing even, paul ricard is known of his large straight why wouldnt they just for sake test like that? drivers dont like that chicane, they can use other part of the track and make a chicane.

        1. @re-play
          They tried the long circuit without the mistral chicane up until 1985 and decided that they would rather move to the short circuit in 1986. I’ve seen plenty of races without the chicane, they are not better, they are worse, even more boring. That chicane is where a majority of the action has been the last 2 years and you think it would be better to get rid of it?

          1. They tried the long circuit without the mistral chicane up until 1985 and decided that they would rather move to the short circuit in 1986.

            @megatron That was a reaction to the crash which killed De Angelis though, not done in the expectation it would make the racing better.

      2. @megatron To see how it’d be to drive at full-throttle for a massive length and what speeds would be reached towards Signes without the chicane.

        1. @jerejj they reach top gear terminal velocity going into signes already, so nothing in reality would change. We saw 310-330kph going into signed the last couple years, that’s around the same vmax we see at Baku, Spa and Monza. But if they remove the chicken we will see boring drs passes, slipstreams, rather than outbraking maneuvers into both the mistral chicken and signes. If you doubt me then go watch the horrifically boring F1 races at paul ricard in the late 80s. They were right to include the chicken but they should use the tighter one that mimics the last chicken in canada CGV, 1E I believe its called.

          1. @megatron The Mistral straight at its full-length probably wouldn’t even feature an activation-zone, though, for the same reason as the back straights in Spa and Suzuka featuring Blanchimont and 130R respectively due to the high-speed nature of Signes.

        2. Magnus Rubensson (@)
          28th January 2020, 11:43

          The original 1970 layout was good the way it was. (Same with Monza.)

    2. Any long straights are pretty boring because of the drs.

  9. So they will basically repaint the lines on the asphalt. How brilliantly original.

    1. Well someone has to show the folks in Miami how to paint a track on a car park :)

    2. We don’t want to change the DNA of the track

      That’s the problem.. their DNA is paint.

  10. Gavin Campbell
    27th January 2020, 22:16

    They should just run a different layout every year. Just don’t tell the teams until the Friday.

    Go the whole hog – different layouts for F3, F2, F1.

    That should get us through a few of the 500 layouts or whatever – see if any of them are decent.

  11. Cristiano Ferreira
    27th January 2020, 23:36

    I just find it funny that the picture featured in this article shows a pair of McLarens leading the pack. Things were too different while Boulier was the team principal at McLaren.

    I never liked him as a team principal, but at the same time i know he is not the only person to blame for McLaren’s woes.

    1. @Cristiano Ferreira, They only seem to be leading because the top-cars happened to get out of the shot-frame, LOL.

      1. Cristiano Ferreira
        28th January 2020, 23:14

        @jerejj still this picture (and this season) was better than anything that happened while Boullier was the team principal at McLaren. That was my point.

        Well, at least Boullier can be proud of Austria 2016. That was good.

  12. There was talk of changing the layout of Albert Park (Melbourne) to improve overtaking, but so far nothing concrete just talk. Albert Park is one circuit that could definitely use some improvements.

    1. Not really… changing turn 11-12 fast esses to make it somewhat a straight would kill the only exciting corners at the track.

      Albert Park is fine as it is. It’s synonymous with the opening race of the season and because it’s different with most of the general tracks that follow (Bahrain-China-Barcelona), where we see the true form of each car, it usually produces surprises. Not every track has to be overtaking-mania to have a nice race. Plus the problem is the cars mostly, not the tracks, we just have to wait till 2021 to see how they perform on not overtaking-friendly tracks and then see if any tweeks have to be made.

      1. @black ”the problem is the cars mostly, not the tracks, we just have to wait till 2021 to see how they perform on not overtaking-friendly tracks and then see if any tweeks have to be made.”
        – Precisely my sentiments as well, and something I’ve also pointed out myself.

  13. “We don’t want to change the DNA of the track.”

    Well there’s your problem…

  14. To hear that he is so worried about changing the DNA of this track, makes me wonder where in it’s genealogy those ugly blue stripes come from.

  15. Honestly, it should be well known by now that tracks should be a mix of high and low downforce so as not to favor one car characteristic over another, so Boullier proudly saying he want this to be a low downforce is just weird, unless it’s to help his old team.

    1. Tracks in general across the entire calendar… not every track has to be [hairpin-long straight-90 degree corner-fast esses], just to keep happy every team that thrives at different characteristics and not disadvatage one or the other. Most tracks (mosty Tilkedromes) fall in the general motif [big straights-slow corners] and some few circuits offer some variation (Monza vs Monaco, Silverstone, vs Singapore, Suzuka vs Montreal).

      Tracks should make a layout that works for racing, if possible make it iconic to stand out from the rest on the calendar (Mexico’s high altitude, Zandvoort’s banked last corner, etc). Saying that Paul Ricard should remain a “netural characteristic” track – when we clearly see it doesn’t work at all for racing – and not change it to a low/high downforce one that might work, so that it doesn’t disadvatage any team is ridiculous.

      1. What’s ridiculous is not to understand the basic premise that equal lap times is a prerequisite for close racing, and that a mixed track can also be good for overtaking.

  16. yeah. just repaint the car park and you have a new track! :-)

  17. A lack of overtaking wasn’t exactly the problem for this track. The last two events had plenty of it, but still the races were considered boring. If anything, I think there were too many easy passes.

    1. @f1infigures One can’t really define ‘too’ many or little as the quantity isn’t the most crucial aspect when it comes to a decent quality of on-track racing.

  18. The track needs some kerbs, maybe some pot plants or something other than blue stripes. Its a track without jeopardy, or it appears that way.

  19. It would be nice if they went to a low downforce layout. It would be more interesting to make it a bit more like Monza than every other track in f1.

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