Paul Ricard reprofiling and resurfacing, 2021

Paul Ricard reprofiles corners in bid to improve racing

2021 F1 season

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The Paul Ricard circuit has undergone an extensive resurfacing and reprofiling programme which it is hoped will aid racing in this year’s French Grand Prix.

The changes cover 70% of the track’s 5.8-kilometre length and all of its 15 corners except the high-speed right-hander Signes (turn 10). Studio Dromo, who handled recent track renovations at Zandvoort and Silverstone, were enlisted to plan and oversee the changes, which were completed in June.

As with their 2019 reworking of Silverstone, Dromo had to work within the confines of the existing track layout. Plans revealed last year to alter the first sector to aid overtaking have been put on hold.

“We had the requirements to fix some corners from an asphalt perspective and while we were there, we said ‘OK, let’s do the maximum that we can do within the boundaries that we have’,” Dromo owner Jarno Zaffelli told RaceFans. “It was more or less like Silverstone, we had to stay within that layout.”

Paul Ricard reprofiling and resurfacing, 2021
Over two-thirds of the track’s length has been resurfaced
“We applied the same methodology that we applied before in Silverstone,” he explained. “We reprofiled all the corners that we basically resurfaced. The only one that was not reprofiled was turn 10, the other ones were just slightly changed.

“Some things for the drainage, some things for the overtaking manoeuvres and so on. So the same cure that we tried to apply in Silverstone.”

The “most dramatic change” has been made at turn five, a slow right-hander from which the drivers accelerate towards one of the best overtaking opportunities on the circuit. The corner now has more of a crest in the middle that “was done for drainage purposes”, but which also presents more of a challenge to drivers as it lies “exactly in the middle of the racing line”.

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Turn seven, which brings drivers onto the Mistral straight, now has a more progressive transition in camber. “It is before a long straight, so the grip in that particular corner will be key for the speed arriving in turn eight and preparing the overtaking there,” explained Zaffelli.

Paul Ricard reprofiling and resurfacing, 2021
The bump at the pit lane entrance has been removed
In general, F1 drivers should find the track much smoother than it was when they last raced there in 2019.

“Definitely they will feel it’s much, much less bumpy in the newly-resurfaced area. In the parts that we didn’t do it – mainly straights – they will feel the bumpiness that was and when they go in the black area they will feel much smoother than before.

“They will feel some more support. For example, if you’re going into turn 11 they will feel more support. In the races that we had all around this year they already said that in turn 11 they will feel it.”

The pit lane entrance has also been resurfaced and a bump removed.

Another limitation on how far the track could be changed came as a result of a request from Formula 1’s official tyre supplier. Much of Pirelli’s development work for next year’s new, 18-inch tyres was conducted at Paul Ricard, and they wanted a similar asphalt mixture to be laid so they can continue to generate relevant data at the circuit.

“They kindly requested us to try to improve what they have but, in terms of asphalt, to keep something very similar,” said Zaffelli. “So we did exactly that.

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“We improved it in terms of quality in construction. But in the end, the teams, they will find an asphalt that, even if it’s slightly darker because it’s newer, will feel absolutely the same as the asphalt before. So that was important because it’s used like a proving ground, not only a racing track.”

Paul Ricard reprofiling and resurfacing, 2021
Paul Ricard’s unusual features make renovations complicated
Paul Ricard was redeveloped as a dedicated testing facility in the nineties. Several advanced features were installed at the time including an automatic sprinkler system. During their work Dromo also uncovered a development of an artificial track heating system on the Mistral straight approaching the chicane at turn eight. These features increase the complexity and cost of any redevelopment work, another reason why more significant changes to the track have been delayed.

Despite the restrictions they had to work within, Zaffelli said there was considerable scope for improvement, and is hopeful the resurfaced track will prove to be a change for the better when F1 returns in June.

“When we arrived there, there was a [very] high amount of small refinements and tweaks that we can implement that we tried to do. The focus was really that at this stage. This was done and we were happy with the results.

“But now we need to see Formula 1 coming there. It is changing the regulations, it’s changing a lot of stuff. So it will be very interesting to understand if the geometric modifications are doing a difference like they did in Silverstone.”

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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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43 comments on “Paul Ricard reprofiles corners in bid to improve racing”

  1. Get rid of the chicane.

    1. … or better yet, the entire track

      1. Possibly, although if we assume the track’s not going anywhere then it would serve to make things a lot better than they currently are.

        It’s a bit like Abu Dhabi. The powers that be stare at the track layout and wring their hands and ask, “But how do we make this better?” and completely ignore the blindingly obvious answer staring them and everybody else in the face.

        Get rid of the chicane!

    2. Jonathan Parkin
      11th February 2021, 8:29

      I don’t mind the chicane simply because it reduces the speed into Signes at the end of the Mistral Straight. Martin Brundle in Working the Wheel said it was quite a dangerous corner.

      Now if we could just keep the F1 layout and get rid of everything else and replace with grass and gravel, then we would have a racetrack

      1. @Jonathan Parkin I’d like them to try without the chicane (or any alternative form of it) at least once.

    3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      11th February 2021, 9:44

      Here its is without the chicane.


      The one corner needing a reprofile was Signes (sacrilege I know)

  2. So just a paint job then 🤔

  3. The magic word for every bad racetrack on the current F1 calendar is (positive) camber. I am happy to see it used at least once here.

    1. @hahostolze Absolutely 100% that’s what it’s all about, but the camber implemented here doesn’t sound like it will make much difference. Let’s see.

  4. I expect the same result as before.

    1. It always ends in that.

  5. I don’t want to sound like Bernie here but…

    They have sprinklers. That could be used to make races more interesting. It would be a lot cheaper than all this resurfacing.

    It would probably set a bad example though. Might be nice at one race for a novelty, we wouldn’t want it at lots of tracks.

    1. Yep, put a 2 year old in charge of the sprinklers and we will get a very unpredictable race (only 2 though, anyone older and F1 teams and their fans will cast aspersions / post conspiracy theories on forums that the rain shower was pre-planned :))

    2. Can we then also have Mario driving around in his cart or crossing the track once in a while? Or maybe we can throw fruit at F1 cars which they have to collect for points

      1. Good idea only 1 problem how do prevent the deads of the drivers? The Halo protects only against big objects a apple at those speeds i would want to recive that on my helmet.

        1. Imagine what a 30 cm gold coin would do!

    3. @napierrailton Half of me can’t believe I’m typing these words, but it honestly sounds like…not the worst idea. I think the idea as Bernie put it was always that you’d turn them on in the middle of a race and surprise everyone. But actually, if you announced what the conditions would be beforehand, you could do it in a fair way — have a wet qualy with a constant level of water, or wet the track before the race and turn them off before the lights go out to create a wet-dry race.

      It’s of course not a true wet race, with the thrilling unpredictability of the elements — it’s something else, a modification to the surface that can be exciting and challenge drivers and teams without being a gimmicky lottery or penalising success. It wouldn’t be unlike what we had in Portimao or Turkey last year, with the unusually challenging surface conditions. And it would give fans in attendance the chance to see a wet race without being miserably soaked.

      But you’re also right that it would probably open Pandora’s box…

  6. I’ve lost count of the number of times drivers have said the bumps add character they add an additional level of difficulty they make the track more interesting. Yet every track owner seems to want their track to be like a super smooth hwy, they just don’t listen do they.

    1. @johnrkh Resurfacing a tarmac is necessary occasionally, both for race tracks and regular roads. Not often, but every x number of years, etc., to prevent the surface from eventually becoming entirely unusable. Nothing to do with what individuals say about having a character and other stuff.

      1. @jerejj I Rd can be resurfaced without taking out the bumps and dips as long as they’re not to severe. Happens all of the time on secondary Rds.

      2. @jerejj I agree with @johnrkh — the bumps absolutely do add character, and that’s part of the appeal of the street circuits and even many of the older road courses that IndyCar races on. Tracks only need to be resurfaced when they become too bumpy for the cars that race on them, or start breaking up from the loads.

        The problem is since the tracks are all billiard-smooth, F1 cars are now designed for them, and any track that dared to let the surface wear would be criticised for being too bumpy. If the tracks all banded together and agreed to let the tracks weather in, maybe the teams would be forced to adapt!

  7. Tbh i agree with you there, perhaps 1 race with sprinklers per year… Creating a bit of crazy situation, dry start, wet, dry again and wet finish maybe.

    Paul Ricard should be given exclusive right to have sprinklers and then we’d see some fun!

  8. Without gravel traps, this track is entirely useless for F1, except for testing.

    1. Certain Wet tests this circuit is ideal!

  9. Underwhelmed. I don’t like the first chicane and would have liked to see the fastest configuration used there.

    1. @zomtec Maybe it’s going to get used. I also wouldn’t mind using the T1-T2 alternative with the slightest turning angle.

  10. No jeopardy,no diggity.

    Those paint lines look very much like deck chair lines. Maybe they could move them about a bit as well. Titanic misunderstanding of the problems of Paul Ricard.

  11. Did they at least get rid of the stupid stripes?

    1. If only, the race is pure agony to watch on TV, to the point that i have skipped every race after only the first few laps because it is nausea inducing. What idiot thought it a good idea to do that anyways?

  12. I really dislike this track, the layout is not the reason. The fact that its a load of lines painted on a big piece of tarmac is the problem. When you watch the classic tracks you can determine the location of the car from a quick look at the background, profile, run off etc. On this track its simply a car next to a painted line – could be anywhere. No penalty for going wide (I mean in terms of physical consequences rather than in a stewards room 10 minutes later).
    Time for the track to go, I think last year showed how the cars look on some great classic tracks – why keep a track that is almost universally derided as poor.

  13. Paul Ricard is the worst track of the calendar on television and nothing really exciting nor brave to drive on. It’s a high speed test track, nothing to add on.

    On a better note, I’m pleased they’re hearing the critics and somehow trying to operate in this direction.

    Point is, as a Frenchman I never been to Circuit du Castellet or whatever the name is, but I’ve been to Spa a dozen times.

  14. Get rid of the epiletic stripes. Makes me sick. I loose the entire overview of the track. It looked so good in the seventies. And the cars too.

  15. Want to improve the track? Bury it.

  16. Seems like a waste of asphalt to me

  17. Much rather they got Magny Cours up to modern standards and raced there again.

    1. @stuben Magny-Cours has the necessary FIA grade 1, but it wouldn’t be any better for the quality of racing in modern F1 cars, even worse. The T3 hairpin is the only proper spot for overtaking. Otherwise, the track is just corners and short straights.

      1. @jerejj At least some parts of the track are vaguely challenging for the drivers, though I imagine the two high-speed chicanes either side of the 180° corner would be easily flat-out in a modern F1 car.

      2. @jerejj Granted it was never the best track for overtaking however I’d still place it above Ricard. Naturally flowing and much easier on the eye, plus like Andy says the chicanes would be awesome to watch.

  18. The run-off areas the general aesthetics of the track make it look/feel so much more boring that the layout really is. If the run-off areas were replaced with grass (and some gravel), I think the track would instantly become considerably better in everyone’s eyes. Honestly speaking, the layout is no worse than Portimao for me. It’s just what surrounds the actual track itself that makes this race so unappealing to viewers.

  19. I wonder what a poll of F1 fans would look like about the “perfect” F1 track? Does it exist?

    1. It’s called Spa-Francorchamps.

  20. Get rid of the chicane, increase the banking on some corners, put the gravel traps back in. Even a pair of esses a la COTA to replace the chicane would be an improvement. The best tracks are 3D.

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