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2022 French Grand Prix preview

3 weeks ago

Writer:

Andrew Frankel | Ti co-founder

Date:

22 July 2022

This weekend’s French Grand Prix will be the 62nd since the Formula 1 World Championship started in 1950. It will take place at the Paul Ricard circuit in a country that has held F1 Grands Prix at more locations than any other. Seven to be precise.

Since you’re asking: Ricard, Reims, Rouen, Dijon, Clermont-Ferrand, Magny-Cours and, just once, Le Mans. It is also the oldest Grand Prix, the first held in 1906 (decades before the F1 era), also at Le Mans.

Paul Ricard has held the race 15 times since 1971, second only to Magny-Cours on 18, but it is a quite different track today, largely following the outline of the original (created by Pastis magnate Paul Ricard) but completely rebuilt as a modern test facility 20 years ago. It is believed to be owned by Slavica Ecclestone as part of her divorce settlement, meaning the joke calling the on-site hotel the Bernie Inn no longer works.

Setting a car up for Paul Ricard is not easy and deliberately so. Almost every kind of corner is encountered among the 15 turns of the 3.63-mile lap but those who wind on too much downforce will struggle all the way down the famous Mistral Straight. It is also a very technical circuit, particularly towards the end of the lap where a small mistake in one turn can compound into a larger one at the next.

Ricard’s endless Mistral Straight

Ferrari and Red Bull remain favourites, the former now having found the straight-line speed of the latter. But what about Mercedes? The circuit’s character is quite like Silverstone so it should be one of the better circuits for the team. But remember the rules limiting the flexing of floors has been delayed until Spa and it will still require a big trip up from the top two teams to provide Lewis or George with even a sniff of a win.

Ricard is a great circuit, but could be greater still. If the chicane was removed, the Mistral Straight would be the longest in F1, so the teams would have to run less downforce and maybe even turn the once magnificent Signes curve at its end from an acceleration zone back into a proper, heart-stopping corner again. In fact, demand from other locations around the world means it will be doing well even to stay on the 2023 calendar.

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