Which of Paul Ricard’s 167 tracks should F1 use?

Debates and pollsPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

The Paul Ricard circuit is expected to return to F1 in the near future as the French Grand Prix is set for a revival.

Formula 1 races have been held on two different versions of the track before. The original 5.8km (3.6-mile) track used was until 1985 and after that a shortened 3.8km (2.4-mile) version held the French race until 1990.

The circuit has been extensively renovated since F1’s last race there in 1990 and now boasts a staggering 167 different configurations, all of which can be seen in this document (PDF) on the circuit’s website.

A race could be held on a different variation of the track every season until the year 2180 – so far into the dim and distant future it’s possible Bernie Ecclestone may no longer be with us by then.

However some of these layouts are completely unsuitable for F1 – such as the sub-1km loops which don’t include the pit straight. And it’s much more likely F1 will pick a configuration and stick with it.

But which one? Here’s a few of the more likely and interesting options.

1A – 5.752km

Paul Ricard 1A

This track is the closest to the original Paul Ricard circuit currently available. It includes the high-speed Varrerie S-bend at the start of the lap and the flat-out Mistral straight leading into the famous Signes corner.

The race organisers are tipped to use one of the longer circuit configurations. Track director Stephane Clair told Autosport one of the longer tracks would be used, but it’s not clear which one.

Using the longer version of the track without a chicane in the Mistral straight would encourage teams to use more low-downforce set-ups – something which is seen at very few F1 tracks these days.

1A-V2 – 5.791km

Paul Ricard 1A-V2

This is a very similar configuration to the first one, but with a slightly slower version of Varrerie.

The European Le Mans Series used this configuration for their race earlier this month.

1C-V2 – 5.842km

Paul Ricard 1C-V2

Though it would be spectacular to see F1 cars tackling the entry to Signes at over 200mph, some consideration is being given to using one of the chicanes to interrupt what would otherwise be a flat-out 1.1-mile blast.

This would be unfortunate as recent experience at Abu Dhabi has shown that placing chicanes in the middle of straights is not a good way to promote overtaking.

Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne are familiar with this configuration – they raced on it in last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 meeting.

3A – 3.793km

Paul Ricard 3A

An alternative to using the chicane in the Mistral could be to return to the shorter track configuration which F1 used from 1986 to 1990.

With only nine corners (counting Beausset as two) this would be the simplest track on the F1 calendar – Monza currently has the lowest corner count with 11. At 3.793km (2.36 miles) it would be the second-shortest track on the calendar after Monaco.

We could expect an F1 race on the shorter track to have some of the qualities of the Brazilian round of the championship at Interlagos – a close grid thanks to the short lap length, and leaders kept busy lapping traffic.

It would also have the most laps of any race on the calendar today – 81 – which would be good news for spectators.

Version 2A is similar to this track but slightly longer at 4.087km (2.54 miles). I have suggested 3A as it is closest to the last version of the track F1 raced on.

Paul Ricard tracks compared

Potential distances of an F1 race on each track based on their lap lengths. F1 races must run to a minimum distance of 305km (189.5 miles). Monaco is an exception to this rule, running to a length of 260km.

Track Lap length (km) Race laps Race distance (km)
Paul Ricard 1A 5.752 54 310.608
Paul Ricard 1A-V2 5.791 53 306.923
Paul Ricard 1C-V2 5.842 53 309.626
Paul Ricard 3A 3.793 81 307.233

I say

Carlos Reutemann, Williams, Paul Ricard, 1980The likelihood Paul Ricard’s return to the F1 calendar will come partly at the expense of Spa-Francorchamps is very disappointing.

But that shouldn’t dampen our enthusiasm for seeing F1 cars return to a track they first raced at over 40 years ago.

The race organisers have indicated they would like to hold the race on the longer track. This only makes sense if they intend to use the full Mistral straight without the chicane.

Using the chicane would defeat the point of having the straight there and discourage teams from running their cars in low-downforce trim, which would distinguish the track from many of the other venues on the calendar today.

If it isn’t possible to run the full-length track without the chicane, then they should use a shorter configuration such as 3A.

A race on a busy track with a high number of laps – with lap times potentially dipping under 60 seconds – would make for a worthwhile break from the norm. Which is something the increasing homogenous F1 calendar badly needs.

You say: Which circuit should they use at Paul Ricard?

Which of the options above do you think would work best for F1’s return to Paul Ricard? Or should they use one of the 163 other variations of the Le Castellet track?

Cast your vote below and have your say in the comments.

Which of Paul Ricard's 167 tracks should F1 use?

  • 1A ?ǣ 5.752km (55%)
  • 1A-V2 ?ǣ 5.791km (19%)
  • 1C-V2 ?ǣ 5.842km (10%)
  • 3A ?ǣ 3.793km (8%)
  • A different configuration (6%)
  • No opinion (2%)

Total Voters: 326

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125 comments on “Which of Paul Ricard’s 167 tracks should F1 use?”

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  1. 1A looks the best to me. It has a nice high speed chicane as opposed to 1A-V2 which would help the flow of the circuit.

    Also, who else thought the headline was a joke/exaggeration? :-D

    1. Difference is marginal, but I’d pick A1 too.

    2. It is… Half the track “configurations” are apparently different because the straight into Signes is a slightly sharper right hander. The track has 5-7 proper configurations at best. Otherwise they mayaswell put a traffic cone in the middle of the road and say the track has now 334 routes; take left or right of the cone.

    3. Haha, I though that as well @damonsmedley! I voted for the 1A-V2 version, because I think that with the hairpin bend at the end of the straight it would need F1 cars to slow a bit more at that point of the track than having a fast bend taken almost flat.

      1. I’m with @bascb on this one. I feel the slower Varrerie would also provide an overtaking opportunity (it’s a maybe).

        1. Yes, but if they use the faster chicane, they can carry the speed to overtake in L’école, a much more exciting prospect imo.

          1. @necrodethmortem – When was the last time we saw that happen on a regular basis? Varrerie worked best in the 1980s when there was only a fraction of the aerodynamic grip the cars use today. In 2013 and beyond, the cars will generate so much downforce that Varrerie won’t be much of a challenge. And since they struggle to follow one another once one car closes within a second of another, the only way you’re going to get cars following one another through Varrerie and passing into L’Ecole is with the DRS open.

    4. 1A definetly. Running on low downforce would make that section with the long corners VERY interesting indeed.

      1. If even Monza can’t force the teams into a low-downforce setup, you can scratch that thought completely for Paul Ricard.

        If it’s got corners, they’ll run plenty downforce, because that’s faster overall. And Paul Ricard is lots of corners.

  2. Is there a Magny-Cours layout?

      1. A motorway was made between the circuit and Paris and was opened about a year ago. Maybe this would encourage a higher turnout at Magny Cours, given the three French drivers.

      2. John Edwards
        9th April 2012, 9:49

        Magny Cours disappearing was the best thing thats happened to f1 in the last 5 years.

        1. Really ?
          You like to witness the disappearing of a racetrack in a tradition-rich motorsport country ?
          I thought that the Briatore/Piquet-gate in Singapore, the team-orders scandals and the flourish of boring tracks in countries where no-one turns out to see the race were pretty negative too…

          1. I don’t give a rat’s ass where it is (unless I have to get to it). The only thing that should be important to viewers, is the quality of the track.

            (Economically, it’s an entirely different matter, but that is not my worry)

          2. You like to witness the disappearing of a racetrack in a tradition-rich motorsport country ?

            It’s funny you should say that. People protest Abu Dhabi and Bahrain because they’re boring circuits in country with no motorsport “tradition”. But Magny-Cours was a pretty boring circuit … so it’s suddenly okay for them to keep their race because of France’s long-standing association with motorsport?

            This is just further proof that “tradition” and “history” and “heritage” are over-rated and over-stated concepts.

        2. I can understand the middle-of-nowhere comments, but all the other hate for Magny-Cours confounds me. IMO the layout of the track was fantastic.

          1. The layout is good but the racing there was terrible, Even GP2 struggled to put on a decent race there.

  3. 3A I say. The chicane on 1C-V2 is completely unnecessary.

  4. I voted 1A. 3A seems unlikely given its length, and the chicane as @damonsmedley said in 1A-V2 seems to break the flow of the circuit too much.

    I’m not a fan of 1C-V2 because of the chicane before Signes either..

  5. The configuration I want doesn’t exist! Amazing to think that when there are 167 to choose from!

    Anyway, here is my preferred track.

    1. This configuration is my pick too. Gets rid of that twisty bit at the north-west end of the track and keeps all the high speed bits from everywhere else. What alpha-numeric codename does this one have?

    2. Yeah, I like this one the most so far. 1A & 1A-V2’s straight seems much too long, and 1C-V2’s chicane is…bad, so this would be a good compromise.

    3. I third this one. The twisty bit at the north-west end looks interesting, but would surely keep the teams from running a true low-downforce setup. This truncates the long straight a touch to discourage the temptation of putting in that piddly little chicane while keeping it pretty dang long.

  6. None of the above, this circuit in its current incarnation isn’t fit to hold a GP.

    1. @proesterchen – What makes you say that? Paul Ricard currently has a Grade-1T licence, which means it is suitable for Formula 1 testing. All it needs is a few grandstands (which the French plan on adding) and probably some additional circuit access, and it should get a Grade-1 licence, which is needed for a Grand Prix. So how is the circuit unfit for racing?

      1. Not trying to be a **** here, but didn’t you kind of answer your question yourself there?

        1. There is one thing not to be fit for the public, another not to be fit for racing…

  7. Looking on Google Maps, there isn’t sufficient runoff for the fastest version of the opening ess, so unless they want to make the track even more visually dull than it already is by removing more trees there to create more runoff, there’s no way they will use 1A. Likely, then, 1A V2 will be used, although there is a possibility they might slightly alter it by using the slower version of the Sigmes corner. I doubt that though, there would be too much of an outcry. I really don’t expect they’ll use one of the chicanes on the straight, I’d be disappointed if they did, and I don’t think they can justify using a short circuit.

    1. there isn’t sufficient runoff for the fastest version of the opening ess

      The track already has the highest FIA certification available so what makes you think the run-off is insufficient?

      1. I’m just looking at it visually. Not saying it’s horrifically dangerous or anything, but it’s not very much. I think that they will use the slowest (V2) opening ess bend.

    2. All runoff areas are paved in the highly abrasive special layer. This track is more or less the most high tech in runoff you can get in Europe, every configuration is possible.

      1. Maybe he is looking at it in the wrong way :)

  8. 1A for me.
    Looking at the picture (if it is reliable), it doesn’t seem to permit 1A V2 anyway.

    I prefer longer tracks:
    1. I don’t go to the track myself: so i don’t care about the number of times i will see cars in front of me
    2. Longer tracks=less trafic, so less blue flags stuff. I don’t like blue flags.

    1. @gwenouille The aerial photograph is from when the changes to the track were first made – further configurations have been added since then.

      If the configuration wasn’t available, then what did the ELMS race on?

      1. @keithcollantine: You are perfectly right. Non-sense from me !

        BTW: I liked that bit:

        so far into the dim and distant future it’s possible Bernie Ecclestone may no longer be with us by then.


  9. Like the emphasis that Bernie only MAY not be with us, nice touch!

    In terms of choices I guess it would be governed more by traditional factors of race length and number of laps to be completed but I could be wrong. Would be nice to have a vote by the fans.

    Or even for Bernie it could change mid-race, like his sprinklers idea!

  10. personally, i’d prefer version 1D-V2 [not listed above, but can be found on their website].

    1. Why? Isn’t that very close to the 1C-V2 version? Only with the chicane using both bends?

      1. yes, but exactly because it uses both ends of the chicane is why i’d like it.

        1. You can’t do that, if a car missed its brake point / has a technical problem / comes in contact with another, it slides directly into the race line if you use the double-wide versions.

          1. you do realise that the gap [the unused straight part] between those sections is 80 meters right? And if they really have to, they can put up temporary barriers, those can be suprisingly effective, you can even place them like 60m down the gap, and one slightly more to the front on the side where the chicane starts, so they won’t slide past the far one. Seems simple enough to me.

  11. I voted 1A for a circuit with some fast flow and character. It would be good to see a new circuit that isn’t just a high downforce set up for once. Also since there are no gravel traps, do the blue and red strips of tarmac help to slow down the car much? even though i’ve seen a similar system in Abu dhabi, I’m not sure how they work, do they have an abrasive surface or something along those lines to help slow the cars down when they come off the track?

    1. @tomand95 I’m not sure if the system at Yas Marina is the same, but the runoffs are abrasive at Paul Ricard. They’re colour-coded – The blue stripes are a mix of Asphalt and Tungsten, and the red ones are the same but more abrasive. They minimise braking distance but necessitate a stop for new tyres, so it’s safer than gravel runoff.

      (All of that was pretty much lifted from the Wikipedia article on the circuit, so I don’t know for sure, but that’s as much as I know.)

  12. I was doubting between 1A, 1A-V2 and 2A.

    – 1A would be similar to the old Hockenheimring: very fast, with a combination of slow corners, where the low downforce will make the drivers struggle for grip. The fast chicane would make it very interesting how they can carry speed to attempt an overtake at l’école (turn 3). I’m not sure that turn 1 is over 45° as required by the regulations though.
    – 1A-V2 gives an overtaking opportunity at verrerie, but eliminates the one at l’école. Not as good.
    – 2A has a hairpin at turn 1 and a shorter Mistral straight, which is less boring to watch, and it’s shortness and limited amount of turns would be a breath of fresh air. I’m just not sure there would be a whole lot of action.

    In the end I chose for 1A.

  13. I wouldnt choose any combination, dont care if theres 167 of them, my favortie F1 race is now going to happen once every 2 years, however i wont mind the French Grand Prix coming back if Spain was taken off the calender…

    1. @um1234 Once every 2 years is considerably better than not at all. Try and appreciate why this may well have to be the case.

      1. Maybe because someone needs to earn millions over the back of the racing circuits?

      2. there should be no need to appreciate anything, if you ask every F1 fanatic. 95% of the time, the belgian grand prix will be in the top 3 of the season…

  14. @keithcollantine from what I understand from Appendix O, article 2, of the FIA regulations, the title should say 167 circuits, not tracks.

    I think Paul Ricard is the track; 1A, 2A, etc. are the circuits. Not sure though.

  15. Reports that Bernie Ecclestone has called for a 167-lap race in which each driver has to do 1 lap of every configuration, but can tactically decide what order to do them in, are said to be wide of the mark.

    1. FlyingLobster27
      9th April 2012, 11:28

      Brill comment!

      The track in itself has everything a modern F1 circuit should have, starting with the A380 landing strips either side of the circuit – I even believe they had them before it became the norm! The reason for that is because it’s mostly a test track, and that’s where it has its shortcomings: I’m concerned about the lack of grandstands, and, for the spectators on the far side of the circuit, the distance to the action.
      Racing on config 1A would be something, but it definitely will not happen. 1C, with its straight-amputating chicane (F1 loves those so much, they’d probably use it anyway if they used config 3) is most likely.

    2. @tom-l Thanks for that, made me chuckle quite a lot! :D

    3. slackbladder1
      11th April 2012, 5:52


    4. I’m just thinking of the opportunity for shortcuts should drivers wish to use them. Like the tighter version of the second corner could be used instead of the long, fast second corner to facilitate overtaking and make everything more Bernie like. The possibilities are endless!

  16. What a boring circuit!
    No gravel traps and just lots of straights :/ heck I think I could challenge for points on that track wether or not I stayed on the track or not, there’s that many tarmaced run off areas it wouldn’t matter if I stayed in track or not :/

    1. @nemo87 – The tarmac run-off areas are actually tarmac with a highly-abrasive compound in them. Blue ones cause moderate wear, whist the red zones can strip tyres away in moments.

      1. @prisoner-monkeys
        Don’t they say the same about the run-off at Abu Dhabi?
        Maybe this is more abrasive, I don’t know, but in Abu Dhabi it didn’t change a thing that’s for sure.

        1. @mads

          Don’t they say the same about the run-off at Abu Dhabi?

          Not that I’m aware of. As far as I know, the run-off at Yas Marina is simply painted.

          1. @prisoner-monkeys
            I might just be imagining that I heard it somewhere then.

      2. even so.. still doesn’t punish a driver as a gravel trap does :/ just seems too safe

        1. @nemo87 – Gravel traps haven’t been used for years. There might be the odd gravel trap here and there, but there are none hard up against the circuit the way they used to. The reason is because when a car hits a gravel trap at an angle, it can dig in. And if it digs in, it can flip. Formula 1 switched to tarmac run-off years ago.

          The difference between the Paul Ricard run-off, and the run-off everywhere else is the abrasive compounds in the tarmac at Paul Ricard. Crossing over onto them is like driving on sandpaper – it eats away at the tyres like sandpaper, and forces the drivers to slow right down. Anyone who does stray over onto the blue areas will likely need a pit stop; anyone who ends up in the red (epseically with the Pirelli tyres) may not even have enough rubber to make it back to the pits. So while it doesn’t punish drivers the way gravel traps do, Paul Ricard’s run-off does a hell of a lot more than any other tarmac run-off.

          1. Ok so that answered that question.. Still don’t like the circuit though :) lol

  17. 1A-V2 will be the layout that the GP will be used on.

  18. I took a look at all the possible configurations in that pdf file that was posted in the article and my favorites are 1C-Short and 1D-Short… I seriously doubt they will go for whole Mistral straight.

  19. I voted for 1A, but I think 1C-V2 is the most likely to be used. The curse of chicanes.

  20. Personally, I kind of like this the best, though at 2.70km, it’s too short for Formula 1; the minimum allowable distance for a circuit is 3.5km. I like it for the same reasons as I like the idea of a race around the perimeter circuit in Bahrain – it’s short, and it’s fast, and that would be unique within Formula 1. The race would be 113 laps long.

    If that’s not possible, then I also like this layout. Although it does have a few fiddly sections, it is characterised by high-speed corners that feed out into heavy braking zones, so I imagine it would be quite tricky to get right.

    If the French want a longer course, though, then I suggest 1A-V1-Short. It’s basically the same as 1A, but it doesn’t use the high-speed Varrerie corners. The reason for this is that when Formula 1 was last at Paul Ricard, they were very challenging. But in this day and age, where aerodynamics is king, I don’t think they would prove to be much of a challenge. So I think having the slightly tighter corners would be a better alternative. It also clips off the giant bend at the south-eastern extremity of the circuit. I think it would be far too aero-dependent, so I don’t like it. Cutting it out and running the full length of the Mistral straight would further encourage the use of a low-downforce setup.

    1. I’d go for the second layout you gave us. Niceeeeee.

    2. I certainly like the use of the tiny ‘heel’ at the end of the Mistral straight to make that corner (Signees?) a bit tighter on the turn in. More practically, I think the organsers may have to use the far ends of the unused circuit as parking places for the 150,000 + visitors they need to make the race pay. At the moment, I think the capacity is listed as 15,000, with a new pit building for 12 cars. There’s not much room around there as there is the Le Castellet airstrip on one side, a public road less than 40 metres away to the west. And the paddock is tiny, too. It’s going to be a heck of a squeeze, or they will have to adapt the facility considerably, at great speed and great expense.

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