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

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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. damonsmedley (@damonsmedley) said on 9th April 2012, 9:33

    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

    • JCost (@jcost) said on 9th April 2012, 10:06

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

    • Theo said on 9th April 2012, 10:20

      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.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th April 2012, 10:25

      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.

      • ScuderiaVincero (@scuderiavincero) said on 9th April 2012, 12:13

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

        • necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 9th April 2012, 12:24

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

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 9th April 2012, 13:41

            @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.

    • Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 9th April 2012, 13:16

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

      • Proesterchen (@proesterchen) said on 9th April 2012, 13:25

        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. sw6569 (@sw6569) said on 9th April 2012, 9:35

    Is there a Magny-Cours layout?

      • alexf1man (@alexf1man) said on 9th April 2012, 9:44

        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.

      • John Edwards said on 9th April 2012, 9:49

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

        • Gwenouille said on 9th April 2012, 10:07

          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…

          • JCost (@jcost) said on 9th April 2012, 10:10

            +1.

          • LosD said on 9th April 2012, 11:30

            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)

          • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 9th April 2012, 13:33

            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.

        • SouthPawRacer (@southpawracer) said on 9th April 2012, 10:27

          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.

          • Dave_F1 said on 9th April 2012, 12:21

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

  3. Slr (@slr) said on 9th April 2012, 9:39

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

  4. Sandlefish (@sandlefish) said on 9th April 2012, 9:41

    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. sam3110 (@sam3110) said on 9th April 2012, 9:58

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

    Anyway, here is my preferred track.

    http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=5396579

    • sumedh said on 9th April 2012, 12:28

      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?

    • Pamphlet (@pamphlet) said on 9th April 2012, 15:06

      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.

    • Jason (@jmwalley) said on 9th April 2012, 15:27

      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. Proesterchen (@proesterchen) said on 9th April 2012, 10:05

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

  7. Jack Cowie said on 9th April 2012, 10:10

    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.

    • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 9th April 2012, 10:16

      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?

      • Jack Cowie said on 10th April 2012, 2:10

        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.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th April 2012, 10:28

      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.

  8. gwenouille (@gwenouille) said on 9th April 2012, 10:14

    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.

  9. GeorgeTuk (@georgetuk) said on 9th April 2012, 10:14

    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. Txizzle (@txizzle) said on 9th April 2012, 10:17

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

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 9th April 2012, 10:31

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

      • Txizzle (@txizzle) said on 9th April 2012, 10:41

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

        • Proesterchen (@proesterchen) said on 9th April 2012, 10:50

          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.

          • Txizzle (@txizzle) said on 9th April 2012, 15:10

            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. tandrews (@tomand95) said on 9th April 2012, 10:20

    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?

    • SouthPawRacer (@southpawracer) said on 9th April 2012, 10:34

      @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. necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 9th April 2012, 10:32

    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. Umar Majid (@um1234) said on 9th April 2012, 10:42

    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…

  14. necrodethmortem (@necrodethmortem) said on 9th April 2012, 10:46

    @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. Tom L. (@tom-l) said on 9th April 2012, 11:06

    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.

    • FlyingLobster27 said on 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.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 9th April 2012, 18:35

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

    • slackbladder1 said on 11th April 2012, 5:52

      LOL

    • Matty said on 11th April 2012, 23:19

      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!

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