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 ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ 5.752km (55%)
  • 1A-V2 ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ 5.791km (19%)
  • 1C-V2 ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ 5.842km (10%)
  • 3A ?σΤιΌΤΗ£ 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?

  1. nemo87 (@nemo87) said on 9th April 2012, 11:10

    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 :/

    • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 9th April 2012, 12:57

      @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.

      • Mads (@mads) said on 9th April 2012, 13:11

        @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.

      • nemo87 (@nemo87) said on 9th April 2012, 16:32

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

        • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 10th April 2012, 1:47

          @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.

  2. Lothario said on 9th April 2012, 11:13

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

  3. skodarap (@skodarap) said on 9th April 2012, 11:16

    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.

  4. Estesark (@estesark) said on 9th April 2012, 11:19

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

  5. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 9th April 2012, 11:19

    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.

    • ScuderiaVincero (@scuderiavincero) said on 9th April 2012, 12:36

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

    • Katz, Tim said on 9th April 2012, 18:22

      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.

  6. David B (@david-b) said on 9th April 2012, 12:06

    Absolutely 1A, the closest to the original. Full Mistral straight would be a peculiarity, and Signes bend the same. Verriere was very challenging at the time, don’t know now, but a slower chicane would jeopardize the rithm of the track.
    At the end I would be very happy if this track would come back in the calendar. One of my favorite tracks, absolutely. The only disappoint would be if it alternated with Spa…

  7. Chalky (@chalky) said on 9th April 2012, 12:28

    For all of you against 1C-V2, because of the chicane in the middle of the straight should go and have a chat with Martin Brundle. He crashed testing a LMP car in the fast right hander after this chicance. He describes the circuit well in his book “Working the Wheel”, including his testing crash. May be worth a read.
    There should be no problem with the chicane, as with DRS it may give a 2nd zone for them to use.

  8. rankx (@rankx22) said on 9th April 2012, 12:44

    Who is stronger? Bernie or 2180?
    My money is on Bernie.

  9. Jack Flash (Aust) said on 9th April 2012, 12:58

    TRACK SOLUTION 1D-V1 – 5.844 Km (Page 41 of PDF).
    ie. None of the listed options in Story.
    Easily the best challenge for F1. Fast straights, flowing chicanes rather than bustops, and full range of corner types. Makes for a 52 lap GP (~303 km).

    Solution 1C-V2 pretty close second to that. A slightly tighter 1st chicane layout.
    If Formula 1 is going to return to France (let’s hope so not a Spa’s expense), then Paul Ricard should be where it is held. IMO…. JF

  10. Mads (@mads) said on 9th April 2012, 13:06

    1A seems like the most sensible configuration, and could be interesting due to the low downforce nature, but I still voted 3A.
    I don’t know if it will give very good racing, but it will be vastly different to anything we have on the calender right now, and for that alone I think it would be interesting and a very different challenge for the teams to deal with such a short track.

  11. Mallesh Magdum (@malleshmagdum) said on 9th April 2012, 13:25

    Hope the FIA are reading this article and our poll

  12. Pinball said on 9th April 2012, 13:25

    Just have a 167 lap race and change the configuration every lap. That would keep it interesting!

  13. cjpdk (@cjpdk) said on 9th April 2012, 13:36

    1A would obviously be the best, but isn’t there a limit on how long a straight can be for the FIA? 1A might be too long for that.

  14. Wonderduck (@wonderduck) said on 9th April 2012, 13:51

    They should choose it at random every time they race. Throw all the configurations in a hat, then draw one out Thursday evening.

    It’d certainly liven up the race weekend!

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