Posted on July 20, 2022 Tags: Europe Boils
WITH MUCH OF EUROPE experiencing some of its highest ever recorded temperatures in recent days, there is little respite in the forecast for this weekend’s French F1 Grand Prix. It is, after all, high Summer in the northern hemisphere!
The 5.842km Circuit Paul Ricard, just outside the medieval hillside town of Le Castellet in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, is a 40-minute drive east of France’s second-most populous city, the regional prefecture of Marseille.
Like Silverstone, Paul Ricard is fairly flat. It features big run-off areas, and its 15 corners are a pretty even mix of high, medium, and low-speed, that’s why it’s a popular testing venue.
With the Austrian Grand Prix marking the first time Haas have scored points with both cars in consecutive races in nearly four years, Team Principal Guenther Steiner is dreaming of a P6 finish in the constructors’ standings this year.
Double points at Silverstone after a five-race drought – as Mick Schumacher netted his first ever top 10 finish in F1 – were repeated at the following round at the Red Bull Ring, as Schumacher claimed P6 to Kevin Magnussen’s P8.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but if we can keep seventh, or to end up sixth – it would be nice,” he said this week. “I think anything above sixth will be very difficult because the other teams are very good and they’re a little bit far ahead.
“If we can keep on going as we are going – obviously we will not have the perfect race weekends like the last two with both cars scoring points – but we just need to keep on working hard and maybe we can achieve sixth.
“First of all, we need to make sure that we stay seventh!” Guenther Steiner.
Pirelli’s crack team of tyre gurus has chosen the P Zero White hard C2 compound, the Yellow medium C3 and the Red soft C4 for this extraordinary track.
The French F1 Grand Prix venue is a quite well-balanced circuit, where there is a bit of everything: fast corners and flat-out straights as well as slower and more technical sections.
All of that is placing medium-severity energy loads on the tyres which, according to Pirelli’s F1 boss Mario Isola, is why it makes a good test track.
At 12 metres wide, there are plenty of options when it comes to lines and overtaking: all providing an interesting challenge for the drivers.
The Mistral straight – named after the infamous French wind (akin to Perth’s notorious Fremantle Doctor) – can disrupt the aerodynamic balance of the cars, but it also has the potential to cool the front tyres down.
This can affect the turn-in at Signes immediately afterwards – the most demanding corner of the entire circuit, invariably taken flat-out.
Going off the track at Paul Ricard is to be avoided, at all costs: the distinct red, white, and blue tricolour markings contain a high-friction material designed to slow cars down quickly, with high risk to flat spot the tyres.
Last year’s winning strategy was a two-stopper from Max Verstappen.
It was a gamble as he was the only frontrunner to stop twice, with those behind him stopping just once. But it paid off as the Red Bull driver took the lead again a lap before the chequered flag.
“This year’s French Grand Prix takes place nearly a month later than it did last year, when it rained on Sunday morning, so it’s fair to expect warmer temperatures.
“This year’s generation of tyres and compounds is different and more resistant to overheating than the 13-inch versions used last year, so we’ll have to see how that affects the strategy.
“A bit of history: Paul Ricard was actually where our 18-inch tyres for the current era made their debut, at a test with Renault and Sergey Sirotkin back in 2019.” Mario Isola.
F2 races in France for the first time since 2019. The P Zero White hard and Red soft tyres have been nominated – the same as four of the previous eight rounds this year, most recently at Silverstone. Each driver has five sets of slick tyres (three hard and two soft) to use across the weekend, with a 21-lap sprint Saturday and a 30-lap feature race Sunday.
W SERIES SUPERSTAR Jamie Chadwick (front, centre) is in Le Castellet this weekend chasing her seventh win in the first of back-to-back events, as the international single-seater motor racing championship for women drivers continues its support role of Formula One.
So far this season Jamie has amassed a maximum 100 points and has a commanding 47-point lead over nearest challenger Abbi Pulling in the championship standings with six races remaining.
This is W Series’ 15th race in Europe but the first in France and, while there are no French drivers among the 18 – who represent 10 different nations – on this year’s grid, several of the class of 2022 are familiar with Circuit Paul Ricard.
“Jamie Chadwick is full of confidence at the moment and proving why she has won two W Series titles.
“Her approach to our race weekends so far this season has been very professional and impressive, and it’s helping her be consistent when she gets on track.
“The chasing pack has a tough task on its hands to stop her, but anything can happen, starting this weekend at Circuit Paul Ricard.
“W Series hasn’t been to Le Castellet before, but some of the drivers have, so, given that and the fact we’re at the halfway point of the season now, I expect them to hit the ground running this weekend.”
Dave Ryan (Racing Director, W Series).
Jamie competed here in the Formula Regional European Championship in 2020, finishing all three races inside the top 10.
Belen Garcia has contested five races at Paul Ricard – three in the 2019 F4 Spanish Championship, in which team-mate Nerea Martí also took part, and two in last year’s Formula Regional European Championship. Beitske Visser raced here in the Formula V8 3.5 Series in 2014 and 2016, and in the European Le Mans Series in 2020. Abbi, Fabienne Wohlwend, and Emely De Heus have tested at Paul Ricard.
It’s a home race of sorts for British pair Abbi and last year runner-up Alice Powell, both members of the BWT Alpine F1 Team – owned by French automotive company Groupe Renault. This year, Abbi joined Alpine’s Academy and Affiliate programme, for which Alice is a Talent Identification and Development Mentor.
Alice made history in 2009 when she became the youngest-ever female driver to compete in the Formula Renault UK Championship. A year later, she was the first woman to win a Formula Renault Championship race.
Australian fans can watch the W Series race – scheduled for Saturday – on SBS. Check your local guides for precise times and dates.
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