A couple of things strike me from the recent French GP circuit changes story over at Autosport. When it was announced that the Paul Ricard circuit would be the host for the returning French Grand Prix in 2018, I was surprised but very happy as I believe there should be a French and German Grand Prix.
The surprise was the venue and I said at the time that the circuit is FIA graded for Formula 1 but what I thought was an issue, and I checked recent photos, is the complete lack of fan amenities—most specifically grandstands. A few folks commented telling me that’s no big deal but I think my concern was correct as circuit bosses and race organizers are now saying:
“With respect to the circuit itself, minor changes [will be made],” added Arnaud Pericard, who is part of the French GP organisation team.
“The FIA had an inspection visit a couple of months ago and it’s just minor changes with respect to the kerbs, which we’ll do this winter.
“The circuit is already F1 graded for a long time, so it’s not massive change.
“The most important investment will be the stands, they are a big deal.”
Organisers are working towards a “conservative” capacity of between 60,000-65,000 for race day.
That will be split between 40,000-45,0000 in grandstands and 20,000-25,000 in general admission.
What I also find very compelling is the other change to the circuit which is a chicane on the Mistral Straight:
“The FIA did some research and the speed before the chicane will be 343km/h [213mph], so the chicane is useful,” French GP managing director Gilles Dufeigneux told Autosport.
“The chicane has been added to prevent the engines from running at full speed on a straight uphill line of 1.8km.
“We also wanted to facilitate the creation of an additional overtaking area.
“It will provide three straight lines where the cars can go at full speed before two massive decelerations – Turn 1 and Turn 8 and a flat out turn – Signes.
“According to the FIA, cars will reach 344km/h before the chicane and 343km/h at the apex of Signes.
“The drivers have told us the chicane will probably be an opportunity for non-DRS overtakes during the race.
“We presented the new configuration of the circuit during the Austrian Grand Prix weekend to several drivers including Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso.
“They liked it and said the 5.8km configuration was a nice option.”
So here we have a glowing review for adding chicanes and slowing the cars so the engines don’t take too much punishment—presumably as they don’t want to harm these complex pieces of kit and as they only get four per season, we wouldn’t want them to have to run flat out for too long—and the very technical element the sport uses and fans dislike in the form of DRS, is used as a reason for putting the chicane in so there might be opportunities for non-DRS passes.
Am I the only one that finds that odd? DRS is a construct of your own making and many fans hate it as artificially impacting the sport and now you’re making changes to tracks to try and mitigate its use? Why not just ban the DRS construct for 2018 and then any pass anywhere will be non-DRS related? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills here. To be fair, the Mistral Straight is a long affair and breaking it up does add some element of passing and complexity to the track.
The good news is that the French Grand Prix is back but changing the Mistral Straight to compensate for the hybrid power units and DRS seems a bit odd to me. I understand why they are doing it and that’s logical but it speaks back to a bigger issue at large with F1, hybrid engines and DRS are limiting factors to good racing and that should be what they are changing, not circuits.
Hat Tip: Autosport