The circuit Paul Ricard circuit measures 5,8 km making it one of the longest on the F1 calendar. Like Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone this above-average length is a guarantee of variety, pleasure and spectacle for drivers and fans alike.
A multidisciplinary team got down to examining the layout in collaboration with the FIA and the FOM. Studies and tests were carried out. It was a question of adapting it to the requirements of Formula 1, and making it a technical and sporting setting in which the drivers would be able to display the full measure of their talent in complete safety without watering down the original character of the layout.
The track was widened at the entry and the exit of certain corners, at the S de la Verrerie, the Camp turn and at the end of the third sector in the Virage du Pont. The objective was to create braking and acceleration zones requiring different trajectories to facilitate smoothness and overtaking. At la Verrerie, the angle of the entry to this string of corners has been tightened up to ensure heavier braking at the end of the pits straight.
The chicane that cut the Mistral straight in two provides marvellous opportunities for overtaking and give the track a certain prestige with a layout consisting of three straights. The flow of corners is varied and the speeds is pretty high as the cars race in a medium downforce setup.
Jean Alesi, the Paul Ricard circuit ambassador, took the initiative to show the layout to different drivers. They are the best judges of the quality of the challenge they face and the overtaking opportunities that a circuit can offer. Like Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raïkkönen they are all very enthusiastic about coming to race on the Paul Ricard circuit.
Paul Ricard – Milestones
Motor sport is undergoing a complete revival in France, but permanent tracks are still rare in France. Paul Ricard therefore wants to create an ultra-modern circuit that will set new standards, particularly in terms of safety, a real obsession. He then chose a garrigue language on the Castellet plateau, between Marseille and Toulon, not far from Bandol. After less than a year of work, the Paul Ricard Circuit was inaugurated on April 19, 1970. Drivers such as Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo were consulted to define this 5.8 km track.
The Paul Ricard Circuit hosted its first Formula 1 Grand Prix de France in 1971. The first driver to write his name in the Paul Ricard guest book was the Scottish Jackie Stewart on Tyrrell. But in the eyes of the public, the star of the day is François Cevert. Stewart’s young teammate stepped onto the podium for the first time and thrilled the hearts of the crowd, captivated by both his talent and his natural charm. The motorcycle Grand Prix de France in 1973, and soon all the major championships will stop over in the Var.
Having become the main venue for the Grand Prix de France, the Paul Ricard circuit is the scene of the rise of the French drivers and a certain Alain Prost. If Alan Jones (Williams) comes to counter the ambitions of Laffite and Pironi (on Ligier) in 1980, the French drivers catch up magnificently in 1982. René Arnoux, Alain Prost, Didier Pironi and Patrick Tambay have achieved the unique feat of winning the first four places at the Grand Prix de France for the greatest public pleasure! “Only” second, Alain Prost soon took his revenge: he won in 1983 at the wheel of a Renault and consolidated his lead at the head of a championship that seemed promised to him.
As the Grand Prix de France migrated to Magny-Cours, the 1990s marked the end of an era for the Paul Ricard circuit. Once again, Alain Prost makes it a point of honour to win on his land. He scored a third consecutive victory on the circuit that marked the beginning of his career (he won the Elf Steering Wheel in 1975) and offered Scuderia Ferrari its 100th F1 victory!
The site (circuit and aerodrome) is purchased by Bernie Ecclestone. Its objective, to make the Circuit Paul Ricard a high-tech track exclusively dedicated to testing and communication operations. After one last Bol d’Or, the circuit closes its doors to the public.
The circuit layout is modified, curves are reviewed or deleted, others are created, to offer many configurations. In 2002, the Circuit Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track innovated with an innovative alternative to gravel bins: large run-offs following the trajectories leaving the track. These clearance areas adopt the Blue Line concept, abrasive lines that promote vehicle deceleration. A new safety standard that will be adopted by several circuits in the future. A graphic bias, too, that gives the site a new identity.
The Paul Ricard HTTT Circuit is designated as the first centre of excellence by the FIA Institute for Motor Sport Safety.
After the construction of a grandstand, the Circuit Paul Ricard reopens its doors to the public. It has hosted all major championships since then.
Committed to the idea of an emblematic event for the Sud Provence Alpes-Côte d’Azur Region, of which he was then President, Christian Estrosi gave the decisive impetus to the rebirth of this Grand Prix de France in 2016. After weeks of secret negotiations, the good news can finally be announced on December 6: thanks to the creation of a GIP, the Grand Prix de France is back on the Paul Ricard circuit in 2018! Work is being carried out to make numerous improvements to the site and the runway. The curves of the Camp, the Glass Factory and the Bridge are modified. A new Media Center with more than 500 journalists and a new 16,000 m2 paddock have been created.
After major work in early 2018, the winter break at the end of the year was conducive to further improvements on the Paul Ricard Circuit. Changes have been made to the pitlane (pit lane) and the track. Following the complete resurfacing of the track upstream last season, further work was undertaken this winter to remove the “patches” present in the curves. Concerning the pit lane, changes have been made to improve driver safety. The entrance to the pitlane was first moved before the bridge bend. This modification resulted in the construction of an additional bridge and the addition of TecPro protections and triple slide rails.