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French GP: Track notes, DRS, tyres, stats and more

NEWS STORY
20/06/2019

Ahead of this year's race a number of changes have been carried out at Circuit Paul Ricard, most notably in the pitlane.

The pit entry has been reconfigured and resurfaced, and is now on the right side at Turn 14, while the pit exit has also been reconfigured, widened and extended towards Turn 1.

A number of drivers concerned at the pit entrance last year, and over the course of the weekend the speed limit was reduced from 80 km/h to 60 km/h.

The track has also been resurfaced in sections all around the track, principally at Turn 1, from Turn 3 to Turn 7, in sections from just after Turn 8 to just after Turn 11, in Turn 12 and from Turn 14 through to Turn 15.

The new asphalt is of similar specification to the existing asphalt, which should provide a consistent surface over the course of the entire lap.

Once again there are two DRS zones. The first has a detection point 75m before Turn 7 and an activation point 170m after Turn 7, while the second has a detection point at Turn 14 and activation 115m after Turn 15.

Pirelli is bringing the C2, C3 and C4 compounds, the same nomination as Australia, China, and Azerbaijan. This weekend, which is followed by Austria next weekend, marks the first of five back-to-back race pairings this season.

The asphalt here is quite smooth, meaning that tyre degradation is generally low, though the expected warm weather at this time of year in the south of France could lead to some thermal degradation.

The circuit is much more about lateral forces than traction and braking, which should make it easier to find the right balance between front and rear tyre temperatures - even though the long 1.8-kilometre Mistral straight (intersected by a chicane) can cool down the front tyres, and there are some heavy braking zones.

Turn 13 has the second-highest continuous energy demands of the year, after Turn 1 in China.

A one-stopper was the winning strategy last year, used by most competitors, though this was influenced by an early safety car, which came out after the opening lap for five laps.

At 5.8 kilometres in total, this is one of the longest laps of the year, with a number of overtaking opportunities.

Unlike recent races, the top three teams have made virtually identical tyre selections. The only exception is Red Bull's Max Verstappen, who has chosen an extra set of mediums compared to his rivals. Generally speaking, the emphasis is on the red soft tyre.

2019 marks the 60th running of the French Grand Prix since the inception of the Formula One World Championship. The race made its calendar debut as the penultimate round of the inaugural 1950 season. Apart from 1955 it was ever present on the schedule until 2008. After a 10-year hiatus it rejoined the calendar last year.

The French Grand Prix has been held at seven different circuits. Reims hosted the race in 1950-51, 1953-54, 1956, 1958-61, 1963, 1966, with Rouen making appearances in 1952, 1957, 1962, 1964 and 1968. Clermont-Ferrand staged races, in 1965, from 1969-70 and in 1972, while Le Mans hosted a single event in 1967. Dijon featured in 1974, 1977, 1979, 1981 and 1984. However, the race has been most at home at Paul Ricard (1971, 1973, 1975-6, 1978, 1980, 1982-3, 1985-1990, 2018-) and at Magny-Cours, which hosted 18 races from 1991 to 2008.

Michael Schumacher is the most successful French GP driver with eight wins. The German scored all of his wins at Magny Cours, winning twice with Benetton, in 1994 and 1995, and six times with Ferrari (1997, 1998, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006).

Alain Prost is the next most successful driver with six wins. The Frenchman won with four different teams - Renault in 1981 and 1983, McLaren in 1988 and 1989, Ferrari in 1990 and Williams in 1993. Only one other driver has won the French GP with more than two teams - Juan Manuel Fangio. He won in 1950 with Alfa Romeo, in 1954 with Mercedes and in 1957 with Maserati.

Only two drivers on the current grid have French GP wins to their name. Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton won last year's race here on his way to his fifth world title, while Kimi Raikkonen won for Ferrari at Magny Cours on his way to the 2007 title.

Ferrari has more French GP wins than any other constructor, with 17. Williams are next on the list with eight, one ahead of Lotus, while McLaren and Renault have five victories each.

Raikkonen recorded Ferrari's 200th pole position at the 2008 French Grand Prix at Magny Cours. The Scuderia has scored 21 pole positions since, with the most recent
being two weeks ago in Canada, courtesy of Sebastian Vettel.

Mercedes scored its first Formula One victory at the 1954 French GP, its first F1 outing. In the time since, the German marque has taken 93 further victories in two periods. Nine came in its first stint between the 1954 race at Reims and the 1955 Italian Grand Prix. It has recorded 85 wins since its return to the sport in 2010, the most recent being Lewis Hamilton's at this year's Canadian GP.

The Circuit Paul Ricard will be unfamiliar to just one of this year's full-season rookies - Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi. Williams' George Russell, McLaren's Lando Norris and Toro Rosso's Alexander Albon all competed here in last year's F2 championship, with Russell winning the feature race. Norris' best result of the weekend was fifth in the sprint race, while Albon's was seventh, also in the sprint race. The only other driver on the grid not to have raced here is Williams' Robert Kubica.

Check out our Thursday gallery from Le Castellet, here.

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