The final pair of back-to-back races prior to the summer break gets underway with this weekend’s French Grand Prix, before moving onto Hungary on 31 July. Scuderia Ferrari and the other teams have set up camp at Le Castellet, in the Var region in the hinterland between Toulon and Marseille. The Paul Ricard Circuit is named after one of the original owners of the venue and the inventor of the eponymous aniseed drink, which is something of an institution in France. The race weekend is expected to be the hottest of the season so far, with temperatures heading for 40 degrees centigrade, which will make life difficult for the drivers and teams.
High safety standards. Paul Ricard was built in 1970, construction taking less than a year and today, it is at the cutting edge when it comes to race track safety. For several years it was used only as a test track, a popular choice because of the high number of possible configurations. Several safety measures first evaluated here went on to be adopted by the majority of tracks, with large run-off areas, some tarmac and others the traditional gravel.
Chicane on the Mistral. The French Grand Prix returned to the calendar in 2018, after a ten year break and it uses a 5.842 kilometre version of the track, featuring 15 corners. The first sector is the fastest, providing the best overtaking opportunities, especially under braking into turn 1 and going into turn 3. The second section is all about the power unit, featuring the Mistral straight which is broken up by a chicane to reduce the entry speed into Signes, one of the fastest corners on the calendar. Aerodynamics take on a greater importance in the third sector, with a variety of medium speed corners between 11 and 15. There are two DRS zones: one on the main straight, the other on the first part of the Mistral straight.
Programme. The cars take to the track for the first time on Friday with the usual pair of one hour sessions starting at 14 and 17 CEST. Qualifying takes place on Saturday at 16, preceded by the final free practice at 13. The 62nd French Grand Prix to count towards the World Championship gets underway on Sunday at 15. It is run over 53 laps, equivalent to 309.69 kilometres.
Three questions to...
DIEGO TONDI, HEAD OF AERO DEVELOPMENT
1. Can you tell us about your job, how you came to work for Ferrari and why you love motorsport?
"I joined Ferrari in 2007 and then the Scuderia in 2008. Within the Aerodynamics department I have undertaken a variety of tasks, from testing in the wind tunnel to CFD development and today I am head of aerodynamic development. My love of motorsport dates back over 35 years to when I was a child watching the Grands Prix on television with my father. My interest grew and, at university, I understood how aerodynamic development is one of the major contributors to the performance of a Formula 1 car, so I decided to study this topic in great detail. The long-standing relationship between the department at the University of Pisa and Ferrari turned out to be the path that led me to Maranello".
2. What is the Paul Ricard circuit like from an aerodynamic perspective?
"From an aero point of view, Paul Ricard has a wide variety of corner types, some very slow like turn 15 and others very fast such as 7 and 10. Despite that, it’s one of the tracks where aerodynamic downforce is a major factor in terms of lap time. Our simulation work shows that the optimum compromise is a medium downforce set-up, mainly because of the very long straights. This season in particular, with these new cars, we will have to look at the small details to find the optimal set-up that will then allow us to get the most out of the car".
3. We are expecting very hot conditions. What countermeasures can be put in place to help the car in this extreme situation?
“The high temperatures predicted for the French Grand Prix this weekend mean that ensuring the power unit and the tyres perform at their best is a real challenge and it’s up to those working on the aerodynamics to take the appropriate countermeasures. We will use a medium-high level of bodywork cooling, using the apertures of the cooling gills on the upper part of the bodywork and we will work on the brake ducts to maximise rim cooling, with the aim of getting heat away from the tyres. The track characteristics mean that we would have been doing this anyway to contribute as much as possible to tyre management, but the hot conditions will make this task even more demanding. As for the brakes, there are no particularly heavy braking points, so in terms of cooling for these components, the race at Paul Ricard is not a concern”.
Born on 21/2/1982
in Galatina (Italy)
Photos of Diego Tondi are available for download at:
GP entered: 1041
Seasons in F1 73
Debut Monaco 1950 (A. Ascari 2nd; R. Sommer 4th; L. Villoresi ret.)
Wins 242 (23.25%)
Pole positions 237 (22.79%)
Fastest race laps 258 (24.78%)
Total podiums 789 (25.26%)
Ferrari Stats French GP
GP entered 60
Debut 1950 (P. Whitehead 3rd)
Wins 17 (28.33%)
Pole positions 17 (28.33%)
Fastest race laps 15 (25%)
Total podiums 50 (27.78%)
French GP: facts & figures
4. The number of times Michael Schumacher pitted on his way to victory in the 2004 French Grand Prix. In qualifying, the Ferrari driver was beaten to pole position by the Renault of Fernando Alonso. At the start, the Spaniard kept the lead, with Schumacher unable to pass despite having a stronger pace, as the German’s F2004 lost downforce when he closed on Alonso. This was in the days of mid-race refuelling and on the pit wall, the decision was therefore taken to switch to a new strategy, going from three stops to four shorter stops as less fuel would be put in each time. Michael managed to find a clear track ahead of him and, having been told to go flat out all the way, was lapping at an amazing pace, taking the win, which would be a key step on the way to clinching the title less than two months later in Belgium.
12. The number of centilitres in a standard size glass of champagne, the drink that is a symbol of France around the world. Usually, the 75 centilitre bottle is split between six glasses. Legend has it that the sparkling wine’s first appearance in a motor racing scenario was a chance encounter when, at the end of the 1923 French Grand Prix at Tours, Henry Segrave, the thirsty but teetotal winner couldn’t get his hands on anything other than a glass of champagne. Bubbles have been part of Formula 1 tradition since 1950, when Juan Manuel Fangio was presented with a Jeroboam, twice the size of a Magnum, on winning the French Grand Prix. Spraying champagne on the podium was also a happy accident. At the end of the 1966 Le Mans 24 Hours, Jo Siffert was presented with a bottle of champagne that had been left too long in the sun. So as soon as the wire cage was removed, the cork shot out, spraying the drivers and the fans at the podium. At the end of the following year’s endurance classic, Dan Gurney who had clearly taken inspiration from the previous race, deliberately sprayed those with him on the podium. As for Formula 1, Jackie Stewart claims he initiated the champagne spraying ritual in 1967. Since 2021, champagne has been replaced on the Formula 1 podium by the Italian sparking wine Trento Doc.
17. The number of tracks that have hosted the French GP since 1906. The first was held at Le Mans which went on to be the temple of endurance racing, only hosting the Formula 1 World Championship the once, in 1967. The current Paul Ricard venue at Le Castellet will this year host the race for an 18th time, the first dating back to 1971. It thus shares the record for the most races with Magny-Cours which staged the race from 1991 to 2008. In third place on 15 races – 11 of them counting towards the Formula 1 World Championship - is Reims, followed by Montlhery, the country’s first permanent race track, with nine editions.
23. The average number of overtaking moves in the French Grand Prix. Last year’s race can claim the most, with 52 at Le Castellet when Max Verstappen was the winner. The least exciting French race actually took place on one of the greatest days in Scuderia Ferrari’s Formula 1 history, when Michael Schumacher clinched the title in 2002. There were just two passing moves, one from the German champion, who made the most of a mistake from Kimi Räikkönen, who had skidded on oil from Olivier Panis’ Toyota, to take the lead and wrap up the title battle as early as July.
320. The number of bread baguettes eaten every second in France. The country boasts around 35,000 bakeries, which also produce croissants and pain au chocolat, of which 50% of the population consume at least four times a week.
At Ferrari 75 years ago
July is a very busy month for the Scuderia. After winning at Forli, the team is racing again on Sunday 13 July 1947 in the Circuito di Parma. It enters two cars, the 125 S Competizione with mudguards and an electronic system for Tazio Nuvolari and a 125 S for Franco Cortese. Nuvolari is stuck on the start line with an engine problem. The Italian ace doesn’t give up and once the problem is fixed, he sets off in pursuit of the field. He closes lap after lap and eventually wins, with Cortese ensuring a one-two finish, the first in the Scuderia’s history. Nuvolari is exhausted and has to be helped from the car by his mechanics. A week later, the team is back in action at the Cascine circuit in Florence. On Sunday 18 July, a crowd of almost a hundred thousand spectators is packed into the track, located within public gardens. Nuvolari is not there, having yet to recover from his efforts in Parma, so Cortese is entrusted with his car. The 125 S is in the hands of Ferdinando Righetti, who goes on to finish third, while his team-mate has to retire with ignition problems. The race is won by Felice Bonetto in a Delage, from Vincenzo Auricchio in a Stanguellini.