F1/Rd.8: 2019 French Grand Prix Preview and Starting Grid

Race starts at 3:10 pm in France/9:10 pm in Malaysia

Round 8 of the 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship takes Formula One’s teams and drivers to the Circuit Paul Ricard for the second edition of the French Grand Prix since its hugely popular return to the calendar last year.

Recognised as the world’s first ‘Grand Prix’, the event dates back to 1906 and was held at 16 different venues over the years (7 in the modern F1 championship). As the event was not run for some years – the longest between 2007 and 2017 – this would be the 60th French GP to be run.

The original Paul Ricard circuit used between 1986 and 1990 was a shorter one (3.813 kms) but the one used last year and this weekend is longer at 5.842 kms. With little historical data to draw upon, last year’s visit to the Circuit Paul Ricard was something of a ‘voyage into the unknown’ for most F1 teams.

More data but track has also been resurfaced
However, now they have a wealth of information from the 2018 race, the route to the optimum car set-up has been considerably smoother this year. However, the task will be somewhat complicated by the fact that several sections of the track have been resurfaced and changes have been made to the pit entry and exit.

The track’s combination of high-speed straights, the extremely fast Signes corner at the end of the now bisected Mistral straight, and sequences of technically-demanding, low- and medium-speed corners at the end of sectors 1 and 3 also make the choice of downforce level more complex as teams balance outright speed with agility through the corners. To help with the latter, Pirelli is this year designating its C4 compound as the red-banded soft tyre on offer, the C3 as the yellow medium and the C2 as the white hard tyre.

The championship positions so far
Last year’s French Grand Prix winner Lewis Hamilton heads into this weekend at the head of the Drivers’ standings. The 5-time champion has a significant 29-point advantage over Mercedes-AMG team-mate Valtteri Bottas, while Sebastian Vettel, with 100 points, now lies 62 points behind of Hamilton. The Ferrari driver remains furious that the FIA has rejected his team’s appeal against the penalty in the Canadian GP which lost him his first place.

In the battle for the Constructors’ Championship title, Mercedes-AMG this weekend goes in search of an eighth consecutive victory since the start of the season to further extend its leads over its rivals. The Silvers Arrows currently have 295 points, 123 ahead of Ferrari, with Red Bull Racing third on 124 points.

In an increasingly tight midfield contest, McLaren is currently fourth with 30 points, just 2 ahead of Renault, which goes to its home race having taken its biggest single-race points haul so far this season in Canada a fortnight ago.

Alain Prost in the Renault RE30B during the 1982 F1 championship

Most successful French driver
Alain Prost is the next most successful French driver at the French GP with 6 wins over a 12-year period. He won with 4 different teams – Renault in 1981 and 1983; McLaren in 1988 and 1989; Ferrari in 1990; and Williams in 1993.