With Friday’s free practice France will once more have its own grand prix after a ten year break. However, F1 will go back at the Paul Ricard Circuit which left the calendar in the long ago 1990 after Alain Prost’s win with Ferrari.
After his win in Montreal, Sebastian Vettel heads the world championship ladder with a one point lead over Lewis Hamilton. The World Championship begins again and it will be vital not to make any mistakes and Ferrari must continue on the take the race to Mercedes’ British driver. Red Bull, which announced its new partnership with Honda beginning in 2019 and thus leaving the Renault Power Unit, could be at a disadvantage compared to its direct rivals exactly on the motor front, even if Ricciardo and Verstappen are still fearsome adversaries, as well as possible arbiters of the world championship.
On the Constructors’ front, Ferrari needs Raikonnen’s contribution. He must change his approach to the grands prix and bring important points to the team. Otherwise it will be hard to win the title despite the car showing that it is competitive.
We come back to a circuit that has been renewed in structures and safety, even though in recent weeks there had been work in progress with a partial replacement of the asphalt of the run offs in favour of gravel. The layout will be that used in 1985, the year of my debut in F1, with the first “Verriere” variant made even slower and the very long straight has been “broken” by a chicane.
On the tyre front, Pirelli will bring the Softs, the Supersofts and the Ultrasofts with the tread lowered 0.4mm which led to a lot of talk in Spain. In the latest GPs the tyres did not live up to expectations with the number of pit stops, wear and the difference in performance between mixes.
Beginning this weekend the starting grid will be one new title richer thanks to Fernando Alonso’s win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Gian Carlo Minardi