If each grand prix on the calendar has a unique selling point that separates it from its siblings – Abu Dhabi’s the futuristic one, Spa the classic one, Silverstone the overcast one – then Le Castellet is undoubtedly the drop dead gorgeous one.
Reclining atop a Provençal plateau like a sort of asphalt Françoise Hardy in the movie Grand Prix, the Circuit Paul Ricard and the countryside in which it sits are just too darned pretty for words. It’s the sort of chalky-hilled, vineyard encrusted, sun-drenched hellhole Insta envy was designed for.
This, then, is grand prix racing as ‘60s French supermodel' as it gets – rich with heritage, fairly posh, astoundingly good looking and, as we found out last year, utterly unapproachable.
Good news though! Apparently the organisers have solved the traffic problems and this time out people might actually get to the track in time to see F1 cars driving round it. That’s something of a bonus and means that in future the French Grand Prix is a slam-dunk for grand prix tourism should you tire of the charms of Hockenheim or Sochi.
But, we hear you ask, what of the track, what of the quality of the racing challenge? Well, we know one driver who’s just itching to get back home, and another who can still taste last year’s champagne, so we’re going to guess that this is one race Pierre and Max are looking forward to…
Home race, Pierre, so how much are you looking forward to this weekend in Le Castellet?
It’s a really special weekend for me, so I’m really excited to be on track there with all the fans and extra support. I’m fully focused and dedicated to get the best result I can and it would be a special moment to do well in front of my home fans. Quite a lot of people are coming to support me, which makes the weekend extra special. It brings good vibes and creates a special atmosphere.
Last year was the sport’s first trip back to France after a decade away and your first time there as an F1 driver, but it didn’t go according to plan as you were forced out of race on lap one. After that do you still like the track?
Paul Ricard is a track I quite like because I had really strong results there in the past. I raced there for the first time in 2011 in F4 and won. To go back there this year with a Red Bull, in a competitive car, makes me excited and I’m ready to give it my all!
Max, you picked up your third podium finish of 2018 at Le Castellet, so it must hold some good memories for you?
Last year was good for us, we got the strategy spot on and finished second on the podium, which was a good Team result. It’s still a very new Grand Prix for F1 which makes it naturally more of a challenge for all teams and I had not raced there before 2018.
As you mentioned it’s a new era for the race, so what did you learn about the circuit last year?
It’s not an easy track, with wide-open entries to corners, which is different to most other tracks we race on. I think in general it’s good to have a Grand Prix in France. It’s a historic track, which is well known for its safety, it also attracts lots of fans who love the sport, which is great to see, especially for Pierre. It’s also not far from home, which makes life a bit easier. We maximised things in Canada and we are working hard to improve all aspects. I feel comfortable in the car so I hope we will be able to challenge the frontrunners more closely in France.