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Vive la France!

It’s been a decade since Formula 1 last raced on French soil, all the way back to a year when a 19-year-old Daniel was on his way to winning the West European Cup series of Formula Renault 2.0 and Max was a few months shy of his 11th birthday celebrations.

Back in 2008 we went to Magny Cours with David Coulthard and Mark Webber piloting the RB4 and we left the final race at the Nevers circuit with three points in hand thanks to Mark’s sixth-place finish.

This time out we’re heading for a different location as, after a 28-year gap Formula 1 is returning to Provence and the storied Circuit Paul Ricard, a track where drivers such as Jackie Stewart and Alain Prost carved out their legends. So will Daniel and Max etch an all-new French GP legend this weekend? Here are their ruminations on Ricard.

DANIEL RICCIARDO

We’ve dug into the archives and discovered that you’ve raced at Le Castellet before, back in 2011, in your last stint in Formula Renault 3.5. You got a podium, too, in the second race. So how do you feel about heading back there?
I have raced at Paul Ricard but I don’t know what configuration we will be using compared to back then. We’ve come from two street races with Monaco and Montreal, where the risk and reward is a lot higher than at Paul Ricard, which is a pretty open circuit. As far as adrenaline goes, it’s probably a bit mellower than the last few tracks but if the racing is good then it makes up for it, so hopefully we will get that balance. 

Do you think F1 can find that balance there? What’s the track like?
There are some long technical corners, which aren’t always that fun, but they’re a challenge and if you get them right you appreciate it. The track will also allow some variations in driving technique and style, which could make it interesting. It can get quite windy, so down the back straight there could be some slipstreaming and good overtaking opportunities.

The French Grand Prix can probably be classed as a ‘classic’ event; will it be nice to have a French race start on your CV?
It’s cool having a French Grand Prix back on the calendar and fingers crossed it provides a good race not only for the French fans but the rest of the world. Maybe I will even speak perfect French by the end of the weekend, as it’s been a month of French speaking races. Merci beaucoup, enchanté.

MAX VERSTAPPEN

Unlike Daniel, the Circuit Paul Ricard will be completely new to you. What do you know about it?
I did the wet weather test there but we only used a few of the same corners and after that they changed the layout a little bit. It’s always a challenge going to a new circuit and I’m looking forward to it.

Is it a disadvantage going to a new circuit?
I think lots of [more senior] drivers haven’t actually driven there, only the younger drivers in lower formulas, not myself, but the other ones have all driven there. It’s quite close to home, I’m looking forward to seeing a new Grand Prix weekend and I think it’s also good to have a race in France, as there are many fans there.

What can the team expect there?
From what I have seen it is a power track, with long straights, but there are still a few corners in there where we can make a difference. It’s all a bit unknown, so we will have to see when we get there.