Formula 1 now moves from the French-speaking city of Montreal – across the Atlantic Ocean – to France, for the first time in 10 years as the historic event returns to the calendar.
It’s been a long time coming for the nation that invented Grand Prix racing, the sport originating in the late 19th century with the dawn of the motor car as newspaper-sponsored rallies such as Paris-Rouen.
… featuring early model Peugeots, and from Germany – Benzs.
Since the advent of the F1 World Championship in 1950, France has had seven different F1 venues. Reims-Gueux was the first, but the sport went to Rouen-Les-Essarts, Le Mans and others before a stint at Magny-Cours.
The most famous French scene at Dijon 1979 between Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux, with the pair duelling over second place.
But with Magny-Cours in too rural a location, 2008 its last event, it took 8-years for an announcement about the French GP’s return.
SOUNDBITE (French) CHRISTIAN ESTROSI,
PRESIDENT, NICE CÔTE D’AZUR REGION:
"Today, I can make the clear, firm and definite announcement that, Ladies and Gentlemen, the Grand Prix of France will return in the Summer of 2018 in Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, in the Var, on the Paul Ricard circuit."
Paul Ricard has hosted the French Grand Prix 14 times, the last between 1971 and 1990, with the track special for Renault with two-straight wins in 1982- and 1983 with a French driver, René Arnoux then Alain Prost.
To celebrate its heritage in the lead-up to its home race, Renault went on an eight-town roadshow, taking its F1 cars throughout France following its initial run in Nice.
Located 45 minutes from Marseille, the 5.84-kilometre circuit has 15 turns, seven left and eight right and an expected top speed of 344 kilometres an hour. Frenchman Alain Prost won the last race held at Paul Ricard in 1990 for Ferrari. There are two DRS activation zones: one on the back straight, the other on the main straight, and two detection zones.
For the three French drivers, the event will be a source of pride, given it’s the first time racing F1 on home soil for Romain Grosjean, Esteban Ocon and rookie Pierre Gasly.
SOUNDBITE (French) PIERRE GASLY,
F1 DRIVER, TORO ROSSO:
"I was lucky enough to have the experience at Le Castellet when I was racing in Formula Renault 2.0 and 3.5, and just the fact that being there means more motivation and more fans.”
Mercedes is expected to be strong, with the manufacturer delivering its power unit upgrade to its works squad and customer teams there.
Ferrari will want its keep its history of success in France going, having won eight of the last 12 races there, and Sebastian Vettel now leading the standings after a masterclass in Canada.
France is also the opening leg of F1’s first-ever triple header, with the race followed by Austria and Great Britain – and a physical and mental drain on all concerned, pushing the teams to their limits.
AUDIO QUOTE (English) DANIEL RICCIARDO,
F1 DRIVER, RED BULL RACING:
“I think the mechanics are going to have their work cut out for them. And hopefully after Silverstone they’re allowed a few days off because they’ll need it.”
An iconic nation and event, returning to the calendar after a decade. It’s time for the French Grand Prix.