Paul Ricard’s return to the F1 calendar last year was not only an historic moment for the sport but also for human rights, June 24 marking the end of a ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia.
To celebrate the occasion, the Saudi Arabian Motorsport Federation’s first female member, Aseel Al Hamad, got behind the wheel of the 2012 Lotus Renault E20 for a lap of the track…
… with the ultimate goal of inspiring positive change.
SOUNDBITE (English) ASEEL AL HAMAD,
SAUDI REPRESENTATIVE, WOMEN IN MOTORSPORT:
“I hope I can influence everyone around the world that nothing is impossible. They can dream the impossible because yes, we Saudi women we were able today not just to drive, to drive an F1 car in France Grand Prix.”
In the race, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton rocketed to his third victory of the 2018 campaign, regaining the championship lead.
… as Sebastian Vettel’s season hit the rocks. The Ferrari driver spearing into Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas at the start.
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, 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 for real tourism growth, 2008 was the last French GP for 10 years; the event returning to the revamped Paul Ricard track for the first time in almost three decades.
… and as the first leg of F1’s first-ever triple header, which also included Austria and Great Britain to avoid a clash with the World Cup final.
Located 45 minutes from Marseille, the 5.84-kilometre circuit has 15 turns, seven left and eight right and a top speed of 337 kilometres per hour. Valtteri Bottas set the lap record last year, a 1:34.225. There are two DRS activation zones. One on the back straight, the other on the main straight, and two detection points.
In 2019, there’ll be just two French drivers on the grid in Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly and Haas’ Romain Grosjean, with Ferrari protégé Charles Leclerc from nearby Monaco.
Daniel Ricciardo, as a Renault driver, will also get a warm welcome, with his French language skills still in development.
SOUNDUP (English) LOUISE GOODMAN,
“How is your French coming along? What are the most important words they need to know in French, Cyril? What’s the French, for example, for Honey Badger?”
SOUNDBITE (English) CYRIL ABITEBOUL,
MANAGING DIRECTOR, RENAULT SPORT:
“I don’t know what the most important… faster! Plus vite!”
Michael Schumacher is the most successful in France, with eight wins to his name. Two more than French legend of the sport Alain Prost. Juan Manuel Fangio and Nigel Mansell have four each.
One of Prost’s French wins is famous for its iconic startline crash, with 1989’s edition at Paul Ricard seeing Maurizio Gugelmin barrel-rolling over the top of Gerhard Berger and Thierry Boutson.
… before smashing into Mansell.
Always full of action, with its history dating back to the dawn of the sport, it’s time for the French Grand Prix.