Date published: December 3 2019
Eric Boullier, strategic advisor for the French GP, says major changes could be coming to the layout of Paul Ricard.
Circuit chiefs have been in discussions with the FIA and FOM over ways to boost overtaking at the venue after a dismal 2019 French GP.
Motorsport.com report that such changes could include alterations to the chicane on the Mistral Straight to make it tighter, as well as a third DRS zone before Signes and an all-new layout in the first section of the track.
Boullier, the former Renault and McLaren boss turned advisor for the French GP, has been in talks with FIA race director Michael Masi and the FOM about possible changes, and he says they have come back to him with a “completely new track layout”.
“I asked what do we need to do? They came back to me with a completely new track layout which was not Paul Ricard at all,” he told Motorsport.com.
“It was a new track so a different story! But that was part of the purpose of my request, to find out what could be done.
“So I’m now in the process of coming back to them and saying which ideas are good and I agree with. We are working on it and we will see what can be done.”
And the ideas which Boullier does like are going to revolve mostly around the first section of the circuit.
“Based on the results I’ve seen from FOM, this [first part of track] is going to be my suggestion. So not to redesign everything,” he confirmed.
“We will keep the chicane, and we will keep Signes and Beausset, because they are signature corners.
“But maybe we can change from Turn 1 to Turn 4 to make it, let’s say, faster, with big braking. And then having two big straight lines that should cause a team to run less downforce.
“Everybody says take out this chicane and have a straight line and it’s going to solve your problem.
“Yes, but it’s creating more problems for me because I’ve got 10,000 grandstand seats there. And obviously the main revenue stream of a grand prix promoter is ticketing.
“So where am I going to put these 10,000 people in the grandstand? Plus, also, all the overtaking manoeuvres happened there.
“We can change a little bit the configuration where it makes the braking harder and it gives another 20 metres longer for the second part where, if we have a third DRS zone, we could see maybe some more overtaking.”
But Boullier doesn’t know yet when any work would begin, as it isn’t even decided yet who is “paying for this”.
“I don’t know yet, we have to take the decision and work out who is going to pay for this,” he said.
From 2020 Paul Ricard plans to incorporate a festival element that includes a Goodwood-style open paddock for fans, while the support race schedule is set to be beefed up.
“We have decided to push with FOM towards series with more than 30 cars, and a lot of track action to make the fans happy with the on track show,” Boullier explained.
“And because this will be the 70th anniversary of F1, I would like to bring some old cars and have an open paddock, Goodwood-style, where fans can touch the cars and talk to the owners. It is not good to have these fenced paddocks everywhere – it is good to open it up.”