After Monaco, the FIA Formula 2 Championship is back in action in southern France at the permanent Paul Ricard venue, where the FIA Formula 3 Championship also returns for its second round after Barcelona.
• The Circuit Paul Ricard track provides a varied challenge for the tyres, but there are several corners with high lateral forces, including the fast Signes turn and the subsequent long double right-hander at Le Beausset. There are also some long straights and heavy braking zones.
• The circuit has been resurfaced extensively since last year’s races, with nearly all of the corners being re-laid with new asphalt. This, however, is very similar in character to the asphalt that was there already, so shouldn’t make a big difference.
• The surface is quite smooth so tyre degradation is relatively low. But thermal degradation can be a factor in the warm weather expected at this time of year in the south of France.
• The F3 teams and drivers tested at Paul Ricard in March, so they have some idea how the tyres will behave, but track temperatures will be much higher this weekend.
The tyres and strategy
• The P Zero White hard and P Zero Red soft tyres have been nominated for F2. This combination, with two steps between the two compounds, was previously used earlier this year in Barcelona, and is a step harder than at Paul Ricard in 2018.
• In F2, each driver has five sets of slick tyres to use over the weekend: three hard and two soft. They also have three sets of wet-weather tyres. During race one, where there is a mandatory pit stop, both compounds have to be used unless it is declared a wet race. Pit stops are optional in race two.
• Just one tyre is nominated for each F3 round: in Paul Ricard it’s the medium (the same compound that was nominated for GP3 there last year). Drivers get three new sets of dry tyres plus one carry-over set of hard tyres from the Barcelona round, which must be returned after free practice. There are two sets of wet-weather tyres.
Mario Isola, Pirelli head of F1 and car racing: “Pirelli is the title sponsor of the Grand Prix de France, so it’s great to have all three championships that we supply – Formula 1, Formula 2, and Formula 3 – in action over the weekend. We can expect high temperatures and smooth asphalt in France, with generally low degradation, but the F2 drivers will have to manage the soft compound carefully. After discussions with the promoter we decided to add the hard as the other choice, with objective of adding a bit of unpredictability and giving the engineers something to think about, thanks to the difference in performance and degradation between the two compounds. This creates potential for some interesting strategies, as we saw in Barcelona earlier this year. Paul Ricard isn’t the easiest circuit to overtake on, so strategy can make a significant difference. With this being only the second round of Formula 3, the teams are still learning about the car-tyre package all the time, so it will be intriguing to see who gets to grips with what is required at Paul Ricard fastest.”
Image: F2 previously used hard and soft tyres in Spain