The FIA Formula 2 Championship returns to action after almost a month with the fifth round of the 2018 season taking place at a brand new venue for the series: the Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet in France.

The Circuit

Circuit Paul Ricard - 2018 Formula 2 Race of France

Circuit Paul Ricard
Location Le Castellet, France Circuit Length 5.842 km / 3.630 mi
Opened 1971 Direction Clockwise
Capacity 90,000 Lap Record To be determined
2017 Feature Race Winner Not Applicable 2017 Sprint Race Winner Not Applicable

With the Circuit Paul Ricard offering up over 800 different circuit layout combinations, the FIA Formula 2 World Championship’s maiden visit to Le Castellet will see the field use the new 5.8-kilometre Grand Prix layout where the famous Mistral Straight will be split into two by a chicane.

Lando Norris (Carlin): “I really like Le Castellet, it’s a circuit I’ve really enjoyed driving at and I’ve always gone pretty well there. The layout’s pretty good, although I think that it’s not the easiest track to overtake on, but there’s still possibilities; qualifying’s still important, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t do so well if you can overtake. In the past there’s been pretty high tyre wear, but from what we found out in the test earlier in the season we expect the wear to be pretty low. So, that might make things trickier with less variation in strategy, but it should still be interesting.

“Hopefully, having gone well in the past, I can keep up that form in F2. We did pretty well in the early-season test, but other teams have improved as have we, so it’s difficult to know what to expect. If we can start the weekend off strong and have a good qualifying then that’ll be a good place to start, and then we just need to focus on a clean weekend from then on.”

The Event

2018 FIA Formula 2 Championship Race of France – Schedule
Event Dates 22-24 June 2018 Pirelli Tyres  
Free Practice Fri 13:55-14:40 Qualifying Fri 17:55-18:25
Feature Race (30 laps) Sat 17:45-19:00 Sprint Race (21 laps) Sun 12:00-13:00

Session times quoted in Central European Summer Time (UTC / GMT + 02:00)

The Form Guide

The first pre-season test of the 2018 season is perhaps the best indicator of a potential form guide this weekend. Series newcomers Lando Norris (Carlin, pictured above) and George Russell (ART Grand Prix) posted the fastest overall times across the three days of track action.

The previous round of the championship in Monaco saw Alexander Albon (DAMS) secure his third consecutive pole position ahead of Nyck de Vries (PREMA Theodore Racing), but the pair tangled in the pit lane in a dramatic Feature Race which handed RUSSIAN TIME driver Artem Markelov victory off the back of a superb recovery drive after a poor qualifying session.

An equally action-packed Sprint Race saw Antonio Fuoco claim Charouz Racing System’s first ever Formula 2 race win in the Sprint Race, with teammate Louis Delétraz completing a 1-2 result for the Czech team.

Norris continues to lead the Drivers’ Championship standings on 98 points, as he has done since winning the opening race of the season in Bahrain, albeit by a reduced margin of 27 points to Markelov and Albon. The Briton’s Carlin team leads the Teams’ Championship standings on 144 points, ahead of French outfits ART and DAMS who will be keen to perform well at their home event this weekend.

Le Castellet Weather Forecast
Friday 20°C – 31°C Saturday 17°C – 26°C Sunday 16°C – 26°C

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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