Almost a month after a dramatic visit to the streets of Monte Carlo, the FIA Formula 2 Championship stages its fifth round at the Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France.

The Circuit

Circuit Paul Ricard - 2019 French Grand Prix

Circuit Paul Ricard
Location Le Castellet, France Circuit Length 5.842 km / 3.630 mi
Opened 1970 First F2 Race 2018
Direction Clockwise Lap Record 1:47.085 – Nyck de Vries  – 2018
2018 Pole Position
George Russell  2018 Race Winners
George Russell  (Feature)
Nyck de Vries  (Sprint)

“I’m really happy, I’ve been waiting for the French Grand Prix since last year. I loved the atmosphere in GP3 and the track is nice so I’m really looking forward to the race. It will be a great feeling to race in front of my home fans, seeing many French flags in the grandstands and getting a lot of support during the weekend.

“Last year in GP3 I finished second but won because the winner was disqualified. That was my first GP3 win and my best memory there so far, but some years ago in Formula 4 I won two out of three races which was also good! Overtaking was a bit difficult in GP3, so I’m curious to see how it’s going to be in F2 with the DRS zones.

“Qualifying is not as vital as somewhere like Monaco. As I’ve already shown this year, you can do well in the race without starting on the first row, but you always want to do well in qualifying so that you don’t compromise your race.

“I think the main challenge is the last sector with Le Beausset. There are many different ways of taking it so it’s really challenging. The last two corners are not easy either, you put a lot on the brakes and need to make sure you’re well positioned for the last corner. It’s hard to say how much tyre management might play a part. I think they’ve redone the surface during the winter, so we will have to see when we get there.

“The dream would be to hear the Marseillaise on the top step of the podium, but to be on the podium would be a really good result so that’s my target. If we can score points in the two races I would be happy.” – Anthoine Hubert (BWT Arden)

The Event

2019 FIA Formula 2 Championship – Race of France Schedule (21-23 June 2019)
Free Practice Session 1 Fri 12:55-13:40 Qualifying Fri 16:55-17:25
Feature Race (30 laps) Sat 16:45-17:50 Sprint Race (21 laps) Sun 11:25-12:15

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

Rewind to 2018

Last year’s visit to France provided thrills aplenty with ART Grand Prix’s George Russell winning a thrilling wet/dry Feature Race on his path towards clinching the 2018 Drivers’ Championship title. The Mercedes protégé survived a late charge from Carlin’s Sergio Sette Câmara to claim victory and move to within seven points of early season leader Lando Norris.

Light rain fell on the circuit just before the start, with the greasy track conditions triggering a number of spins in the opening laps. Pole-sitter Russell, with fellow front-row starter Alexander Albon and Sette Câmara, found the slipper track to their liking and the trio quickly pulled clear to a 15-second lead over the rest of the field.

Albon would retire shortly after making his compulsory pit stop, leaving Russell and Sette Câmara to scrap to the finish. Sette Câmara looked to be the quicker of the two, but only drew close enough on the final lap and tried a desperate lunge into the final corner on the last lap. Russell saw him coming and fended him off, with the pair crossing the finish line less than a second apart.

Nyck de Vries, PREMA Theodore Racing - 2018 Formula 2 Championship Race of France

Nyck de Vries claimed the first of three wins in 2018 with a dominant victory in Sunday’s Sprint Race.

Sunday’s Sprint Race saw Nyck de Vries claim his first win of the 2018 season. Driving for PREMA Theodore Racing, the Dutch youngster secured a dominant victory in a race blighted by mechanical dramas for several other drivers.

Russell was one of the drivers to be affected, with the Briton forced to start the race from the pit lane along with BWT Arden’s Nirei Fukuzumi.

The start of the race saw three drivers all stall on the grid – name Russian Time’s Artem Markelov and the MP Motorsport duo of Ralph Boschung and Roberto Merhi – while reverse-grid pole-sitter Tadasuke Makino had a sluggish getaway and was quickly passed by DAMS’ Nicholas Latifi, Charouz’s Louis Delétraz and de Vries.

By the end of the opening lap, Delétraz had claimed the race lead but the Swiss driver was soon being closed down by de Vries. On Lap 11, de Vries was within DRS striking range and made his move under braking at Turn 8 before bolting clear to win by over 10 seconds.

The Paul Ricard Form Guide

Championship leader Nicholas Latifi will need to regroup after a disastrous showing last time out in Monte Carlo which saw the DAMS driver’s lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings all but evaporate. The Canadian leads ART Grand Prix’s Nyck de Vries – the only driver to score points at every race to-date this season – by just one point coming into this weekend’s pair of races.

Almost thirty points adrift is early season frontrunner Luca Ghiotto (UNI-Virtuosi), who will be similarly hoping to reignite his championship aspirations after a relatively inconsistent run of form.

Images via FIA Formula 2 Championship

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Geoff Burke

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