Today’s state-of-the-art venue may be new to younger F1 fans, but Le Castellet can trace its F1 origins back to the early 1970s, when it held the first of its 14 French Grands Prix to date. Constructed in less than a year, and with famous drivers such as Jean-Pierre Beltoise and Henri Pescarolo consulted on its 5.8km layout, the Circuit Paul Ricard – named after its sponsor – opened in April 1970, before staging its maiden F1 race – won by Jackie Stewart from local hero Francois Cevert – the following year.
The track would prove a happy hunting ground for French drivers, with Rene Arnoux winning in 1982 and Alain Prost triumphing no less than four times, including the last Grand Prix at the venue in 1990, by which time it was deemed outdated for Formula One purposes.
The start of the 21st century saw a rebirth under new ownership, with the transformation of the circuit into the Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track. Used (as its name suggested) exclusively for testing, its multi-configuration layout proved popular with F1 teams and set new standards in safety, pioneering the use of painted run-off areas instead of traditional gravel traps.
Follow us for the latest updates and results from the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet as the first practice session for the 2018 French Grand Prix is about to get underway, with Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel of the SF71H, ready to evaluate the ideal set-up ahead of the qualifying session and the race on Sunday.