Formula 1’s exclusive tyre provider Pirelli has confirmed which three compounds they will be offering to teams for the return of the French Grand Prix to the calendar in June. This year, the Italian manufacturer has developed a line-up of seven compounds for use in dry weather compounds. From these, Pirelli picks three for teams to choose between at each race.
For France, the choice on offer will be between the soft yellow, supersoft red and ultrasoft purple compounds. That’s the same line-up that was available to teams at the season opener in Melbourne, and for next weekend’s race in Azerbaijan. However these tyres will be slightly different, following Pirelli’s announcement that it will be using a revised specification at the Circuit Paul Ricard, and also at Barcelona and Silverstone.
The tyre tread is being reduced by by 0.4mm, in order to prevent the compounds from overheating on the new asphalt that has been laid on the circuit. That change is reported to be partly at the instigation of Mercedes, which has been suffering from overheating. There’s little existing information for teams as to which compounds will work best for the race. The last French race was held in 2008 at Magny-Cours, which was won by Rubens Barrichello for Scuderia Ferrari.
This year’s race on June 24 will be the first Grand Prix to be held at the Circuit Paul Ricard since 1990, when Alain Prost was victorious. However teams did hold a tyre test at the track last year. Lewis Hamilton was among the drivers to get in some laps on the 2018 compounds in September, which included some wet-weather simulations. Pirelli’s selection for the French Grand Prix represents the ‘middle line’ for tyres in 2018. Bahrain and Spain were rated as one step harder, while Monaco and Canada were both one step softer. The latter two races also feature the first use of the new hypersoft pink tyre.
China was the most unusual tyre line-up, with Pirelli offering a ‘non-continuous’ selection of medium, soft and ultrasoft – jumping over the supersofts entirely. The revised tread means that to date there has been no need for Pirelli to roll out its hardest two compounds – the ‘ice blue’ compound for fast corners or abrasive surfaces, and the new superhard orange tyre. The latter was introduced as an insurance policy in case the performance of the 2018 cars didn’t match expectations.
Each driver has 13 sets of tyres to use over the course of a Grand Prix weekend. By default, everyone gets one set of each tyre. But the remaining ten sets are up to each driver to choose. Drivers must save one set of the softest compound to use in the final round of qualifying. Each driver must save a set each of the other two compounds to use in the race itself, unless it rains.
Organisers of the French Grand Prix have also confirmed the track layout which will be used next year at the Circuit Paul Ricard for the event’s return to the F1 calendar. The race, scheduled on June 24 2018, will use the track’s traditional 5.8km configuration although several turns have been slightly altered to take into consideration the increased speed of F1 cars.
Drivers are expected to reach a top speed of 344 km/h on the famous Mistral straight before decelerating heavily for a chicane which should offer ample overtaking opportunities.