in 2022 French Grand Prix · Racing fans

Paul Ricard may have staged the last French Grand Prix for the foreseeable future. Will Formula 1 miss its flights to Le Castellet?

thursday

After a dreary evening in a Marseille airport hotel, I arrived on the sunny shores of Six-Fours-Les-Plague and checked in ahead of media day for the French Grand Prix. Haunted by memories of the long tail on my only previous visit to Paul Rijkaard in 2018, I was delighted to learn that the organizers have since created an ‘F1 Band’ for those working at the event.

I crossed a bridge over a track that overlooks the hills east of Marseille, and as soon as I arrived at the media library I felt an unbearable heat. There was very little time to waste as, in addition to the regular sessions, I did three exclusive interviews, all of which will soon be published on the RaceFans website.

The regular sessions started with a round table with Valtteri Bottas. While sitting, he recorded the bob worn by the media. She explained to us that the circle returned them to the media folder and her eyes lit up. “I want one! Boo. Laughingly, I promised to deliver later. I can watch a lot, but boba is not one of them.

I went back to the media center to find some presents and went to Alfa Romeo to drop off my hat. He smiled “thank you” when I handed it over. I just knew which way it all started…

Haas driver Mick Schumacher recently wore a mask as the rate of infection with COVID-19 rose again. I did the same, respecting her wishes, and noticed that her mask brought out her piercing blue eyes even more. We spoke at length about his family, his level over time and the team tactics that annoyed him in Austria.

I met his teammate Kevin Magnussen at my first exclusive. “Are you now?” He smiled as he climbed into the trailer and pulled back his chair. We chatted for a quarter of an hour, and as the television screens around us began to show images of forest fires ravaging parts of the world, the conversation inevitably turned to the topic of climate change.

Next on my list was Daniel Ricciardo, who appeared with a huge smile on his face and apologized for being late. Relatively relieved, despite the recent speculation about his future on social media, the McLaren driver has been open about it. But he was more excited to discuss his new Hulu TV show and dropped a few hints about his plans.

I finally sat down with Alexander Albon in Williams’ guest suite. Calmly explaining his time at Red Bull and responding to Helmut Mark’s comments about his “awesomeness”, he was clearly eager for Williams’ recent promotion to translate into results.

The busy day ended with a barbecue kindly organized for the Mercedes media. Lewis Hamilton even found time to poke his head around the corner to say hello.

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friday

The team’s hospitality suites may have been air-conditioned, but my stay was not, and I endured a dirty night’s sleep. I rode the trail for a long time with a big headache. At least now, most print media activities have moved to Thursdays, and Fridays are quieter.

As I walked towards the runway I briefly bumped into Alice Powell and Jimmy Chadwick, who I worked with as commentator on the W series. In true British fashion, the weather and the heat of the track have been talked about so far.

But when I walked through the doors of Formula 1, I ran into Bottas again, his hat still stuck to his head. He didn’t have to arrive early and Robert Kubica took his car in the opening session.

saturday

The FIA ​​served us breakfast in their motorhome on Saturday as they wanted to explain motorsport matches. The FIA’s Director of Innovative Sports Projects, Frédéric Bertrand, spent the next half hour introducing the Games, explaining the costs and the format. The event is scheduled for the weekend of October 29-30, which unfortunately conflicts with the Mexican Grand Prix, which I hope to attend.

Sebastian Vettel, 1922  Aston Martin Green Bay, Paul Ricard, 2022

Qualifying took place in a media enclosure that was narrower than usual. And the local media wanted to hear the voice of the French pilots, not forgetting the French-speaking champion Charles Leclerc from neighboring Monaco.

Bottas was still carrying the bucket. Sebastian Vettel was in good spirits considering his tough day, but he clearly relished the fuel-efficient Aston Martin Grand Prix of the century two days ago.

He is another driver whose future remains uncertain as his contract expires at the end of the year. If he steps down, many will miss his support of LGBTQ+ rights and promotion of environmental awareness. I asked him who he and Hamilton would replace as champions of human rights on the track when the racing days are over: On Instagram, joked Vettel, who is notoriously hostile to social media.

Overheard the rest of the drivers, except for the first three, before heading back to the long, slow journey back to the apartment to find something to eat. I was too tired to have much entertainment and was in bed by 10pm.

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sunday

Race Start, Paul Ricard, 2022

Naively believing that the organizers have solved the traffic problems that have haunted me since 2018. race, I left seven hours before the race for the 40 minute trip to Paul Ricard. After two and a half hours, I finally reached my destination.

Charles Leclerc, Ferrari, Paul Ricard, 2022

The route to the media car park appears to be the same for the drivers and support teams. We were sandwiched between three F2 flatbed trucks in the back and our parking lot, so it took me a lot longer to get back than I expected.

A few hours after the race started, I made my way to the media area, ready to speak to any driver retiring from the race. This space, exposed to direct sunlight, proved to be one of the dullest enclosures to work in, with little escape from the sweltering heat.

But it didn’t take long for the first fully depressed rider to appear. After Charles Leclerc drove his Ferrari into the wall, I went to talk to him. As usual, when he made a mistake, he was not shy, openly admitting that he did not deserve to win the championship after making such mistakes.

The checkered flag fell and Max Verstappen took yet another victory. For the first time this year, Mercedes were absent from the field as they both finished in the top three, so they arrived at the FIA ​​press conference.

There, Lewis Hamilton’s face lit up as Bob showed us the donated ‘Mr. Freeze ice cream. “It reminds me of my childhood, I remember going to the convenience store for it,” said the seven-time champion, wincing in the press conference after the 300th race.

Pierre Gasly spoke strongly at the end of what looks set to be the last French Grand Prix for the foreseeable future. The race does not yet have a contract that will be included in the 2023 season. F1 calendar. The AlphaTauri pilot was clearly emotional about never racing at home again.

With the best will in the world, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that event organizers still have work to do if the event goes ahead. Despite the perfect atmosphere, getting there has always been difficult, especially for those without the advantage of taking the ‘F1 route’.

But the atmosphere was there: French flags filled the stadium and big cheers for the crowd’s three favourites. There is no doubt that France deserves the top prize. However, so does Germany, which is not on the schedule.

It’s a shame to lose such a legacy of our sport and it would be funny to lose Spa too – which we’re going to next month. But before that we head to Hungary, where all eyes will be on Ferrari after a disastrous weekend in France.

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Aerial view, Paul Ricard, 2022

French Grand Prix 2022

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Hubert Gildon

"Coffee maven. Bacon nerd. Infuriatingly humble beer expert. Explorer. Tv guru. General alcohol specialist. Gamer. Proud problem solver."

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