Haas gears up for Ricard return

Romain Grosjean in action in Canada
Romain Grosjean in action in Canada

The worldwide web did not exist. The demolition of the Berlin Wall began. And Channel Tunnel workers from the United Kingdom and France shook hands for the first time 40 metres (131 feet) beneath the floor of the English Channel.

It was 1990, and it was the final year of the French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard.

Twenty-eight years have passed since the FIA Formula One World Championship last visited Le Castellet.

But come Sunday, the French Grand Prix returns to a revamped 5.842-kilometre (3.63-mile), 15-turn layout in the heart of the Bandol vineyards.

The circuit has evolved to become one of the most technically advanced in the world. In fact, it is the first entity to be designated as a Centre of Excellence by the FIA.

But how do teams prepare for a track they have never raced on before?

Haas F1 team principal Guenther Steiner explained: “You take the data you’re given and you just try to do your best.

“Everybody’s in the same boat. You do your simulator testing, you run your computer simulations, and then just go there and work the weekend like any other.”

“The big teams will always be ahead of everyone else. They just have more resources to prepare.

“Even with little known information, they get the last little bit out of it with a lot of manpower and effort.

“They always get more out than the smaller teams, which have to work with fewer resources.”

For the drivers it comes down to relying on previous experience at a lower level of racing or taking to technology.

Romain Grosjean said: “The simulator is our only option and I spent last Wednesday in the simulator.

“It gives you a rough idea, but it’s not initially super easy when it’s a new circuit because the correlation may not be at its best.

“It gives you an idea where it goes, but it’s not like Barcelona, for example, where we do the same lap time and get the same feeling.”

Kevin Magnussen added: “I’ve been to Circuit Paul Ricard in a World Series by Renault car.

“It’s going to be a little bit different in a Formula One car, but at least I know the track – which way the corners go, braking points, and so on.

“I don’t think it will take long to adjust in a Formula One car.”

“I haven’t driven Paul Ricard in the simulator. The simulator is a good tool to prepare for new circuits, or new setups, or new cars, but it doesn’t exactly feel like the real thing.”