Ever since the Circuit Paul Ricard was welcomed back to the Formula 1 calendar in 2018, the track had it rough with fans: Too much runoff, you can’t see where you are going with the colorful stripes next to the track and the abundance of available layouts – the return of the French Grand Prix has not been met with much acclaim.

Honestly: I was not a fan of the track either. It seemed like the embodiment of all that is (arguably) wrong with modern Formula 1, with no real consequences for going off the track and too much tarmac everywhere. Not knowing the layout that well after only stringing together four or five good laps in Assetto Corsa Competizione to get the track rating did not help, either.

F1 2021’s Braking Point mode changed all of that. Paul Ricard appears early on in the mode and has the player drive not just a scenario starting somewhere towards the end of the race like previous chapters, but rather a race from start to finish. As the laps went by, I realized: This is more fun than I would have thought.

While I am still not a fan of the huge runoff areas and sometimes confusing configurations, Paul Ricard is a track with a bunch of fast corners that are tough but rewarding to get right. Granted, some of them are easier in an F1 car than in something with less downforce, like the Signes corner at the end of the Mistral straight – while an easy flat right in an F1 car, it’s much more challenging in a GT3 car. Multiple mid-speed corners with late apexes make it a technical circuit with multiple lines through turns, which opens up a ton of opportunities for on-track battles.

To find out if it was a case of a track being more suited to a certain style of car, I fired up ACC to double check. The sim features Paul Ricard as well, the only real difference in layout being a chicane in the middle of Mistral Straight – F1 has it, the GT World Challenge that is portrayed in ACC does not. To my surprise, the French track was just as fun in a GT3 car as it was in F1, if not more thanks to the long straight.

Recently, I read a comment about the track online, saying something along the lines of “if the track had grass and gravel next to it, you would all love it”. After my recent change of how I feel about Paul Ricard, I would have to agree – had the circuit not been remodeled as a test track in the 1990s and would still feature its original runoff design, it would be a different discussion. The track is far from the straight-into-hairpin-into-slow-complex design that plagues so many modern circuits these days. The appreciation for it is just held back by its surroundings.