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Opinion: The Circuit Paul Ricard Is Better Than It Gets Credit for

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.

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About author
Yannik Haustein
Life-long motorsports and racing game fan as well as racing history enthusiast. I write stuff here and on www.simracing-unlimited.com and try to be not too mediocre when sim racing with varying degrees of success :confused:

Comments

I really like the circuit but I have to literally count out the markers when turning left into Nord, the paint scheme is horrible there and plays tricks on the eyes.
 
Driving it is a challenge and love the high speed turns, but watching it on TV is...poop. Reminds me of a shopping mall parking lot, and to borrow a phrase, it lacks character.
 
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The track might not provide quite the spectacle for most people (apparently some of my friends thought that the F1 round this year was boring for some reason) but it's a fun track to drive around. Chasing someone down the long straight is always thrilling personally.
 
What pains me is to hear all the hate for Paul Ricard and then hearing people fawning over Singapore. I'm sorry, I know, F1's first night race, Monaco of the East, all that...but...that track absolutely, positively sucks ass. Looks good on TV, but I find it absolutely miserable to drive/race.
Might as well make Monaco a night race from next season onwards really.
 
It always makes me wonder why they couldn't just move the venue to Le Mans while the 24-hour race isn't on.
Sure bits of it are actually public roads but at least it's more difficult to get lost on than Paul Ricard.
 
Absolutely agree... I thought I as the only one :p

Paul Ricard is my third most driven track on ACC (after Bathurst and Spa) and I drove it many hours in Raceroom as well. The layout is incredibly fun, with some really nice corners that manage to be both very technical but also very "flowy" at the same time... at least after you master them. I always have very engaging races there.

What spoils the track are those horrible blue lines, but if you were to remove those and replace them with nice green grass then most haters would have to admit that the actual grey stuff where you drive is actually very fun, and that's what matters the most because all the nice green grass in the world cannot save a horrible layout... like Snetterton for example, that track gives me nightmares.
 
Personally, I like tracks with trees and natural surroundings as close to the track as possible like Spa, Monza, Nordschleife, Imola, Road America etc.. I've had some good races with others at Paul Parking Lot, but all the paint everywhere just makes it feel like a forced layout. It's like everything in sim racing, we all have our favorites and our things that are just ok. Paul Parking Lot once or twice a year is fine with me just like Zandvoort. Zandvoort is a track I like, but man is it frustrating trying to pass there:O_o::D
 
I can't say i find any of the French circuits inspiring. Paul Ricard is no exception.
There is still Le Man, it's a very interesting, very specific circuit, I also really like the circuit of Bugatti, which is a variation of the Man circuit, and there is Monaco, it's not in France but that almost is. I don't like PC2 but there was an old version of the Man on it which was extraordinary, it is not the version with only the straight line of the Hunaudiaires without baffles as a change, it is an earlier version that I did not know , Magic.
 
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The runoffs are horrible and the layout is equally terrible. Awful race track (feels more like a car park)
 
Absolutely agree... I thought I as the only one :p

Paul Ricard is my third most driven track on ACC (after Bathurst and Spa) and I drove it many hours in Raceroom as well. The layout is incredibly fun, with some really nice corners that manage to be both very technical but also very "flowy" at the same time... at least after you master them. I always have very engaging races there.

What spoils the track are those horrible blue lines, but if you were to remove those and replace them with nice green grass then most haters would have to admit that the actual grey stuff where you drive is actually very fun, and that's what matters the most because all the nice green grass in the world cannot save a horrible layout... like Snetterton for example, that track gives me nightmares.
well the runoffs are horrible and the layout could be so much better
 
Yes, it's a good configuration, may be even great, but I'm getting freaking lost there! It's worse than Abu Dhabi! I believe even Hamilton complained about this, the scenery is sooo uninspiring & hypnotizing with these lanes...
 
Driving in VR helps me to a degree, much more so then the triples which I usually prefer to drive with elsewhere. I figure that each drive has its challenges, so I accept the diversity. Spending quality time in front of the TV for that race is not the time for me because of the visuals.
 
Not a fan. It certainly would help if there were grassed areas and a good dollop of gravel, but as it is not an enjoyable one to race a game on the PC imo.
 
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Riding the RSS formula hybrid cars is actually enjoyable on these tracks. However, the runoff areas should be made into gravel or grass to really punish mistakes.
 
I can't imagine how much it could cost to lay that much of extra tarmac. I imagine it is crazy hot place in the summer, that much of tarmac being exposed to sunlight for pretty much all the time, must carry on lots of heat well into the night.

And it seemed perfectly fine then
 

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