The French Grand Prix is an auto race in France that is part of the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile’ ( FIA ) Formula One Championships. Along with the Belgian, Italian and Spanish Grand Prix, it is the only current Formula One Grand Prix to have been part of three distinct Grand Prix Championships: World Manufacturer’s Championship in the 1920s, European Championships in the 1930s and the Formula One World Championship since 1950.
First held in 1905, it is one of the oldest auto races in the world and is considered as the world’s oldest “Grand Prix”. The earliest editions of the French Grand Prix were raced in circuits consisting of public roads near towns passing through France. The race is currently held at the Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet Var, near Marseille in France.
Circuit Paul Ricard
The circuit was built in 1969 with financing from French industrialist Paul Ricard. The track is built on a plateau is known for its long 1.8 KM Mistral straight and elongated race track design. The track was modified in 1986 to shorten the circuit by adding a shortcut through the middle of the Mistral Straight. This shorter circuit is known as the GP short circuit which is 3.813 km in length. The track has an elevation that varies from 408 to 441 meters above sea level. With its flexibility and mild winter weather makes it a favorite testing ground among several motorsport teams, including F1 teams.
The Circuit Paul Ricard is also known for its “Blue Zone”, a distinctive run-off area whose surface is made up of a mixture of asphalt and tungsten, unlike most race tracks which utilize gravel traps. The “Red Zone” is a second but deeper run-off area with a more abrasive surface to maximize tire grip and minimize breaking distance. The final safeguard on the track is the Tecpro barriers which are modern and improved versions of the old tire barriers.
For the French Grand Prix, the race length is 53 laps or 309.69 km around the 15-turn 5.842 km circuit. The fastest lap in the French Grand Prix was set by Valtteri Bottas. The Mercedes driver recorded a single lap time of 1:34.225 in 2018. Last year’s winning time was 1:31:11.385 set by Bottas’ Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton who finished +7.09 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen and 28.888 seconds clear of Kimi Raikkonen.
History of the French Grand Prix
As stated earlier, the French Grand Prix is the first Grand Prix race. The word Grand Prix itself is a French phrase that stands for “Great Prize”. It referred to the ₣45,000 prize awarded to the winner of the first French Grand Prix on June 26, 1906, under the supervision of the Automobile Club de France and held on a 106 km (66-mile) closed public road circuit starting and ending in Le Mans.
Ferenc Szisz won the first French Grand Prix in 1906 on a Renault. The race lasted for a long 12-hours with each lap almost taking an hour to complete. Italian driver Felice Nazzaro drove his Fiat to second place in the inaugural race. The 1908 French Grand Prix was the first of three installments to be held at Dieppe, the most dangerous venue. While 1908 will be remembered as Mercedes’ 1-2-3 finish, the death of four people over that weekend will not be forgotten. In total, nine people died at Dieppe including 5 drivers, 2 riding mechanics, and 2 spectators. 1914 saw the most memorable battle between Peugeot and Mercedes. But despite a hard-fought race, Mercedes earned its second 1-2-3 finish in six years.
It was only in 1925 when a permanent and dedicated autodrome was built for the French Grand Prix. This race track was a 12.3 km L’autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry which was located some 20 miles south of France. The autodrome hosted the French Grand Prix from 1925-138. The race has been held in a total of 16 different race tracks throughout its long history. Only the Australian Grand Prix, which has had 23 different venues, has moved more from one track to another.
Venues For the French Grand Prix
One of the most popular venues for the French Grand Prix was the Reims-Gueux circuit in the Champagne region of north-east France. The track first hosted the French Grand Prix in 1938 and was also the first venue of the edition of the race during year one of the modern Formula One Championship in 1950. Australian driver Jack Brabham won the last race at Reim-Gueux in 1966. In 1971, the race moved to the newly built Paul Ricard circuit near Marseilles. The original 5.8 km circuit was infamously hard for F1 engines which often failed after being subject to full revs for much of the lap. The race track hosted the French Grand Prix a total of 14 times from 1971-1990.
From 1991-2008, the French Grand Prix found its home at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours in the center of France. The track was built in 1960 and was repaired by the local government after winning the bid to host the race. This race track was a favorite of F1 legend Michael Schumacher who won a total of 8 races at Magny-Cours from 1994-2006. Due to its remote location, poor access, and low attendance, the French Motorsports Federation withdrew its financial support in 2008, ending its stint at Magny-Cours.
The French Grand Prix returned to the scene in 2018 after a five-year deal to return at Paul Ricard circuit was signed. Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes won the 2018 French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard, his first win at the race in three starts. Hamilton finished 2nd in 2007 and 3rd in 2008 before the race went into hiatus.
Past Winners Of The French Grand Prix
Formula One legend Michael Schumacher is the winningest F1 driver in the French Grand Prix. The German driver won a total of 8 times in the French Grand Prix, taking the checkered flag in 1994,1995, 1997,1998, 2001, 2002, 2004 and 2006. All of Schumacher’s wins came at the Magny-Cours track. French driver Alain Prost won a total of six French Grand Prix races, including three in a row from 1988-1990 Monaco’s Louis Chiron won five while Britain’s Nigel Mansell and Argentina’s Juan Manuel Fangio won four apiece. None of the current Formula One drivers have won more than once.
Prost won four times at Circuit Paul Ricard while Mansell is the only other driver to have won more than once at Paul Ricard. The podium at the 1982 French Grand Prix was composed of three Frenchmen. Rene Arnoux won the race while Alain Prost and Didier Pironi came in second and third, respectively. A fourth French driver in Patrick Tambay came in fourth in what stands as the French’s best ever finish at their own Grand Prix. The 1996 French Grand Prix was the only edition of the race not to feature a former World Champion during the race. Schumacher won the pole that year but did not start the race after engine problems. Future champions Damon Hill, Jacque Villeneuve, and Mika Hakkinen finished in the Top 5.
When it comes to Constructors, Ferrari is the winningest car-maker in the race with a total of 17 French Grand Prix races won. Williams has a total of six victories at the French Grand Prix while Lotus has seven overall. The winningest French constructors are Renault and Bugatti with six apiece. French constructors Peugeot, Delage and Talbot-Lago have two wins each but their victories came before 1950. At Paul Ricard, Williams and McLaren share the most wins with three each. Renault won the first ever French Grand Prix but it waited 73 years to win the race again.
French Grand Prix Betting
When you take a look at the French Grand Prix history, it’s a race that wasn’t part of the Formula One championships for a decade prior to its return last year and it was one that Schumacher won 8 times from 1994-2006. So when you take a look at the current drivers on the Formula One scene, only Hamilton who won last year and Kimi Raikkonen in 2007 have ever won the French Grand Prix. If you look closer, it’s only Hamilton who’s won the race at Paul Ricard because Raikkonen won at Magny-Cours.
When it comes to betting for the French Grand Prix then, the biggest factor could very well be the drivers’ form heading to the June 23rd race. That’s because as we saw earlier, only Hamilton and Raikkonen have won this race before and only Hamilton has won it at its current venue. The odds for this race aren’t out yet but you can be sure that when it goes live, Hamilton will be on top of that odds board. Vettel should come next and as in the last two races, he will be the main challenger for Hamilton in this race.
Hamilton won the last race of the season after taking the 2019 Canadian Open on Sunday, June 10th. But while Hamilton continued to assert his dominance, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vetter and Charles Leclerc completed the podium. This was the second straight race where Vettel finished second to Hamilton and the first time this season that Hamilton’s teammate Valtteri Bottas hasn’t finished in the Top 3. It can be recalled that Hamilton and Bottas went 1-2 in the first five races of the year before Vettel stopped the run at last month’s Canadian Grand Prix.
We’ll be updating you once the odds go live and until then, we’ll reserve our preview and predictions of the race.