Track and air temperatures will be very hot this weekend in Le Castellet at the Circuit Paul Ricard for the 2022 French GP. France and other parts of western Europe have been experiencing a tremendous heat wave, one that breaks all records. The drivers and their teams will need to take extra precautions this weekend to avoid heat-related injuries. They also need to manage their car’s temperatures to the end of the race.

Pressure Cooker Conditions

This weekend will be super hot, with highs of 92 degrees Fahrenheit, and track temperatures of over 110 degrees. F1 racing is already an intense physical experience in perfect weather, but the heat adds another layer to the physical demands of a race.

The drivers must wear their full racing suits. No layers can be removed because every part of the suit is necessary for fire protection. They do not have AC, instead, they can use cooling pads in their suit, or simply rely on the outside air that flows over their helmets… which will be hot. Hopefully, the drivers did some heat training in preparation for the grueling 53-lap race.

They do have water that they can access through a tube in their helmet, but sometimes that doesn’t always go to plan. Not a big deal for the Iceman:

I refer to their cockpit as a pressure cooker because the heat is difficult enough to manage, especially in terms of hydration, but they also endure the G-forces through the corners and braking zones. It will be extremely physically demanding out there.

The intakes on the cars will be taking in the hot air from the track, which is somewhat cooled by the speed of the cars. However, teams who have struggled with overheating at other races this season could have issues at the French GP.

Circuit Paul Ricard

This weekend will be the 90th running of the French GP over a number of different race tracks in France. It’s the 16th French GP to be held at Circuit Paul Ricard. Last season, Max Verstappen won the French GP with pole position and the fastest lap. His teammate Sergio Perez secured the one-two for Red Bull. The way these two drivers are performing this season, they could do it again.

The circuit is well known for its five FIA-graded track layouts, which look pretty confusing from above and on the track. It was built by liquor manufacturer Paul Ricard, the founder of “Ricard,” Pastis from Marseille.

Satellite bird's eye view of Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, Var, France in 2018. (Source: Wiki) French GP
Satellite bird’s eye view of Circuit Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, Var, France in 2018. (Source: Wiki)

F1 legend Michael Schumacher has the record for French GP victories. That is likely due to his tenacity as a driver, as well as his incredible fitness.

The track will be very hot, more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, so the tires will degrade quicker. Teams will have to choose the most durable tire for the hot day, without sacrificing pace. Most importantly, they will have to react appropriately to the strategic moves of their rivals.

I think that the race will appear to be a two-stop strategy, but then actually become a three-stop because of the degradation. Perhaps the teams who manage the best can pull off a two-stop. I do not envision the one-stop strategy to be optimal for the race on Sunday.

Le Castellet

Located 20 minutes inland, in the Var region, Le Castellet is a small village on a hill in the south of France. This region is beautiful and proximal to Toulon, right on the Mediterranean Sea.

View of the Village of Le Castellet in the Var region of Southern France, 2017. (Source: Wiki) French GP
View of the Village of Le Castellet in the Var region of Southern France, 2017. (Source: Wiki)

During the recent heatwave in Europe, residents of this area enjoy some cooler air from the sea, but overall it will still be hot. In France and the UK, there have been reports of asphalt melting and deforming due to the record high heat.

“In the Gironde region of southwestern France, ferocious wildfires continued to spread through tinder-dry pines forests, frustrating firefighting efforts by more than 2,000 firefighters and water-bombing planes.

– BOB EDME and JOHN LEICESTER: AP
Firefighter spraying water onto one of many wildfires in the Gironde region of Southwestern France in July 2022. (Source: AP)
Firefighter spraying water onto one of many wildfires in the Gironde region of Southwestern France in July 2022. (Source: AP)

These fires are not near the race track, but it makes me worry about the possibility of future races being canceled due to natural disasters that are exacerbated by climate change.

Which Drivers Can Get the Job Done in the Heat?

I feel that Red Bull will have a strong chance this weekend considering both of their drivers have excellent tire management abilities. Verstappen and Perez are at the top of the championship, and the pair are not drivers that will easily succumb to the difficult conditions during the race.

Alpine has been performing really well so far this season, they are currently tied with McLaren for the “best of the rest” spot in the Constructors’ Championship. The French team will be looking to perform well in front of their home crowd.

Alpine also do much of their testing in Le Castellet. Thus, their A522 should be more calibrated than others, and the race engineers might have more data.

Spanish F1 veteran, Fernando Alonso, has proved this season that he’s up for the task at the age of 40. In wet weather drives and hotter races, Alonso has been in the mix.

Esteban Ocon, the Frenchman and one of the crowd favorites this weekend, also looks strong going into the French GP. I do believe that Ocon and fellow countryman on the grid, Pierre Gasly, will harness the French support for a strong result.

Those cars have Ferrari power units, so Haas, Alfa Romeo, and Ferrari could suffer more technical issues due to overheating. Their engines have poor reliability this season. Furthermore, Ferrari tends to struggle with tire degradation at a faster rate than Red Bull and Mercedes. This was only two weeks ago:

Hopefully, Ferrari and Red Bull can race wheel to wheel for multiple laps as we saw in Austria when Leclerc got the better of Verstappen. I just want to see more great racing.

My name is Morgan Raynal, and I am a writer for Belly Up Racing and Belly Up Sports. You can find me on SubstackTwitter, and Instagram.

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