The French Grand Prix made its glorious return to the Formula 1 calendar in 2018 after a lengthy absence. The race moved to Le Castellet in the south of France and the beautiful Circuit Paul Ricard.
A test circuit for a lot of motorsport, Paul Ricard offers a bit of everything as a circuit and so tests man and machine equally. Thanks to enormous run-off areas the penalty for running wide here isn’t too much, but it is extremely easy to pick up corner-cutting warnings and wear your tyres out so balancing a setup that is precise on turn-in and fast enough down the long mistral straight that you can make overtakes and defend your position.
Despite the lengthy main straight on this circuit the number of long corners and awkward angles means you need some aerodynamic stability if you want any sort of consistent grip on turn-in and corner exit. A 3-7 setting gives enough front-end responsiveness without hurting our speed too much and the high rear wing allows us to trust using the loud pedal on exit and carry more speed in the final sector.
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While traction is important around this circuit, there is only 1 really key traction zone and all the long cornering can wear on tyres. With that in mind we are unlocking the on-throttle differential to help preserve some rear tyre life and setting it to 60%.
Off-throttle we use an 80% setting to keep the rears rotating near each other when cornering so we can accelerate with more confidence while not dragging the outside tyre too much.
The suspension geometry setting is always a tough one to balance as it has a big impact on pace and tyre wear. The front tyres can take a pounding here, especially on the soft tyre, so protecting that opens up strategy options for the race.
With that in mind we are moving the front camber to the left, setting it at -3.10 while the rears are at -1.30 to give us more purchase when powering out of corner.
Toe is set to 0.08 & 0.29 to help reduce resistance when in a straight line.
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This part of the setup is made easier by the characteristics of this circuit. It is on a perfectly flat plain with very few bumps and elevation changes, while the kerbs are very flat and forgiving. As a result we can set the suspension nice and soft at 2-2.
The anti-roll bars are set nice and stiff at 9-7 to help us flick through the several chicanes, though if you are still struggling with tyre then try a 7-7 setting here.
Thanks to the flat nature of the circuit we can lower the ride height to the extreme and go with a 2-3. The higher rear gives us a bit more turn-in efficiency.
Braking is always vital, especially with the main overtaking spot coming after the long mistral straight. Our 90% setting is predicated on using the ABS assist though, so if you don’t use that then this is likely to cause too many lockups.
The brake bias is set to 54% to keep the front responsive as we slow the car down. This does increase stopping distance a touch, so when going for an overtake feel free to push it forward again so you can be the last of the late brakers.
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The tyre pressures are a less-thought-about but still key aspect of setups. We have gone with a 23.8 psi pressure for the fronts to keep them pointy on turn-in and the rears are moved down to 21.1 psi to increase contact patch and improve traction.
This does add a bit to front tyre wear so reducing the front pressure is another way to combat that if you find your fronts starting to melt before your scheduled pit stop.
So that’s our setup for the French Grand Prix, it’s a fun race and challenging circuit that tests you without punishing mistakes too harshly. There are overtaking chances but you also have to be patient and pick your spots. It’s ideal for sim racing, even if this years race was a touch dull.
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