The Circuit Paul Ricard is virtually new territory for all the F1 drivers. Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg is one of the drivers who are unfamiliar with the track. but even so he’s extra motivated to do well in next week’s Grand Prix.
F1 has not raced at Le Castellet since 1990, and it’s the first French Grand Prix in a decade.
Hulkenberg is keenly aware of how much the event means to the fiercely proud French squad, and is determined to do his best for them.
“I’m very much looking forward to racing at Circuit Paul Ricard,” he said. “It’s been a long time coming for Renault, ten years since their last race on home soil
“I’m carrying that extra level of motivation to do the job proud on track. I know how much this means to the staff members of the team!”
Unlike drivers such as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, Hulkenberg actually has a little experience driving at Paul Ricard from other championships.
“I know the circuit quite well actually, so it’s not like going in totally blind,” he said. “I’ve driven a few laps there back when I was preparing for the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours.
“The characteristics of the circuit are quite similar to the last round in Montréal,” he pointed out. “Especially the long straights with need for a high-top speed, as well as heavy braking zones.
“Completing laps on the simulator is a good starting point,” he continued. “And we’ll be spending a day at Enstone going through set-ups and trying to get some data on board before we head there.
“Then it’s about working hard with your engineers, learning and listening, before putting it all into practice and trying to get as many laps as possible chalked up through the Friday and Saturday practice sessions.
“Friday practice is going be important for all teams and drivers to get up to speed of learning a new circuit,” he said. “But that’s a challenge I look forward to and I’ll be doing my best to discover some secrets!”
Hulkenberg is targeting a result at least as good as last time out in Montreal, where he was seventh – the ‘best of the rest’ after the Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull cars.
“Finishing seventh is essentially the best we can achieve at the moment if the top six finish the race,” he admitted.
“But that doesn’t deter from the fact we have a lot to work on and many areas to improve to close the gap to the front.”