Brendon Hartley is familiar with the Circuit Paul Ricard having tested comprehensively there during his FIA World Endurance Championship career, but like many drivers, it will be his first taste of the circuit in a Formula 1 car this weekend.
The Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda driver was also a winner at the circuit alongside Jonathan Hirschi for the Murphy Prototypes in the European Le Mans Series back in 2013, joked that he knows the Paul Ricard circuit well in the dark.
“Paul Ricard is a circuit I know well, although not in a Formula 1 car,” said Hartley. “We did a lot of testing there with WEC in the LMP1 car and I won the LMP2 category here in 2013.
“It was always a popular track for endurance testing and I’m also pretty handy round there in the night-time, although that’s not going to come into play in a Formula 1 car!”
The circuit has been resurfaced ahead of the race, which Hartley feels could spice up the action, particularly if the new tarmac changes the way the tyres wear, with the previous surface causing the left front tyre to wear out quickly.
“I understand the track has been completely resurfaced, which will be interesting to see, because it was quite a unique track in terms of tyre life,” said the New Zealander. “It used to be very, very extreme on left front tyre wear, so depending on the surface change, that factor may have altered a little bit.
“It’s a track I enjoy driving and it’s still pretty quick, thought not as fast the configuration I used to test on, which didn’t have the chicane on the back straight. Even so, I think it’s a cool track.
“It’s obviously got a lot of history, both for sports cars and Formula 1, so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s not too far away from Monaco, where I live and it’s in a lovely part of the world.”
Hartley believes the wind could play a part this weekend as it comes in off the Mediterranean, and it is another challenge that drivers will have to contend with behind the wheel.
“I think it’s a nice race track to drive on and should produce some good racing,” said Hartley. “It can be very windy at Ricard, with the Mistral wind giving its name to the long straight.
“That can be a big factor in a Formula 1 car and is another challenge you have to deal with behind the wheel.”