French GP makes changes to tackle traffic crisis

Changes will be made to the traffic management procedures implemented at Formula 1’s French Grand Prix to try to avoid a repeat of the enormous queues that occurred on Friday.

The build-up to the returning French GP has been plagued by traffic problems around the Paul Ricard circuit, which is only immediately accessible by one road.

That has triggered huge tailbacks into the surrounding areas, with F1 personnel and spectators queuing for hours to get to the track.

For Friday’s practice day the local authority, which is responsible for traffic management, made the main road into the circuit accessible in only one direction, via a single lane, for spectators.

It was also operating car parks – which have a total combined capacity of 25,000 places – on a one-by-one basis, filling them to the maximum before opening the next one.

A statement from the Var prefect, the local authority, said that in conjunction with the organiser they had decided to open all car parks at once and temporarily double traffic lanes “in the immediate surroundings” of the track.

The Var prefect statement claimed “the situation is gradually improving” but a meeting is taking place between the authority and the organiser to draft a contingency plan for the weekend if problems continue.

Organisers had targeted a crowd of 65,000 - 70,000, some 20,000 below the circuit’s maximum capacity, and previously admitted that traffic management had been a top priority given its natural access problem.

Speaking to during pre-season testing in Spain, head of French GP marketing and communications Aurelie Letellier said she would not promise that “you will just drive through” but said it was "not something we're worried about".

“Obviously we are aware of the challenges that come with having such a beautiful circuit on the top of a hill with sea view, everything in the middle of a natural environment,” she said.

“There’s been bigger events at Paul Ricard. We know it can accommodate way more traffic and way more people.

“Nonetheless we’ve decided that we’ll stick with the 65,000 [limit] this year, because we want to put up a good show that’s comfortable for everyone.”

When asked about the traffic situation on Friday, Formula 1 chairman Chase Carey said: "It’s great to be popular.

"We have got a great crowd on Friday and it will grow bigger as the weekend goes. And they will all have fun."

Empty grandstands before FP1 due to traffic problems outside the circuit
Empty grandstands before FP1 due to traffic problems outside the circuit

Photo by: Benjamin Vinel


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About this article
Series Formula 1
Event French GP
Track Circuit Paul Ricard
Article type Breaking news