Massive Paul Ricard traffic problem undermines French GP


Formula 1 fans are thrilled with the return of the French Grand Prix, unless that hold a ticket to the event and plan on driving to sunny Paul Ricard.

Yesterday saw thousands of people stranded in their car for hours as they painfully struggled in blistering heat to make their way to the circuit, with the majority missing part if not all the day's action.

The backroads leading to Le Castellet, from any direction, have never been well suited to handle a massive influx of traffic.

But in light of Friday's issues, organisers and local authorities will implement contingency procedures that will hopefully alleviate the congestion problem on Saturday and Sunday.

Among the changes, car parks will all be opened at the same time, instead of on a one-by-one basis, while traffic lanes will temporarily be double.

"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," said Aurélie Letelleir, head of marketing for the French GP.

"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."

Fans weren't the only ones affected by Friday's queues that stretched several miles, with many team members also falling victim to the congestion.

"It took us two hours to go 10 miles, it was ridiculous," said Force India's frustrated COO, Otmar Szafnauer.

"We had a guest who was flying in to have a meeting with me and then flying back. He never made it to the meeting. He had to turn around and go back to the airport.

"He phoned me and said: 'Sorry I've moved 7km in two and a half hours, my flight is at 5pm. I have to turn back."

Even a few famous faces had to force their way through roadblocks to reach the venue on time.

"We were driving, riding with Vettel and we got stopped by the police," said Haas' Romain Grosjean.

"We wanted to go again and the police wouldn't let us go. I had the pass, I had my T-shirt, I had everything."

As for Formula 1's boss, Chase Carey, the executive smiled when asked about the traffic problems, and brushed the issue aside.

"It’s great to be popular," said the executive, who obviously hadn't endured the miserable experience.

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

Unfortunately, Mr. Carey appears to live in his own little bubble…

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