Recapping all of the additional news and notes from Thursday at Paul Ricard in build-up to the French Grand Prix, F1 Editor Luke Smith brings you his paddock notebook.

- Formula 1 started its return to France this weekend after 10 years away, with the French Grand Prix last being held at Magny Cours back in 2008. This weekend's race marks Paul Ricard's first F1 grand prix since 1990, although the track has hosted extensive amounts of test running through the years.

- A number of drivers in the field have experience racing at Paul Ricard in junior formulae (although Romain Grosjean's only race here came in sports cars!), but many of the older hats have been relying on simulator experience in preparation for the race. Paul Ricard is known for its numerous layouts (167 to be precise), with Nico Hulkenberg joking that he took the wrong chicane a couple of times in the simulator: "You sit pretty low and a lot of the corners are like blind and you don’t see until very late!"

- Some concerns were expressed about the number of overtaking opportunities around the layout at Paul Ricard. Carlos Sainz Jr. said the best hopes of a race with overtaking came depending on the tyre calls if there is a close crossover between a one- and two-stop race.

French GP - 5 Iconic Moments

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- Thursday saw the first real discussions about the driver market for 2019 begin to gather steam, largely sparked by Red Bull making a final decision on its engine supply for next year, having announced a two-year deal with Honda on Tuesday. With this set, Daniel Ricciardo is the next piece to move, with reports coming out of Germany and the UK this week suggesting that McLaren has tabled an offer for his services for next year. Ricciardo responded by saying although he'd not received an offer, one would not surprise him, and that he hopes to make a final decision before the F1 summer break.

- Ricciardo's own future at Red Bull will have an effect on Sainz at Renault, who is on loan from Red Bull for this year and is still under option for 2019. Sainz said he doubted the engine decision for Red Bull will have any impact on his own future, and that he thought he would still have some influence in where he ends up next year despite being under option. Sainz is yet to discuss his future with Christian Horner or Helmut Marko, though.

- Another potential (albeit outside chance) replacement for Ricciardo at Red Bull is Pierre Gasly, who has impressed through the opening chunk of races in his F1 career since debuting at Sepang last autumn. Gasly said he wasn't yet thinking about his future despite his close ties to Honda, stretching back to his time in Super Formula last year.

- Fernando Alonso's future continues to be a talking point as he mulls a possible move to IndyCar next year, with the Spaniard remaining coy when asked during Thursday's press conference if he could realistically enter the Indianapolis 500 again while still being in F1: "With the Le Mans victory, it puts me a little bit closer to that target. I will think and I will see what I do next year."

- And of course, Le Mans! Alonso's victory was discussed widely through the paddock on Thursday. Alonso himself hit back at suggestions his and Toyota's win was devalued by the lack of manufacturer competition, instead claiming it was "on a higher level than any other victory" due to the 10-car LMP1 grid, eight of whom were privateer entries. Alonso and the #8 Toyota crew finished 10 laps clear of the best privateer at Le Mans.

- Nico Hulkenberg, who won Le Mans in 2015 with Porsche when LMP1 had four manufacturers for a total of 10 cars, said Alonso's win was "probably" worth less given the lack of competition. Brendon Hartley refused to be drawn on it, laughing the question off and saying he would not give this writer a headline...

French GP Records

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- Speaking of Hartley, he met with the media for the first time today since his accident in Canada with Lance Stroll that resulted in him being taken to hospital for a series of precautionary checks after the impact light went off in his car. Hartley defended his decision to try and pass around the outside, but is yet to talk to Stroll about the crash. Despite ongoing speculation about his future with Toro Rosso, the New Zealander said he felt "mentally strong" heading into the weekend, with his sights firmly set on points.

- Lewis Hamilton was asked for an update on his contract situation, but once again batted away the question. "When it’s done I’ll tell you it’s done," he said. "We’re not really talking about much at the moment. It’s going to happen. Just soon. It’s definitely not closer than it’s ever been – but it’s not like there’s no negations."

- After struggling with the reduced tread tyres in Spain, Sebastian Vettel is sure that Ferrari has got on top of the issues heading into this weekend's race. Pirelli reduced the tread in its compounds by 0.4mm for Spain, France and Britain due to the track resurfacing in a bid to prevent overheating on the tyres. Ferrari completed extensive running on the adjusted tyres at the post-Spanish Grand Prix test.

- Home representatives Pierre Gasly, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon were all present in the FIA press conference on Thursday, with this weekend's race marking their maiden grand prix on home soil. Grosjean's F1 debut came in 2009, one year after the French Grand Prix fell off the calendar.

- Mercedes will make a final decision on whether or not to introduce its updated-spec engine on Friday, having delayed its planned debut in Canada due to a quality issue. Customer teams Force India and Williams will also be watching closely to see if they receive the update parts.

- There will be two DRS zones for this weekend's race. The first zone will come on the Mistral Straight, with the detection through the kink at Turn 7 before being activated 170 metres later, giving drivers a good run to the speed trap before braking into Turn 8. The second zone will be on the main straight, with detection coming 115 metres earlier through the slow-speed Turn 14.

- Haas F1 chief Gunther Steiner revealed the team is still in talks with Sepang over compensation following Romain Grosjean's high-speed crash during last year's practice session, caused by a loose drain cover. "We are at the end of that negotiations and I can speak when we have finished that," Steiner said. "It’s going the right direction but we’ve not reached a resolution yet. It’s going to the end of it and we should be done in the next month, hopefully."



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