Pastis is a funny liquid. Seemingly clear in the bottle, when you add water it becomes cloudy and opaque.

Invented by Paul Ricard, the man behind the circuit currently playing host to the French Grand Prix, pastis is a symbol of France, along with the Breton-striped tops, Gauloise cigarettes, and the bi-weekly strikes and manifs that define the country on a global stage.

Like Pastis, the French Grand Prix at Ricard was a clear idea that went rather murky once an ingredient - in this case, human traffic - was added.

From a fan perspective, Friday at the French Grand Prix was a colossal fail. Gery van Dessel, who travelled to Marseilles from New York to see the race, found a hotel in la Cadiere d’Azur only 17 kilometres from the track. It took van Dessel three hours to travel to the circuit on Friday, and he missed the morning practice session.

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But worse was to come. Leaving Ricard after FP2, it took more than an hour to move a solitary metre inside the parking lot. 

“Still in the car parking after almost 4 hours,” van Dessel wrote to me. “We [have] moved 500 metres all in. We left our house at 9:45 this morning, and got to the track at 12:45 after two-and-a-half hours of queueing for parking.”

For van Dessel, the situation did improve on Saturday morning. Thanks to a 7.15 a.m. departure he covered 17 kms in an hour and five minutes.

The internet was aflame with irate fans demanding compensation for monies spent on a Friday lost to traffic jams, and an insulting release from the department du Var claiming that the backlog was limited to a 10am to 1pm window only proved how out of touch the local authorities were with the demands of hosting a major event.

Fans were not the only ones affected. Sabrina Beaudoin, a journalist for Tout F1 and Automobelle, failed to reach the track at all on Friday after spending eight hours stuck in traffic. Leaving the circuit at 10pm on Friday, it took me in excess of an hour to travel less than 20 kilometres to the coast. 

Both Sebastian Vettel and Romain Grosjean were stopped by the local police as they attempted to enter the circuit. Not for autographs, as you might expect for a French driver and the championship leader, but because the gendarmes concerned “did not care” that the pair were Formula 1 drivers and were trying to block their access to the track despite both men displaying their passes and wearing team kit.

Once inside the circuit, standards hardly improve. While the media facilities include a rare view of the start-finish straight - something that is greatly appreciated in this era of sticking the press in windowless boxes - there is a paucity of screens in the press room, which fails to meet the basic standards expected of a Formula 1 facility.

At the start of FP1, the timing screens in the press room displayed not the times we needed to see, but blue screens showing the Circuit Paul Ricard logo. When we asked the press room attendants to change the screens so we could do our jobs, they refused without the express permission of the FIA.

The “don’t care” attitude Grosjean and Vettel experienced with the local gendarmes is the same pervasive don’t care attitude that has turned what could be - what should have been - an excellent event into yet another grand prix that exists to be endured, not enjoyed.

There are pleasant elements to this race, of course. The surrounding countryside is little short of spectacular, and the local beaches would be a delightful place to enjoy a glass of rose and a plate of seafood - if only it were possible to get from the circuit to anywhere else before everything has closed for the night. But those are plus points for a holiday, not a motor race.

In a country famed for its gastronomy, my memories of the return of the French Grand Prix will feature tailbacks and traffic jams, protein bars and a rumbling stomach, and an awful lot of “don’t care”. Well, je m’en fou, Ricard - I don’t care about you either. And if you carry on like this, who will?

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