The performing extravaganza that is the Formula One circus descends this weekend on the Circuit Paul Ricard, otherwise known as Le Castellet, named after the quaint, touristy and typically Provencal village just twenty minutes away in the Var department of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region in south eastern France.

A dusty and hot track high in the hills, but one that will bring back memories, both good and bad, for many who were involved in the sport in the 1970s and 1980s when the race took place on the full circuit.

During the 1990s the short circuit was used until the race was moved to the characterless Magny-Cours track in central France.

Built by and named after the 'King of Pastis' Paul Ricard and opened in 1970, the track and surrounding area was a favourite of the paddock with the normal French benefits of good food and wine and the beaches of the Mediterranean just 30 minutes to the south.


It even had the circuit approach roads liberally sprinkled by 'ladies of the night' who seemed equally at home as being 'ladies of the day'.

The paddock 'glitterati' also made full use of the airport, able to handle private aircraft, situated within the track boundaries.

It was also a scene of tragedy with the death in a test session of the popular driver Elio de Angelis while driving his Brabham BT55 and it was driving away from a test at the track in 1986 that F1 team owner Frank Williams sustained injuries in a road accident that would leave him a tetraplegic.

Looking at the entry list for the 1985 Grand Prix it is striking to see the team names.

Alfa Romeo, Arrows, Brabham, Ferrari, Ligier, Lotus, McLaren, Minardi, Osella, RAM, Tyrrell, Williams and Zakspeed.

In the next three years those teams were joined by the likes of March, Rial, Dallara, AGS, EuroBrun, Osella and Coloni.

Out of all of those team names only three, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams survive in todays Formula One.

With the exception of Alfa Romeo all of the teams were privately owned with, arguably, one man directing the overall operation and who had the total respect and devotion of the small band that made up the team.

A leader, someone strong willed with but one objective.

To race and compete in Formula 1.

It was an exciting time in the sport, a time of real competition, a time of characters and a time of powerful, simple looking cars with inventive and ground breaking designs and compared to today, minimal rules.

Situations were sorted and racing men who strode the paddock, not a remote Board of Directors who need to make their investment pay, made decisions.

The teams were founded or owned by strong personalities, usually self-made and hard-nosed men with a history in the sport and who turned to team ownership because they were 'racers' at heart.

From Enzo Ferrari himself to Enzo Coloni and Enzo Osella, from Ken Tyrrell to Guy Ligier, they were mostly innovators and were working on budgets and operations that are today outnumbered in both money and personnel terms by the teams catering staff alone.

They were as fiercely competitive and as uncompromising as any the sport has seen, before or since, but primarily they were team-owning sportsmen.

They remain the pillars on which the sport, as we know it today, was founded.

A look at the entry for the French GP 2018 edition sees Ferrari competing with Mercedes, Red Bull, Renault, McLaren, Force India, Toro Rosso, Haas, Sauber and Williams.

Haas and Williams, with arguably McLaren and Force India, are the only teams that can be called, in any way; independent of a board or corporation that actually runs the operation.

The overwhelming strength of the others, either by supplying engines or simply weight of dollars they can bring to the table, effectively control the sport.

The Haas operation, owned by American Gene Haas, a man heavily involved in motorsport on both sides of the Atlantic and who would have been at home in the sport all those decades ago, is practically a satellite Ferrari team.

Force India is in a fight for survival while undergoing serious ownership and financial challenges complete with a large 'For Sale' sign above it's doors. Williams, a team now sadly at it's lowest ebb, and by team principal Clare Williams own estimation, a team that is in danger of soon closing completely unless the much talked about Formula 1 'cost cap' is quickly introduced.

McLaren, an organisation now apparently riven with internal discontent and floundering without that inspirational type of leader, seems intent on departing the core business of the operation, which is Formula 1 racing, not Le Mans, not sports cars, not even IndyCar.

Fix the Formula 1 side of things first and then worry about the rest.

Those many eponymous teams were bought and sold as time went on so the French Grand Prix, in just a few years, may well have a total team entry list whose DNA goes back to those original pillars of the sport but which are now controlled by a faceless few whose own personal race is with a balance sheet.