The 1970 French Grand Prix was the six race of the season, and was held again at the Charade Circuit near Clermont-Ferrand. With the Rouen circuit retired for safety reasons, and construction of a major highway eliminating Reims, French organizers had to scramble a bit to find a suitable track for the race. This race was originally slated for the airport circuit at Albi, but it was finally decided that Albi was just too short and uninteresting for a Grand Prix.
The race returned to the Charade Circuit, on an extinct volcano southeast of Clermont-Ferrand. Since last year's race the circuit had been partially rebuilt, giving a smoother surface, but a large number of volcanic rocks were used as the foundation, and cars straying over the track edge were flinging rocks onto the racing surface.
Brabham: The cars had been fitted with triple rear aerofoils, similar to the Lotus design. They also had safety pegs on the tire rims, to prevent them from leaving the rims in case of deflation. This was the cause of Jack Brabham's accident in unofficial practice at Zandvoort.
BRM: Because of the problems encountered at Zandvoort, the team made multiple revisions to the oil system, and added safety pegs to the rims.
Lotus: The 72s arrived with the rear of their monocoques strengthened, and the rear shock absorbers repositioned. Alex Soler-Roig rented the use of the team's spare 49C, but had never seen the track before and failed to qualify, more than 15 seconds slower than Ickx's pole time.
March: Chris Amon spent the first part of practice driving the original 701, mounted with a large number of suspension pick-up points to analyze different settings for the track.
Matra: For their home race, the Matras had a revised front suspension to reduce understeer, and 15 inch rear wheels.
McLaren: Denny Hulme was returning to driving after four weeks of letting his hands heal, but they were still covered with bandages, and he was a frequent visitor at the medical center for maintenance. Because Peter Gethin had totaled Hulme's usual chassis, he was using the M14D previously used by Andrea de Adamich, and converted back to Cosworth power. The team had to make a larger custom cockpit cover, to prevent Hulme from banging his hands on the sides. This meant that de Adamich was relegated to the team's spare M7D, with his usual Alfa Romeo engine installed.
Surtees: John Surtees failed to arrive because of a shortage of Cosworth engines, and the Cosworth factory was now on their annual holiday.
The weekend featured mostly very warm temperatures. Because of the small paddock and short pit lane, only 20 cars would be allowed to start the race. With 23 entries, three would go home early. Practice consisted of a 2 1⁄2 hour session on Friday afternoon, and hour long sessions on Saturday morning and afternoon. The first surprise came when the Ferrari transporter failed to show on Friday. The factory was late in sending the truck out, and it arrived at the border between France and Italy after customs for commercial vehicles had shut down on Thursday. And once past the border on Friday morning, the radiator sprang a leak. The team sent to Italy for help, as it was felt that needing French assistance would have been humiliating.
Without the Scuderia present, the March cars were showing the way. Jackie Stewart was fastest on Friday with a time of 3:00.14, followed by Chris Amon at 3:00.96. Denny Hulme was third with a 3:01.06, and Jean-Pierre Beltoise recorded a 3:01.83 to lead the 12-cylinder cars. Jochen Rindt was having troubles. He had long resisted using full-face helmets, saying they made him ill, and he preferred the cool breeze on his face. He tried one here, and returned with the usual complaint. So, just after heading back out with his customary open-face helmet, one of the volcanic rocks was kicked up by another car and slashed his lip. Around the same time, Moser crunched the Bellasi into the guard rail, basically ending his weekend.
Saturday showed a Ferrari team anxious to make up for lost time, and Jacky Ickx promptly did just that, moving to the top of the session with a 3:00.62. Beltoise was just behind at 3:00.65, and Rindt had to work hard to log the third fastest time at 3:00.74. Ignazio Giunti was showing great promise, coming in eighth fastest at 3:04.14, clearly faster than all of the other newer drivers.
On Saturday afternoon, a mild cold front went by, bringing a cooler breeze and lower track temperatures. Almost everyone in the field improved their time, led by Ickx, who ran a brilliant lap of 2:58.22. Beltoise was half a second back, with Amon, Stewart, Brabham and Rindt all getting under three minutes. At the other end, Lovely and Soler-Roig were more than 16 seconds off of Ickx's time, with Graham Hill just beating Moser's time for the final spot in the race.