After a prolonged hiatus, the French Grand Prix made a comeback at the Circuit Paul Ricard in 2018. However, post the 2022 event, its contract wasn’t extended, causing its exclusion from this year’s calendar.
Prior to the confirmation of Circuit Paul Ricard’s exit from the F1 calendar, the idea of a street event in Nice had started to surface as a potential replacement. Despite this, some speculated that Formula 1’s interest might also be linked to its concurrent negotiations with Monaco about a new contract, an issue that has now been settled.
The local newspaper, Nice-Matin, reported that Christian Estrosi, the Mayor of Nice, recently reached out to Macron for his backing, emphasizing the significance of the French Grand Prix. Macron responded positively, delegating the task of liaising with F1/Liberty Media and spearheading a feasibility study for the race’s return to Estrosi and FFSA President Nicolas Deschaux, without committing to a specific venue. Both individuals played a critical role in the race’s previous return to Paul Ricard.
Macron assured, “I fully share your aspiration. It is crucial that our country, like the host of other major international sports events it conducts annually, reunites with F1, for the sheer enjoyment of all. It’s a matter of national allure, the prestige of our automotive industry, and innovation to facilitate the sector’s decarbonization.”
He further elaborated, “In this regard, you are tasked with exploring the various possible locations [in France], gauging their economic model, their alignment with our ecological commitments, and their potential contributions to regional and national growth. In this scenario, your primary focus should be on initiating conversations with the F1 rights holders.”
Estrosi’s association with Nice renders it a likely contender, but it remains uncertain which other cities might be seriously considered.
The support of Macron carries weight, as Jean Alesi, the current boss of Paul Ricard, believes that the circuit’s premature exit from the calendar was expedited by insufficient political support.
“The issues with F1 in France are less about the circuit and more about the political climate,” Alesi shared with F1 Flow.com. “It’s possibly the only F1 grand prix that has never witnessed the attendance of a president – apart from the one time at Magny-Cours when [Francois] Mitterrand showed up as part of his political agenda.”
An F1 insider noted that the organization is amenable to discussions with Macron’s team to stage the race in “a quintessential French location.”
Concurrently, on Wednesday, the metropolitan authorities of Nice Cote d’Azur agreed to contribute €5m to assist the Public Interest Group of the French GP organization in settling a €27m debt incurred from the Paul Ricard events.
This decision sparked controversy, particularly as it preceded the delivery of an audit into the organization’s activities, which is slated for the end of the month.
Local Ecology MP Fabrice Decoupigny expressed his displeasure with the decision, saying, “There is no question of paying an advance of 5 million when there are potential irregularities.” This controversy may impede future endeavors to allocate public funds to a street race project in Nice.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about French Grand Prix revival
When did the French GP return to the Circuit Paul Ricard after its long absence?
The French Grand Prix returned to the Circuit Paul Ricard in 2018 after a long absence.
Who is responsible for handling negotiations for the return of the French GP?
French President Macron has given the responsibility of dealing with F1/Liberty Media and launching a feasibility study for the return of the race to Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi and FFSA president Nicolas Deschaux.
Why was the Circuit Paul Ricard removed from the F1 calendar?
Jean Alesi, the current boss of Paul Ricard, believes that the circuit’s removal from the F1 calendar was due to a lack of political support.
Who is considered as a potential candidate for hosting the French GP?
Nice, due to its connections with Mayor Christian Estrosi, is considered an obvious candidate for hosting the French Grand Prix.
What is the controversy around the financial support for the French GP?
The Nice Cote d’Azur metropolitan authorities agreed to pay €5m to help the Public Interest Group of the French GP organisation pay off a €27m debt, which sparked controversy as it was done before an audit into the organisation’s activities was delivered.