France’s long-awaited return to the Formula 1 calendar is all but confirmed, with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone telling the country’s L’Équipe newspaper that the deal “is done” for Paul Ricard to host the event.
Subject to ratification from the FIA, the circuit will play host to its first Grand Prix since 1990 from next year onwards, where it is expected to alternate with the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps.
Belgian Grand Prix organisers have been battling to continue hosting the event at the iconic Ardennes circuit, with the race continuing to rack of considerable, and ultimately unsustainable, losses.
The deal ensures that it will remain on the calendar – albeit every second year – rather than falling off the map entirely. It will mark France’s return to the F1 calendar after the Grand Prix at Magny Cours was dropped after the 2008 race.
“The [French] deal is done,” Ecclestone let slip during the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend. “We actually agreed on financial terms with the Sports Minister, David Douillet, in my office last Tuesday. We are still discussing a few points about money around the race: ‘You give me this, I want that’ and so on but, for me, there is no doubt that we will sort it all out.”
With France in the midst of its presidential elections – which look set to oust the once-popular incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy from the top job – Bernie will be keen to ensure the deal is rubber-stamped before a new government comes into power.
Now all that will be left to decide is which of the circuit’s 167 layout configurations (yes, there are that many!) the Grand Prix will run on.
Our pick is the original 5.8-kilometre layout used between 1971-85.