2008 French Grand Prix preview: Last Tango in Magny-Cours

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

1999 French Grand Prix, Magny-Cours, start, 1999

For the second year in a row Formula 1 heads to the Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours expecting it to be the final visit.

I?ve never found it the most exciting of F1 circuits – in fact, for me it’s the closest track I haven’t been to.

And when we discussed the expected dropping of the track last year few of you seemed sad to lose it either.

Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Williams-Honda, Paul Ricard, 1987, 470313

I always thought that France ?ǣ the country that gave the world Grand Prix racing ?ǣ should have its round of the world championship at a truly excellent venue.

The much-loved circuits at Reims, Rouen-les-Essarts and Clermont-Ferrand certainly fit that bill. Even Dijon-Prenois and Paul Ricard had some character. But charmless Magny-Cours does not ?ǣ at least, not to me.

The Circuit de Nevers was a club circuit before the incoming President Mitterand decided to turn it into a venue capable of holding world-class events. Geographically, the track was in the heartland of Mitterand?s electoral support and it is said that some of his political allies did rather well out of the construction contracts that came out of the development.

In 1991 it replaced the circuit Paul Ricard which previously boasted one of the longest straights in Formula 1. This seems to have been a preoccupation with French circuit designers ?ǣ look at the dizzying length of the original Mulsanne at the Circuit de la Sarthe, home of the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Magny-Cours may lack the epic Mistral straight for which Paul Ricard was renowned (which has been revived since it became a testing facility). And it has no equal for the picturesque appeal of Roeun, or the daunting challenge of Clermont-Ferrand. But it has at least been a capable host of the French Grand Prix.

It may be derided as unglamorous but (unlike some venues on the calendar whose right to hold a race is never questioned) I have not heard of team staff being mugged at gunpoint when they venture between track and hotel.

Above all, Magny-Cours has been home to F1 in France and the present alternative ?ǣ no French Grand Prix ?ǣ is much, much worse than contemplating another dull race at Nevers.

Grand Prix racing was born in France. And if Bernie Ecclestone can?t make his Paris Grand Prix pipe dream a reality in 2009, F1 should come back to Magny-Cours once again, and preserve that vital link with its heritage. France has lost its F1 teams, and was many years without an F1 driver until Sebastien Bourdais arrived. It shouldn’t lose its Grand Prix as well.

Alain Prost, Renault, Dijon-Prenois, 1981, 470313