With Bernie Ecclestone insisting that this year’s French Grand Prix really will be the last one held at Magny-Cours, all kinds of rumours have sprung up about where the race might be held in the future.
Here are four of the tales doing the rounds this weekend – all highly speculative.
Ecclestone’s preferred solution is a Grand Prix in Paris: glamorous and close to all the best hotels, not stuck out in the countrside without enough suites to go around.
But there’s been little information forthcoming about how this might actually happen. Alain Prost, the only Frenchman to win the world championship, has leant his backing to the proposed race but admits it’s unlikely to happen for next year:
It’s true it would be easier around Paris because it represents what Formula One wants nowadays in terms of prestige and hotel capacity etc. But it won’t be for 2009 because it is too early. It would only be for 2010, and then what happens in 2009?
Dutch website F1 Today claimed the owners of the La Sarthe Circuit, home of the Le Mans 24 Hours, had been in discussions with Ecclestone about moving the race there.
We were speculating last week on how fast and F1 car would lap Le Mans and suggested it would take almost three minutes to get around the 14km track. Instead of that, they’d probably have to use a configuration based on the Bugatti circuit, which was tried in 1967 bur dropped because it wasn’t very popular.
The sight of F1 cars heading at least part way down the famous Mulsanne straight would be fantastic. But it seems a bit too good to be true to me.
Reported on GrandPrix.com, Rouen held F1 races in the 1950s and 1960s on a beautiful racing circuit featuring the famous, paved Nouveau Monde hairpin. But the track was never used again for F1 following the death of Jo Schlesser at the circuit in 1968.
An enterprise group is reportedly looking at constructing one of three different circuits in the region. But it’s not realistic to imagine they could go from this provisional stage to hosting a Grand Prix within 12 months.
If there is a French Grand Prix next year, and I hope there is, it will most likely be at the same venue it has been since 1991. Ecclestone has demanded for the second year in a row this is the last race at Magny-Cours.
According to the race’s chief executive Eric Barbaroux the circuit has a contract until 2011. I had a look on a couple of sites and couldn’t find anything suggesting a contract had been signed beyond 2009. But either way if there is a contract for a race next year and one isn’t held presumably Magny-Cours would be entitled to some remuneration?
Barbaroux claims (in an interview with Autohebdo reported on GrandPrix.com) a race may be held at the circuit next year depending on what happens this year. Another source suggests the track has received £46m in funding to keep the Grand Prix.
However credible some of these rumours are, they are surely proof that there is much desire in France to keep the Grand Prix. As Prost said:
It’s important for a country like France to have a grand prix. It’s not just a race, but an event and it represents a lot for the car industry in general. But it’s not my decision. In the end it’s the economy that decides – Bernie Ecclestone and the manufacturers.
But what we absolutely have to keep is the historic grands prix in Europe. That seems very important to me because I think it would be a mistake to have none. Formula One was built here and there are lots of European constructors, so we must keep this identity.
He’s right. And if Ecclestone wants to take the race away to Paris in 2010, or whenever, when this track’s ready, it seems utterly pointless to take the event away from a perfectly decent Grand Prix track in the meantime.
If Ecclestone did end up buying Magny-Cours out of its contact to have a Grand Prix next year, he truly would be cutting his nose to spite his face.