Four tracks linked to future French GP

Giancarlo Fisichella, Fernando Alonso, Magny-COurs, 2007, 470150

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.

Paris

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?

Le Mans

Peugeot 908 HDi FAP, Le Mans 24 Hours, Circuti de la Sarthe, 2008, 470313

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.

Rouen

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.

Magny-Cours

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.

Read more about Alain Prost: Alain Prost biography

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11 comments on Four tracks linked to future French GP

  1. Isn’t Paul Ricard still in France or did Bernie have it moved?

  2. Paul Ricard is but it may not be any longer suitable for staging a race. Bernie turned it into a high tech test track

  3. Tom said on 20th June 2008, 10:11

    milos – what do you mean?

  4. francois said on 20th June 2008, 10:30

    What’s wrong with going down the full Circuit de La Sarthe?

    All they have to do really is make the qualifying and practice sessions longer – although I’m not sure how much the TV companies would like that.

    I didn’t think it was Bernie that tore down the grandstands and tarmaced over the gravel run offs down at Paul Ricard.Shame really as it’s a great track.

  5. Terry Fabulous said on 20th June 2008, 10:39

    Tom the track has no infastructure allowing punters to come in and enjoy a race. Things like roads, stands, toilets, etc.
    Not to say of course, that it couldn’t be built!

  6. Robert McKay said on 20th June 2008, 11:24

    I think Bernie is crying wolf about Magny-Cours “last grand prix”. Clearly the man realises it takes time for getting over the political and economic hurdles, the planning and construction phases and actually organising a new track. I think he’s trying to hurry things along: if he can pretend that there’s no French GP next year, then everyone works harder to come up with a solution. Once he’s actually got something concrete for 2010, mysteriously Magny-Cours will be allowed to see out its contract.

    If he were to announce at the moment that next year’s GP would be Magny-Cours last, there would be much less urgency to sort things out.

  7. Sassan said on 20th June 2008, 13:57

    Magny cours to me is abysmal but i do not want another micky mouse track (le mans). I think next year will be the last year for magny cours. I was a fan of the great paul ricard but our FRIEND Bernie turned it into a high tech test track. Paris i would not mind as i am keen on having more street races, however, i do not want france as a whole to be scrapped for a race in the middle east.

  8. Scootin159 said on 20th June 2008, 14:25

    I’d love to see F1 run at Circuit de la Sarthe. It would be an interesting technical setup with Monza-like wings, but Monaco-type soft suspensions (to avoid bouncing off the tarmac).

  9. Rob R. said on 20th June 2008, 14:53

    I think we’ll be seeing them at the Bugatti Circuit this time next year. While obviously it would be an improvement in terms of location, I think the track itself is one of the few current tracks that rank below Magny Cours…

  10. the limit said on 21st June 2008, 3:46

    Personally, I would love to see F1 return to Paul Ricard. However, I have to agree that Ecclestone will almost certainly give Magny Cours the race for 2009, before moving to greener pastures.
    I have a sneeky suspicion that Bernie is waiting to see how the Singapore race goes down with the punters before making any decisions. Alot is riding on that.
    Surely one night race will, if successfull, only open the door for other future grands prix, and lets face it.
    Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world,especially at night. Saying that, there is bound to be opposition to that idea.
    Magny Cours isn’t that bad a track, but as Sush pointed out a couple of months ago, it is so difficult for fans to get to.
    One thing is for sure, France needs and deserves to keep its grands prix. Anything less would be a disaster.

  11. Agreed. There’s too much history in the French Grand Prix for it to be lost. After all, why is it called the Grand Prix at all? And how about the FIA, what language does that come from?

    No, it would be a true disaster for there to be no more French Grand Prix.

    I think that La Sarthe wouldn’t be too great for F1. Although the cars would be quite capable going round it, I feel that management wouldn’t want the full circuit run. Also my personal opinion is that the La Sarthe is a special feature of the 24h. I feel that effectively adding a higher level of commercialization as is the modern F1 spectacle, it would subtract from the novelty of running the La Sarthe circuit for the 24h. Personal opinion only. (I am a big 24h LM/LMS fan after all)

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