The French Grand Prix has been removed from the 2023 calendar for the next Formula 1 season and is looking for ways to return to the forefront. One of the alternatives being considered is to hold the race on the legendary 24 Hours circuit of Lemans.
After a relatively successful 2022 at the Paul Ricard track in southern France, the contract with the Castellet circuit is coming to an end with F1 confirming recently that there won’t be a French GP next year, certainly not at Ricard.
The reasons are several, but the main problem is financial with no movement in negotiations, therefore it has not been renewed for the coming season. But it does appear that the Lemans track as an alternative is being seriously considered.
Competition from Asian and Middle Eastern countries is making life difficult for French organisers, whose resources are radically inferior to those cash rich, state sponsored events. Nevertheless, for many France is a land of Formula 1 and the birthplace of Grand Prix racing. The history of motor racing has always been written with French drivers and teams. And among the bastions of motor sports, there is the 24 Hours circuit of Lemans.
An infrastructure that hosts one of the biggest events in the world for the annual 24 hours race held in May. For its history, its influence, its potential and its infrastructure, Le Mans is an ideal candidate to see Formula 1 return to France.
The most plausible way for Le Mans to host F1 again would presumably be on the 2.6-mile Bugatti layout, which hosted the French GP in 1967 and is used by MotoGP. The main circuit used for the 24 hours race includes public roads and a standard length F1 GP there would be just 22 laps, so that would be very unlikely to be considered.
Stefano Domenicali a confirmé qu’il n’y aura pas de Grand Prix de France en 2023 ! ❌🇫🇷
« On reste en discussions avec la Fédération et même le gouvernement. »
— Secteur F1 (@Secteur_F1) August 25, 2022
One of the strongest advocates of a Formula 1 Grand Prix in Le Mans is French driver Esteban Ocon:
“France has a place in F1. We have a huge motorsport community and a motoring community in general,
“If not at Circuit Paul Ricard in the future, I’m sure there would be other places happy to host a French Grand Prix. We have Le Mans, a great venue,
“Of course the track would need a lot of work but a real race at Le Mans with F1, just a show, would be quite impressive. That’s the most realistic I can think of,” concludes Ocon.
Recently invited to the “Moscato Show” on RMC, Esteban Ocon once again put forward the idea of Le Mans.
Grand Prix motor racing originated in France with the first motor race being held in 1894. But it was only in 1906 that the first organised GP racing event was held. The word ‘Grand Prix’ meaning ‘Grand Prize’ in French was so named after the prize money received by the winner.
Formula One World Championship and 24 Hours of Le Mans are direct descendents of the organised racing that started at the town of Le Mans in 1906.
Given the current business model of F1, it is not economically viable for ACO to host a F1 GP nor is it historically important. This is the reason why we have seen F1 GP being hosted at places like Paul Ricard and Magny-Cours rather than Sarthe or Bugatti tracks at Lemans.
That being said, more support and weight to being thrown towards the Lemans option with Domenicalli confirming recently that the French government is actively involved with “all options” for Grand Prix hostings, including Lemans.