French GP return in new location

As with most things in French land fashions come and go and so it has been with Formula One. France is the home of Grand Prix (great prize) racing with the first ever global event held on 26 June 1906 in Sarthe.

The great prize referred to a purse of 45,000 French Francs for the winner and given the Franc was pegged to the gold standard this represented 13kg of gold at the time.




Origins of Grand Prix racing

The earliest French Grands Prix were held on circuits consisting of public roads near towns through northern and central France, and they usually were held at different towns each year, such as Le Mans, Dieppe, Amiens, Lyon, Strasbourg, and Tours. 

Dieppe in particular was an extremely dangerous circuit – 9 people (5 drivers, 2 riding mechanics, and 2 spectators) in total were killed at the three French Grands Prix held at the 79 km (49-mile) circuit.

World War I interrupted the joy of the motor racing fanatics and due to the destruction of the country racing only returned in 1921.

In 1925, the first permanent autodrome in France was built, it was called Autodrome de Linas-Montlhéry, located 20 miles south of the centre of Paris. The 7.7‑mile (12.3 km) circuit included a 51‑degree concrete banking, an asphalt road course and then-modern facilities, including pit garages and grandstands.



Fangio wins 1st French GP

World War II then interrupted the French Grand Prix which only returned in 1947 and was dominated by Alfa Romeo until the Formula One championship was inaugurated in 1950.

The race was won by Argentine Juan Manuel Fangio, who also won the next year’s race – the longest Formula One race ever held in terms of distance covered, totalling 373 miles.

The event was cancelled in 1955 following a disaster at the Le Man 24 race where 83 spectators were killed and another 180 were injured.

Since then the event remained on the calendar until 2008 when it was dropped from the F1 calendar due to financial difficulties and a dislike of the Magney-Cours circuit and its location.

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Lack of financial support sees French GP dropped 

The race was revived again in 2008, at the Paul Ricard circuit but again logistical difficulties and a lack of local hospitality facilities saw it dropped when its contract expired in 2022.

Paul Ricard had a small capacity and has been likened to Silverstone 25 years ago where huge traffic problems meant spectators were kept waiting in lines of traffic for hours to finally enter the circuit.

Now it appears there is political support for the French Grand Prix to return as the French President, Emanuel Macron has lent his support to a new and improved venture.

French newspaper Nice-Matin, reported recently that the mayor of the Mediterranean city of Nice had written to Macron requesting his support to revive the race. Mayor Christian Estrosi has opened talks with F1 and Liberty media over the feasibility of bringing Formula One to race along the promenade of the Souther French city.



French President lends support

Macron’s reply has now been published and it is clear ihe is fully supportive of such a venture.

“Be sure that I fully share your ambition,” Macron outlined. 

“Indeed, as you point out, our country must be able, like the other major international sporting events it organises every year, to reconnect with F1, for the pleasure of all.”

France is heavily dependent on tourism with around 30% of its GDP derived from the sector and since the turn of the millennium Formula One has become the focus for a number of countries to promote themselves as a visitor friendly destination.

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“It is an issue of attractiveness for our country,” continues Macron.

“The influence of our automotive industry and innovation to support the decarbonisation of this sector.

“As such, you will be able to study the different possible location options [in France], identifying for each their economic model, their compatibility with our ecological commitments and their possible contribution to regional and national development.

“In this context, you will focus on engaging in discussions with the holders of the rights to F1.”

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Lack of political support France’s downfall

A return to either Magny-Cours or Paul Ricard is though highly unlikely though the most recent possibility of a street circuit is believed to be taking shape. It was considered as an option when the future of the Monaco Grand Prix was under threat, though the historic race in the principality was saved as th promoters backed down and conceded to a number of new demands made by F1.

Paul Ricard boss and ex-Michael Schumacher teammate at Ferrari, claims Macron’s recent support to revive the French GP is crucial to its future.

“The problem with F1 in France is not with the circuit, it’s with the politics,” states a biased Alesi.

“It’s probably the only F1 grand prix that’s never had a president come to watch it – except for at Magny-Cours once, when [Francois] Mitterrand attended as part of his political wish for the race to be there.



Nice: Exciting Mediterranean Sea front race

“Since then, it’s never happened. The problem is not with the circuit; the problem is the wish of the country. 

“My other job is a F1 Ambassador, so my link to F1 is direct – with no bullshit – and they are very clear about that.”

With Formula One looking to expand its current portfolio of race venues to around 30, it is likely the street circuit race in Nice could become one of those which alternates every other year. 

With excellent public transport access and plentiful supply of accommodation in and around the city along the Cote D’Azur, a race which features a start finish straight along the glistening shores of the Mediterranean would be eagerly embraced by F1’s marketing guru’s and see the return of motor racing’s oldest Grand Prix.

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3 responses to “French GP return in new location

  1. Maybe, but in any case, a temporary circuit rather than an existing permanent one in a remote area.

  2. In which year(s) does the author of this piece believe that Michael Schumacher and Jean Alesi were team-mates at Ferrari?

  3. Pingback: F1 legal chaos with General Motors – Tech Surge Hq·

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