France’s return to the 2013 Formula One calendar is not quite at the finish-line.
Many expected prime minister Francois Fillon’s visit to the Paul Ricard circuit last Friday to coincide with an announcement about the revival of the French grand prix next year. Some think that was indeed the intention, but ultimately a couple of details were missing at the last hurdle.
The first was the identity of the host circuit that will annually alternate the race date, amid reports Belgium’s Spa Francorchamps is not yet ready or able to agree.
“The Formula One management has approved the plan without indicating who would be the other country,” Fillon is quoted as saying in local reports.
Another problem is on the financial side, with Fillon admitting that – politically – there can be no direct government subsidy other than a mere “bond”. The difference between a deal and no deal between Bernie Ecclestone and the Le Castellet organisers, then, is “about two million euros”, Fillon revealed.
“The Formula One organisers’ proposal is reasonable enough,” he said, “but we have to make them remove the ‘enough’,” he added. “Symbolically it would not be acceptable (for the government) to subsidise a grand prix as was the case in the past with Magny Cours.”
Magny Cours, the former French GP venue, reacted with shock and anger, accusing the prime minister of “bias in favour of Le Castellet”, where temporary grandstands will have to be erected to host spectators. On the other hand, Magny Cours has “all the facilities, infrastructure and expertise needed to organise such an event”, insisted Patrice Joly, president of the conseil general of the Nievre department.
“Contrary to what you would expect from the head of government, the prime minister strives to implement a solution based on partisan considerations and personal issues away from the general interest,” he added.