Prost hoping for 2014 French Grand Prix

Alain Prost, the quadruple world champion, is hopeful France host another Formula One race next season.

It has been five years since France last host an F1 race and both Magny Cours and Paul Ricard had been linked to hosting a 2013 Grand Prix.

“I still read in the press that there are opportunities for 2013,” Prost, who was involved in the talks, is quoted by France’s Sport24. “It is of course impossible. However, for 2014, there are possible openings (for France).

“There are a few grands prix in doubt but also many new projects considered by (Bernie) Ecclestone,” said Prost.


Prost plays down chances of 2013 Paul Ricard GP

Alain Prost has warned there is no guarantee France will return to the F1 calendar in 2013.

The four-time world champion has agreed to join Paul Ricard’s race bid as an advisor, and was promptly dispatched to Abu Dhabi reportedly for talks with Bernie Ecclestone and possibly also a meeting with potential local investors.

According to Auto Hebdo publication, however, the famous 57-year-old Frenchman is not very optimistic. Earlier, Prost was heavily involved in failed attempts to revive the defunct French grand prix at Disneyland Paris, or a new circuit in Flins-sur-Seine.

Now in Abu Dhabi, he said on Saturday: “I was out of the case because it was too complicated, too politicised. Then I went to the world series (race) at Le Castellet and was asked the question.

“I said what I thought at the moment, that things could not be done without a minimum of public money. But as I was coming to Abu Dhabi in my role as Renault ambassador which had been planned for six months, I said that I would look at some aspects of this case.”

While hopeful, Prost is realistic about Paul Ricard’s chances.

“The weak point is the lack of funds, even though they are in talks with several potential partners,” he said. “The budget is far from being completed,” said Prost.

“It will not be resolved in the meeting today, but it can be done in a couple of days, or not at all.”


Abu Dhabi investor to revive French GP?

Arab investors could be the key to France’s return to formula one, according to L’Equipe.

The sports daily said Alain Prost and Philippe Gurdjian, representing the Paul Ricard circuit, have travelled to Abu Dhabi this weekend.

It was believed they would simply have talks with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

But L’Equipe reports that there is a chance investors from Abu Dhabi, and possibly even Bahrain, are interested in getting behind Paul Ricard’s 2013 grand prix bid.

Ecclestone to meet Prost over 2013 French GP

Paul Ricard has recruited Alain Prost to lead the talks with Bernie Ecclestone about reviving the French grand prix in 2013.

Media sources RMC Sport and L’Equipe said the four-time world champion and former F1 team owner has travelled to Abu Dhabi this weekend, to step up the talks with the F1 chief executive.

RMC said Prost’s meeting with Ecclestone is scheduled for Saturday.

“Alain Prost is a major asset,” said former F1 driver and Frenchman Patrick Tambay. “He knows Bernie Ecclestone very well. Frankly, he is the ideal man to represent France in this matter.”

Ecclestone ‘ready’ to agree France GP return

Bernie Ecclestone on Sunday admitted it is possible France will return to the F1 calendar in 2013.

With New York falling off next year’s schedule, reports in France this week quoted Paul Ricard chief Stephane Clair as predicting a “90 per cent” chance the circuit will step into the gap on the 20-race schedule.

“We are ready to sign,” F1 chief executive Ecclestone told reporters as he cut a cake for his 82nd birthday in the Buddh paddock. “Which circuit they are going to use is one thing (to resolve), and who is going to pay for it. That’s the bottom line.”

Meanwhile, Ecclestone scoffed in typical fashion at suggestions the FIA’s new ‘formula E’ championship for electric cars could one day rival F1. The diminutive Briton said that claim is “stupid”.

“I think those sort of things are lawn-mowers,” he is quoted by PTI news agency.


F1 race news: France, Thailand and Australia

Despite the French government ruling out financial support, Paul Ricard could still be in the running to revive the country’s defunct grand prix.

Le Parisien said the Le Castellet project had already anticipated the government’s decision when it framed its EUR 30 million budget. The report also said a private overseas investor, as well as F1’s chief executive and Paul Ricard owner Bernie Ecclestone, could step in.

“We would have appreciated a few words of support and encouragement,” Paul Ricard director Stephane Clair is quoted by L’Equipe, “and we are disappointed, but it (the government’s decision) was completely expected.”

Clair said an early September race date would make sense.

“After the summer break, the F1 teams would be ready to contest three grands prix consecutively — Belgium, France and Italy,” he said.

Ecclestone is tipped to present the draft 2013 calendar to the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council for approval on Friday.

“I can quite imagine a grand prix de France in 2013,” Clair insisted.

RMC Sport said Paul Ricard officials are set to meet with Ecclestone in London this week.

Meanwhile, the Bangkok Post reports that the Kingdom of Thailand has “struck an initial deal” to host a formula one street race in 2014. The report said sports minister Kanokphand Chulakasem and an official representing Red Bull co-owner Chalerm Yoovidhya met with the F1 chief executive in Singapore last weekend.

“It will be a night race like the Singapore grand prix,” said Chulakasem.

In other grand prix host news, the state major events minister Louise Asher has said the Victorian government is “not comfortable” with the current cost of Melbourne’s Australian grand prix.

“My aim is to negotiate something that will cost the taxpayer less,” she told the Herald Sun.


Government not willing to support French GP return

France’s hopes of returning to the F1 calendar have taken a knock.

Recently, it emerged that Paul Ricard and Magny Cours had submitted formal proposals as the motor racing federation FFSA pushes to organise the first French grand prix since 2008. But France’s sports minister Valerie Fourneyron dealt a blow to the plans this week, when she ruled out government financial support or guarantees for the race.

“The minister reminded that it is not the task of the state to organise a formula one grand prix,” confirmed the sports ministry.

FFSA president Nicolas Deschaux said he “regrets” the government’s position, “especially given the support provided by the state to other sporting events”.

“I think the fight is not over,” former French grand prix driver Patrick Tambay told RMC Sport. “There may be solutions from the private side.”

France was missing from the draft 2013 calendar that emerged in the paddock of the recent Singapore grand prix.

The FIA’s World Council will meet to ratify the schedule on Friday.

“I still believe,” Tambay continued. “If a sponsor provides the guarantees, Ecclestone will sign, and the federation will be obliged to follow to the extent that the specifications are met.”


Magny Cours applies for place on 2013 calendar

Magny Cours has lodged an application to be considered for F1’s 2013 calendar.

French language sources RMC, L’Equipe and AFP said the application was given to the country’s sanctioning body FFSA this week. The reports said Paul Ricard also intends to apply for consideration next week.

RMC claimed that while the FFSA did not comment, both Magny Cours and Paul Ricard propose to host one race every two years, in alternation with another country.

F1’s governing FIA is expected to publish the draft of the 2013 calendar in early October.

FFSA president Nicolas Deschaux is quoted by L’Equipe as saying France will only return to the calendar if it can convince F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

“The commercial rights holder does not hear arguments of the heart,” he warned.


Spa alternation plans ‘no longer on agenda’

Spa-Francorchamps is no longer part of the proposal to revive the French grand prix.

Prior to ex president Nicolas Sarkozy losing the general election, plans to alternate a single annual race between Paul Ricard and Belgium’s fabled Spa were well advanced. But with Francois Hollande in power and his sports minister Valerie Fourneyron in the driving seat of the grand prix project, the situation is now very different. French reports this week say Fourneyron has told France’s motor racing sanctioning body, the FFSA, that Paul Ricard and Magny Cours are competing to secure the rights to a grand prix that the state will not contribute to financially.

And according to the Belgian news agency Belga, the formerly proposed race alternation between France and Spa will remain merely an “unconfirmed possibility”.

“Alternating with Belgium is no longer on the agenda,” a report by the French language news agency Agence France-Presse added.


Paul Ricard mentions September deadline for GP certainty

Paul Ricard boss Stephane Clair has revealed the uncertainty about France’s return to the F1 calendar could drag on for many more weeks.

Prior to Nicolas Sarcozy losing the country’s recent general election, the circuit looked destined for the 2013 calendar, thereafter alternating annually with Belgium’s Spa Francorchamps. The new government is currently reviewing the project and also considering Magny Cours as a possible host, but Paul Ricard’s Clair insisted that time will eventually run out.

“Even if we still don’t know at the beginning of September, we will have time to prepare the necessary infrastructure and market the grand prix,” he is quoted by L’Equipe. “Beyond September, it will be harder.”

Indeed, more should be known by September, when the World Motor Sport Council is set to release a 2013 calendar.

“For us, late August is the ideal date, because of the weather and the accommodation capacity in the Var region,” said Clair.

He also raised the interesting prospect of an alternating scheme between Paul Ricard and Magny Cours, insisting he has “no opposition in principle” to the idea of “two French grands prix”.