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.”
Paul Ricard will hold more talks with Bernie Ecclestone over France’s potential return to the F1 calendar in 2013.
After the circuit’s boss Stephane Clair last week indicated a “90 per cent” possibility that France will replace the delayed New York grand prix next year, F1’s chief executive Ecclestone indicated similarly in India on Sunday.
“We are ready to sign,” he said. “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.”
Clair is now quoted by the French-language sport24.com: “Bernie Ecclestone never speaks in a vacuum.
“He has told the teams by announcing that there will be 20 races in 2013, not 19, despite the withdrawal of the grand prix of New Jersey.
“The message is heard,” he added. “We will try to continue the negotiations next week.”
Sport24.com predicted that the story will continue to develop behind the scenes this week, as F1 gathers in Abu Dhabi for the next race.
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”.