French Grand Prix to return to Formula One in 2018
Circuit Paul Ricard has 167 layouts, and has been used for wet-weather testing by Pirelli in recent times. (Image Credit: www.24hseries.com/24h-paul-ricard/circuit)

French Grand Prix to return to Formula One in 2018

The race will be resurrected after 10 years away and will be held in Southern France, at Paul Ricard.

jake-nichol
Jake Nichol

The French Grand Prix will end a 10-year hiatus from the Formula One calendar in 2018, as organisers have announced a 5-year contract for Paul Ricard to host the event.

Finnancial issues saw the race drop off the calendar, with the unloved Magny-Cours hosting the last race in 2008.

Paul Ricard is one of the most high-tech race-tracks in the world, with it being favoured by Pirelli for recent wet-weather tests, owing to equipment that can wet the track to simulate differing levels of rain.

On 14 occassions from 1971-1990, the French GP was held at Paul Ricard, before the switch in 1991 to Magny-Cours.

France's own Alain Prost was the last driver to win a World Championship race at Paul Ricard, doing so in 1990. (Image Credit: GP Update/Sutton Images)
France's own Alain Prost was the last driver to win a World Championship race at Paul Ricard, doing so in 1990. (Image Credit: GP Update/Sutton Images)

We are proud

A key figure in bringing F1 back to France was Christian Estrosi - the head of the region of the country where the circuit is located.

After declaring that the race will return, Estrosi dedicated it to those who made it possible.

He said: "We are proud of this great return after 10 years. In 2018, it will be 10 years since the Grand Prix left the country, and the return is a huge victory for the men who worked for its sucess.

"When we know how motorsport is so popular in our country, it was for our country, a real scar to lose the Grand Prix."

McLaren Racing Director Eric Bouiller and Renault CEO Cyril Abiteboul played key roles in bringing the race back. France held the very first Grand Prix in 1906,  and was part of the original six circuits on the very first F1 calendar, in 1950, alongside Britain, Monaco, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland and the Indianapolis 500. The '500' counted to the title race, but was ignored by the drivers.

With thousands expected through the gates, there are some logistical problems to rectify, although circuit general manager, Stephane Clair ​was confident that the facility would be able to cope as "our site is up to the current standards of F1." He then went to talk about events held at Ricard in the recent past, as evidence that the facility will be able to handle F1.

Dedication to Bianchi and Behra

The loss of Jules Bianchi in July last year is still raw and emotional. Had he lived he more than likelt he would have been in a Ferrari in 2018, and racing at home.

After he made the announcement, Estrosi made the following remarks. "I have a thought for our Nice driver Jules Bianchi, who has passed away. I want to dedicate this comeback to him. My thoughts are with his family, to his dad."

Estrosi also paid tribute to Jean Behra, who was France's first F1 star back in the 1950's, before he punched the Ferrari team boss, and went off to start his own team. Sadly in 1959, at AVUS in Germany he was killed, but his legavy has not been forgotten.

He said: "I also want to think of others I have not known but who contributed to the success of French motorsport, such as Jean Behra, who remains for us a great figure of motorsport."

There has been no indication as yet of a date for the race. When the race was at Magny-Cours, it usually followed the Canadian Grand Prix in the calendar, but that slot is now filled by the European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan. The most likely scenario is for it to be around the time of the Monaco Grand Prix, simply as it would make in terms of logistics.

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