F1 heads back to France in 2018

Bright red rear light from F1 race car as it heads up start-finish straight at Circuit Paul Ricard for 2016 Pirelli tyre tests
F1 drivers already know Circuit Paul Ricard because they do testing here, as with this 2016 Pirelli test

Riviera circuit chosen for 2018 grand prix but proposed July date could be a problem with holiday roads already jammed

Formula One racing returns to France in 2018 as the Circuit Paul Ricard near Toulon will host the race after 10 years with only the Monaco Grand Prix to excite F1 fans.

The circuit, owned by Formula One promoter Bernie Ecclestone, last hosted F1 in 1990 when the race was won by Frenchman Alain Prost. The last French F1 GP was in 2008 at Magny-Cours at Nevers in Burgundy and was won by Felipe Massa.

A five-year deal for the race has been signed between Formula One and Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region with the city of Toulon, Var department and the FFSA French motorsport federation.

The race is likely to take the end of July spot at present held by the German GP, which is being dropped from the calendar. However, that could pose enormous traffic problems as France already has roads to the Riviera jammed with holiday traffic in July/August each year.

PACA president Christian Estrosi, a former French motorcycle champion, announced the deal and said that losing the F1 GP after 2008 had left “a real scar” on the country. 

Estimates of the cost suggest the event will cost €30million to host with €14m from public funds and ticket sales bringing in €16m with an expected 66,000 fans attending. PACA estimates that the economic impact could be €65m – with 500 jobs secured or created.

Circuit Paul Ricard, also known as Le Castellet, is known for its 1.8km Mistral straight where record speeds are expected to be hit. It has often been used for F1 teams testing on the 5.8km track – it was formerly the official F1 test track. It hosted the GP 14 times between 1971 and 1990.

French video and audio archive INA has film of the last race, won by Alain Prost

Former Sarkozy prime minister François Fillion was heavily involved in a bid to bring back the F1 GP in 2011 for a 2013 race but President Hollande said after his election in 2012 “ I do not think the French state should be responsible for any financial outlay. There are enough issues to consider without spending tens of millions of euros on a grand prix."

France has two drivers in F1, Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon, and both welcomed the return of their home race with both sending tweets of congratulation.  

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