France and Ecclestone agree F1 race ‘price’, France rushing to complete GP deal


France's new sports minister Valerie Fourneyron

(GMM) France's new sports minister has confirmed there is some doubt the country will return to the formula one calendar next year.

Bernie Ecclestone announced recently that, with a French race having been absent from F1 since 2008, Paul Ricard could – starting from 2013 – share an annually rotating date with Belgium's Spa Francorchamps.

But then the French government changed.

The new sports minister is Valerie Fourneyron, who told RMC: "There was a remarkable acceleration in this issue recently.

"There have been no grands prix since 2008, and we have no opposition to there being a grand prix.

"But we need to know how much the state will have to take any shortfall on the financial side. And regarding Le Castellet (Paul Ricard), there are major accessibility problems.

"All this deserves more attention than ten minutes," said Fourneyron, who also raised environmental concerns.

"There is no guarantee of seeing a grand prix de France next year but there is no objection," she added.

Bernie gets deal done to bring back French GP to Paul Ricard, but Sarkozy's iffy reelection bid delaying final confirmation

05/01/12 (GMM) The French government is dashing to seal the lid on the country's return to F1.

Bernie Ecclestone has said a deal has been reached to annually alternate a race between Paul Ricard in France and Belgium's fabled Spa-Francorchamps.

But the final signature and official announcement are still missing.

David Douillet, the French sports minister, told Le Journal du Dimanche that the chance France will be on the 2013 calendar is "90 per cent".

"The contract is going back and forth between the lawyers. I hope I get to London to meet with Bernie Ecclestone between Wednesday and Friday," he added.

The newspaper said Douillet is dashing to complete the deal by this weekend's presidential election, because socialist frontrunner Francois Hollande has hinted the grand prix project would be reviewed if he is elected.

Douillet admitted that it is "very likely" Hollande would "bury" the race.

Le JDD newspaper said organizers and Ecclestone have agreed the race sanctioning fee, EUR 22 million, which is still a few million short of guaranteeing a balanced budget.

And "without a balanced budget, we do not sign," he warned. "The state, which does not participate financially, is still the guarantor of any debt."

There also remains an odd silence from the Belgian side, who have not confirmed that Spa is the circuit that will alternate with France.

04/30/12 (GMM) Politics are still in play, as France pushes to return to the formula one calendar.

According to Bernie Ecclestone, a financial deal is in place that will see Paul Ricard join the 2013 calendar, alternating annually thereafter with the fabled Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

But Francois Hollande, the socialist frontrunner in France's presidential election this weekend, has now revealed that the issue of the grand prix will be assessed "in the aftermath of the election".

"We will review it if we are elected," he is quoted by Auto Hebdo in France. "I don't think the state should spend anything on a grand prix."

But it is reported that Prime minister Francois Fillon has set up a public interest group that means the government is not a direct contributor to the 2013 race.

Nicolas Sarkozy, the presidential incumbent, reiterated his support.

"We cannot have a narrow vision," he is quoted by the L'Equipe sports daily. "We are a country with two global carmakers in Renault and PSA, and now three young promising French drivers in F1.

"It should be that we have a grand prix," insisted Sarkozy

04/22/12 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Bernie Ecclestone on Sunday confirmed reports France is definitely heading back to the F1 calendar.

Reports earlier this weekend said authorities had "finally agreed" a figure for the sanctioning fee with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

It is expected that the Ecclestone-owned Paul Ricard will share an annually alternating grand prix date with Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps, beginning in 2013.

"Yes," the 81-year-old Briton told French daily L'Equipe in the Bahrain paddock on Sunday.

"The deal is done," said Ecclestone.

"We agreed the financial terms with the sports minister David Douillet, in my office on Tuesday.

"We are still discussing a few things about money: 'You give me this, I want that'," he added.

"But, for me, there is no doubt, we will sign it now," said Ecclestone.

He said the outcome of the forthcoming presidential elections in France will not spoil the deal.

"Whatever happens, I don't care," said Ecclestone. "That's a local issue that doesn't concern me."


04/21/12 (GMM) Official confirmation of France's return to the formula one calendar is now close, Radio Monte Carlo is reporting.

"The French authorities have finally agreed the price with (Bernie) Ecclestone," the report said.

Earlier, when prime minister Francois Fillon said advanced talks with F1 were taking place, he indicated the gap with Ecclestone's demands was about 2 million euros.

RMC said the deal "should be completed next week".

It is expected that the Ecclestone-owned Paul Ricard will share an annually alternating grand prix date with Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps, beginning in 2013.

04/19/12 (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has met yet again in London with David Douillet, the French sports minister.

The F1 chief executive confirmed this week that a deal to alternate an annual calendar spot between France and Belgium's Spa-Francorchamps beginning next year is now close.

"Spa have agreed; apparently they're going to do it in (Paul) Ricard," Ecclestone told the BBC.

The French sports daily L'Equipe reports that the 81-year-old's latest meeting with Douillet is "another step towards the return of the grand prix de France".

The meeting, reportedly confirmed by "several sources including those in Belgium", is Ecclestone's second with Douillet in 2012.

04/02/12 (GMM) 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 organizers, then, is "about two million euros", Fillon revealed.

"The formula one organizers' 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 subsidize a grand prix," he insisted, "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 favor 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 organize 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.

03/30/12 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' from 'strong.' New media reports have contradicted claims French PM Francois Fillon will on Friday announce the country's 2013 return to the formula one calendar.

Le Parisien newspaper on Thursday said Fillon's visit to the Paul Ricard circuit on Friday is to confirm the successful end to long negotiations to revive the French grand prix.

Those negotiations were for Paul Ricard to annually alternate a race date with Belgium's fabled Spa Francorchamps.

But the French-language RMC insists that Belgium is "not ready for the alternation".

"If France has received a contract to organize a grand prix every other year, this is not the case for the Belgian promoters, who are still waiting for the document to send to the government of Wallonia," the report read.

RMC said the hold-up could be because Spa is having trouble paying its sanctioning fee for this year's race date in September.

The French magazine Sport-Auto agrees, insisting that Fillon "will not announce the return of the grand prix de France on Friday".

"The prime minister will travel to the (Paul Ricard) circuit," an official close to Fillon is quoted as saying by AFP news agency, but Fillon "will not announce the return of the grand prix to the calendar in 2013".

The official, however, said Bernie Ecclestone as approved "in principle" France's presence on the calendar every other year, beginning in 2013.

But "It (the alternation) will not necessarily be with Belgium," the report added.

In an interview to be published by the Nice-Matin newspaper on Friday, Fillon is quoted as saying a grand prix is crucial to France.

"Bernie Ecclestone has just sent us a draft contract," said the prime minister, "which is the result of negotiations that began several months ago.

"We now have a concrete basis for discussions," he added.

03/29/12 (GMM) French prime minister Francois Fillon will on Friday travel to the Paul Ricard circuit in Le Castellet.

According to Le Parisien newspaper in an exclusive report, he could announce the deal is finally done to revive the French grand prix for 2013.

A source said Fillon will provide an update and indicate that France is "ready" to host F1 again for the first time since 2008 at Magny Cours.

It has been widely reported for some time that negotiations are taking place to annually alternate formula one races between France at Paul Ricard and Belgium's legendary Spa Francorchamps circuit.

Friday's media report said Spa is "probably" the circuit that will alternate with France "but it could possibly be another".

It is claimed that Bernie Ecclestone originally demanded a EUR 29 million race fee, but eventually the deal was done for 20m.

03/18/12 (GMM) The race to put the French grand prix back on track will be over in three weeks.

That is the claim of Nicolas Deschaux, the president of the country's motor sport federation who admitted concern the deal to put Paul Ricard on the 2013 calendar is not yet done.

France has been missing from the calendar since Magny-Cours last held a grand prix in 2008, but efforts have been made to annually alternate a race between Paul Ricard – a track in Le Castellet, near Marseille – and Belgium's fabled Spa Francorchamps.

Deschaux told RMC the project needs to reach the finish-line within three weeks.

"We have always been working very hard," he said. "We have arrived in the home stretch, where either we come to finalize within three weeks, or we will go on a path that forces us to postpone."


01/25/12 (GMM) France is poised to return to the F1 calendar. French-language RMC Sports reports that prime minister Francois Fillon has finally "given the green light" to the race at Paul Ricard to alternate annually with Belgium's Spa Francorchamps, beginning in 2013.

"The negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone can begin," read the report, adding that "informal meetings" with the F1 chief executive have already been held.

Fillon's decision follows a minister's meeting last Thursday, and RMC said the Var region has also agreed.

"There are still some loose ends to tie up with the department of Alpes-Maritimes," said the report.

RMC said the French carmaker and F1 engine supplier Renault may also be closely involved with the French event.

"The eyes are now on the Belgian side, who must also validate the project."

01/11/12 (GMM) The local Walloon government is seeking clarity about the future of the fabled Belgian grand prix at Spa-Francorchamps within "four or five weeks".

Jean-Claude Marcourt, the government's economics minister, was responding on Tuesday in a parliamentary committee, following media reports that France looks set to return to F1 in 2013.

Those reports suggested France's Paul Ricard circuit will share a single alternating annual date with Spa, the fabled Belgian venue.

Marcourt explained that, in a bid to reduce costs, the government had last year begun to look into possibly alternating its grand prix with another European host.

A "non-binding document" with France was circulated, with an answer necessary by the end of 2011.

"On January 1 there was nothing," Marcourt is quoted by RTL Sport Belgium. "Now the French seem to be catching up.

"In four or five weeks, we have to clarify everything. I do not want things drawing out so that we get to the end of the contract not knowing what is going to happen.

"We are awaiting the response from France," he added.

Paul Ricard in Le Castellet, France

01/05/12 (GMM) France's return to the F1 calendar is now so close to confirmation that even a provisional race date has been set.

It emerged just before Christmas that, with the historic French grand prix having been last held at Magny Cours in 2008, the country's return to the calendar is likely to take place at Paul Ricard in 2013.

The Nice-Matin newspaper had said the Bernie Ecclestone-linked circuit will thereafter alternate a single annual calendar slot with Belgium's fabled Spa-Francorchamps.

The news follows last year's establishment of a French grand prix working body by French prime minister Francois Fillon.

"The case is currently on Fillon's desk," said a report in the Paris daily Le Figaro.

"He has only to give the green light to sport minister David Douillet and to Nicolas Deschaux, the president of the federation Francaise de sport automobile (FFSA).

"The (first) race would be held on 1 September 2013", Le Figaro revealed, adding that the spectator capacity of the circuit will be lifted to 50,000.

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