France may be the home of the FIA headquarters, and arguably the birthplaces of grand prix racing – but the country has not hosted a Formula One race since 2008. That hiatus will soon come to an end, however, as reports confirm the return of the French Grand Prix.
Both Autosport and Motorsport report that the Automobile Club de France announced in a press conference at its Paris headquarters that a new deal had been reached with Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management to put the French Grand Prix back on the calendar.
Rather than hold the race at Magny-Cours, where it was last held, it will return to the Paul Ricard circuit in the South of France. The track – which just so happens to be owned by Ecclestone’s Excelis holding company – hosted the French Grand Prix on an alternating basis with the Dijon-Prenois circuit further north in the country between 1971 and 1984. The race was subsequently held exclusively at Paul Ricard for six years before it switched to Magny-Cours.
Since the demise of the French Grand Prix over eight years ago, racing fans in France have had to go north to Belgium or southwest to Monaco (both neighboring, French-speaking countries) to catch the action. But it will now return to France’s borders for at least the next five years.
Local governor Christian Estrosi dedicated the race’s return to Jules Bianchi. The late F1 driver hailed from Nice – the coastal city located between Paul Ricard and Monte Carlo – and was buried there a year and a half ago after succumbing to injuries sustained in a crash during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka. Bianchi won Formula 3, Formula Renault 3.5, and GP2 races at the track, and achieved a points finish at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix nearby.
The return of the French Grand Prix to the calendar comes as the German Grand Prix has been dropped from next year’s after both Hockenheim and the Nurburgring failed to secure a deal.