Alain Prost has accused politics of getting in the way of the future of the French Grand Prix, which is absent from the Formula 1 calendar in 2009 for the first time in more than half a century – and is presently showing no signs of re-appearing anytime soon.
The race disappeared off the schedule following years of financial disagreements and the unpopularity of the Magny-Cours venue, with the Nevers track criticised by drivers, teams and fans alike for its lack of atmosphere, poor access and paucity of overtaking opportunities. Having been temporarily stripped of its spot on a number of occasions in recent campaigns, F1 commercial rights supremo Bernie Ecclestone finally carried through with his threat in definitively scrapping the event for this season – and vowing never to return to Magny-Cours.
That prompted a swell of speculation about where the grand prix could move to in future, but with the favoured Disneyland Paris option hitting the skids and rumours of a street race around the capital never accelerating beyond first gear, backing was eventually given to a project at Flins-Les-Mureaux in the Yvelines department north-east of Paris – but even that is being beset by political squabbling.
Though the initiative has the support of French Prime Minister François Fillon, the country's environment minister is said to be opposed to it, with the subsequent formal public debate procedure that France's political system demands likely to engender further delays and potentially throw even more spanners in the works.
With time running out if the nation is to reclaim its place on the 2011 calendar, quadruple F1 World Champion Prost has revealed his fears that the incessant political infighting could derail the bid – and the 51-time grand prix-winner, a fervent advocate for the race, stressed that really now it is a case of Flins-Les-Mureaux...or nothing.
“The only alternative is Magny-Cours,” the 54-year-old mused in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche
, “but it is not compatible with the desires of Bernie Ecclestone and the manufacturers.
“On the side of the government, it is necessary that everything is clear. Everyone has their own agenda. It is difficult to get everyone in unison – much time and energy is wasted – and then there are the people who make a lot of noise without knowing enough. I don't want to give up, but it is difficult to be constantly between two points – it is happening [or] it is not happening. It's typical France.”