Bernie Ecclestone has said that the French Grand Prix could return to the F1 calendar in future, provided a circuit befitting of the sport can be found to stage the race.

Despite several years of doubt, the French round struggled on until two years ago at Magny-Cours, but the combination of funding and general disquiet over the 'middle of nowhere' venue eventually saw one of F1's original hosts bow out, replaced by the likes of Korea, Abu Dhabi and, from next year, India. Several proposals have been mooted to resurrect the French GP but, so far, none have come to fruition.

While Magny-Cours has talked about returning to the fray, potentially as early as next season, with a revamped facility, Ecclestone has made no secret of his desire to stage the race as close to the capital as possible. However, various plans to build circuits in the Paris suburbs - notably at Flins-Les-Mureaux - have failed to get past the talking stage.

Although many suggest that the sport could do worse than going to Ecclestone's own Paul Ricard venue in the south of the country, the man himself accepts that the former grand prix venue is no longer suitable for spectators.

"Paul Ricard is probably one of the best in the world," Ecclestone told France's l'Equipe newspaper, "but we still don't have a place for a race."

Finding a venue isn't the only problem facing France's bid to return to the top flight either.

"You know the problem," Ecclestone continued, "The grand prix has a future, but where is the promoter? I am ready to sign a contract as soon as possible, the very moment someone comes to me and says 'I have the money and a circuit'. I would be happy to have a race in France. I really thought the project near Paris would happen."

Once again, while the return of a French GP would only enhance the schedule, other races would have to make way for its inclusion, particularly as Ecclestone has said that it was unlikely that there would ever be more than 20 races in a year.

That limit has been reached with the 2001 calendar issed in recent weeks, with the USA already heading a list of countries hoping to be included in future years.

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