While there is little secret about France's desire to return to the F1 world championship from next season, the path to resolving how and where the race will take place continues to be full of twists and turns.
Initial reports suggested that France would enter into a date share agreement with the popular Belgian Grand Prix, with each country taking turns to play host to the F1 circus, but that latter's new multi-year deal [see separate story
] finally put that idea to rest last month. Other 'partners' had also been, tentatively, mentioned in connection with similar plans, but now France has effectively been left to go it alone.
The matter of a host circuit has also been 'up in the air' since the return was first mooted and, since moving on from speculative plans to either construct a new venue or run the race through the streets of Paris in a bid to take the grand prix closer to a major population centre, has focused largely on the last two venues to stage France's round - Magny-Cours and Paul Ricard. While the latter appeared to be the frontrunner in talks with Bernie Ecclestone, Magny-Cours - considered a challenging driver's circuit in the middle of nowhere - refused to bow out without a fight.
It perhaps comes as no great surprise, therefore, to discover that the two circuits could now combine to provide a united front in a bid to relaunch the French Grand Prix, with suggestions that the event alternate between them, thereby keeping the race on the schedule every year.
Magny-Cours - which this week plays host to a three-day 'young driver' test involving Ferrari, Force India and Mercedes - lodged its bid with the national motorsport body FFSA a week ago, while, according to lepopulaire
, Paul Ricard followed suit this week, and the matter of choosing one or both will now be considered by FFSA president Nicolas Deschaux and his team. While both circuits are understood to be insisting that there needs to be negotiation on the price of staging the race, and have proposed to share their date with another country, the belief is that they would be willing to alternate between themselves in order to bring one of the original world championship nations back to the table. If the FFSA decides to choose between the two, reports suggest that Paul Ricard may be the favourite as its €30m proposal budget is thought to be one-third supported by local government funding. Formula One Management is estimated to want €20m in exchange for the rights to the race.
According to respected F1 journalist Joe Saward, Ecclestone is thought to be considering swelling the F1 calendar to 22 events from next season, with Valencia dropping out to make way for races in New Jersey, France and Turkey, the latter having been omitted from the 2012 schedule having failed to attract big enough crowds to make it financially viable.
“If we can solve this problem [in terms of the fee], Turkey can return to the F1 calendar,” Ecclestone told the Haber Turk
newspaper last month.