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Stewart backs France, but its Istanbul or bust for Bernie

7 January 2013

Sir Jackie Stewart has admitted that he would like to see the French Grand Prix return to the F1 schedule this season, even though Bernie Ecclestone has his sights set elsewhere.

The gap in the calendar created when the proposed street race in New Jersey admitted that it would not be ready in time to fulfil a double-header with Canada this summer has attracted interest from a number of potential hosts, following the decision to shuffle the schedule around to create an opportunity to stage a race in Europe over the weekend of 12-14 July.

While both Turkey and Austria, courtesy of the revamped Red Bull Ring, have both been mentioned in connection with the date, Stewart's preference would be to resurrect one of the oldest races in the world.

“Sooner or later, I would like to see a French Grand Prix,” he told Britain's Metro newspaper recently, “It was the French who started it all - the first grand prix was held at Le Mans in 1906 - so I would like to see that back on the calendar.”

Ecclestone, however, has hinted that a return to Turkey is the only option to fill the vacant slot on the 2013 calendar, despite the interest from Austria and France.

Admitting that filling the spare date was not a prerequisite, the F1 ringmaster suggested before Christmas that Turkey's highly-popular Istanbul Park was the only viable option, even though the national government has said that it will not bankroll an event that failed to attract big enough crowds to keep it financially stable and on the schedule.

"As of today, I've spoken to no-one [about going to Austria],” he told the local Kleine Zeitung newspaper, "At the moment, I'm thinking more on Turkey and a return to Istanbul."

"Right now, though, I'm thinking that, next year, we will go with only 19 races. That wouldn't be a big problem."

Interestingly, it was the third option, Austria, that came out on top of a Crash.net poll to find the preferred venue for a 20th race, the Red Bull Ring gaining nearly a quarter of the votes cast to beat off opposition from Magny-Cours and Istanbul Park, which came in second and third. More speculative hosts London, Mugello and Paul Ricard were next up, with 'other' attracting just over seven per cent of the support [[ see results here].


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