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France to return to F1 calendar in 2018?

NEWS STORY
01/12/2016

According to respected sections of the French media, Paul Ricard will host a round of the Formula One World Championship from 2018.

France, which gave the world Grand Prix racing, last hosted a round of the world championship in 2008, which was won by Felipe Massa who retired from the sport last weekend.

The first French Grand Prix was held in 1906 and like Monaco, Britain, Belgium, Germany and Italy, hosted rounds of the World Championship in its inaugural season (1950).

After that, until 2008, it was only in 1955, the year of the Le Mans disaster, that France didn't figure on the F1 schedule, the race held at a variety of tracks most notably Reims, Rouen-Les-Essarts, Dijon-Prenois and Paul Ricard.

In 1991 the race moved to Magny Cours in what was a political move aimed at stimulating the local economy. However, other than unhappiness with the circuit layout, its geographical location meant it was never popular with drivers or fans.

The race was eventually dropped due to the circuit's financial issues and though there have been a number of false starts since, France has remained a glaring omission from the calendar.

Now however, the race looks set to return to Paul Ricard which hosted the Grand Prix between 1971 and 1989 and again between 1986 and 1990.

Sections of the French media claim that a deal has been done with FOM which will be announced on Monday. The deal is understood to be for five years beginning in 2018.

The driving force behind the move is said to be the PACA (Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur) region of France, which has been working behind the scenes for several years to have the race return to the calendar. Indeed, in its efforts to realise its dream, Eric Boullier was consulted.

It is claimed that the event will take the spot on the calendar currently held by Belgium, with the Spa race moving to the weekend left vacant by Germany, assuming Hockenheim doesn't host a race in 2018 either.

Bernie Ecclestone bought the track in the 90s and financed a major upgrading of the track and its facilities, but it is understood the circuit was part of the settlement awarded to his wife Slavica when they divorced.

One of the first to react to the reports was Romain Grosjean, who tweeted: "A Grand Prix at home..." accompanying his words with a number of emoticons showing his joy at the prospect.

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