Date: 22nd May 2012 at 9:35am
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As far as Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone was concerned a deal for the French Grand Prix to return to the Formula One calendar had been done.

Formula One had looked set to return to France for some time, there had been initial reports that suggested that the circuit it returned to was open to debate with Magny-Cours and Paul Ricard both battling to agree a deal with F1.

Over the past few months however Formula One has been caught up in the middle of French politics. A couple of months ago the French prime minister Francois Fillon had declared that a French Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard circuit would be supported by the French government, although it wouldn’t receive government funding.

But with France holding presidential elections between Nicolas Sarkozy and Francois Hollande, there had been rumours that if a new president took power, they might support the Magny-Cours bid and former F1 team boss Guy Ligier had been holding talks with Bernie over that possibility.

Up until the end of April he believed that Bernie wouldn’t sign an agreement until the outcome of the presidential election was known, however Ecclestone appeared to be keen to strike a deal and the contracts were put in place before the elections.

‘The deal is done, We actually agreed on financial terms with the sports minister, David Douillet, in my office last Tuesday [April 24].

‘We are still discussing a few points about money around the race, ‘You give me this, I want that’ and so on. But, for me, there is no doubt that we will sort it all out.’
Ecclestone told France’s L’Equipe.

Some people in the media might have speculated that Paul Ricard in Castellet was always the favourite to host the race as since 1999 the track has been owned by Excelis, a company owned by Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone. But of course that is just pure speculation…….

The deal was believed to be for the 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021 seasons and it had been well publicised that the Grand Prix would be alternating between France and another circuit, which was likely to be Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium.

But all of the above has now been thrown up in the air by comments made by France’s new sports minister Valerie Fourneyron.

The previous government lost the election, with a new Socialist party taking the reigns, as predicted they don’t really back plans for the French Grand Prix returning to Paul Ricard, with concerns over transport links in Castellet being one of the issues, as well as the decision being rushed ahead of the elections.

‘There was a remarkable acceleration on a potential race return, We need to have transparency on the issue, on the financial costs and on the seeming lack of concern by the F1 boss [Ecclestone] for the environment. Fourneyron told French radio station RMC.

‘There are major accessibility problems to the Castellet circuit and all this deserves more than 10 minutes of debate.

‘We are not opposed to the race, but are not sure we will see a race in France next year.’