French GP to return in 2018 with five-year deal at Paul Ricard

The French Grand Prix will make a return to the Formula One calendar from the 2018 season, with Circuit Paul Ricard in the south of France securing a five-year deal.

Following reports in French media last week, the plans were made official during a press conference at the Automobile Club de France in Paris on Monday in the presence of FFSA (French motorsport federation) president Nicolas Deschaux and Christian Estrosi, the president of the regional council of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA).

“I can confirm it with certainty, the French Formula One Grand Prix will return to Circuit Paul Ricard in 2018,” Estrosi announced before outlining plans for the event, which will receive support from PACA, the city of Toulon, the Var département, and the FFSA, with a €65m impact foreseen for the region.

France, which hosted the first ever grand prix back in 1906 will thus end a ten-year absence from the F1 schedule. Built in 1970, Circuit Paul Ricard hosted 14 French Grands Prix between 1971 and 1990 before the event moved to Magny-Cours in the Bourgogne region from 1991 to 2008.

Also known as Le Castellet, Paul Ricard became a state-of-the-art venue following major renovation works at the turn of the century. The track boasts a wide range of 137 layouts, the longest measuring in at 5.861km with the famous Mistral Straight and Signes corner.

Le Castellet has been hosting international championships such as Blancpain GT Series for many years, but grandstands and other facilities will be needed to welcome F1 back.

Although the circuit is owned by Bernie Ecclestone’s family trust, the 86-year-old supremo already ruled them out being involved as promoters.

France last hosted an F1 race in 2008, with Felipe Massa taking victory at Magny-Cours for Ferrari. The Scuderia also won the last event held at Paul Ricard, as home favourite Alain Prost delighted the local fans in 1990.

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