Le Castellet, December 7th 2016 2018 - 2022 The Formula One French Grand Prix returns to Circuit Paul Ricard     A press conference was held on


Le Castellet, December 7th 2016

2018 - 2022
The Formula One French Grand Prix
returns to Circuit Paul Ricard

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A press conference was held on Monday by Christian Estrosi, President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Regional Council in Paris, at the headquarters of ACF (Automobile Club de France). Since that meeting it is a known fact that the Formula One French Grand Prix will be born again in 2018 at Circuit Paul Ricard, where it will be organised for at least five years.

Much ground has been travelled since 19 April 1970 and the official inaugural session of Circuit Paul Ricard. The efforts first made by visionary leader Paul-Ricard are therefore to go on, in the finest style, highlighted by the F1 French Grand Prix which returns to the circuit he himself built and financed.

Thanks to a dossier put together at the prompting of the Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, the return of the race owes a great deal to the efforts of Council President Christian Estrosi.
During Monday’s press conference, among other things he stressed that a community having a facility like this was duty bound to contribute to the service of the country and local economy.

€80 million invested since 2002

Since 2002, the investments made by Circuit Paul Ricard amount to €80 million, 15 million over the last five years, and that 2 million will be spent on improving the track in 2017.
As far as the impact of the renaissance of the French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard will have, a Deloitte study commissioned by the Regional Tourism Committee resulted in very positive answers. In passing, we note that although the organisation of a Formula One Grand Prix race represents an annual budget of €30 million, split between 16 millions in direct takings and 14 million in public subsidies, the overall regional economic spin-off is evaluated at €65 million per annum. Leverage from public subsidies is 1 to 5, with in addition, the creation of 500 direct and lasting jobs, and a boost to the regional tourist and economic attractiveness.

And the dream about developing the industries of the future?

The Circuit Paul Ricard is on the Signes Plateau, the heart of a regional economic-interest area spreading out over almost 1000 hectares, with an expanding 240 hectare activity estate, the Castellet international airport and several hotel and leisure infrastructures which the return of the Formula One Grand Prix is bound to develop by a dynamic impulse for its outstanding industrial activities.
More than half of this area can be dedicated to developing strategic openings for the industries of the future, including mechanics and sustainable mobility, as well as many related technological, computer activities and even event-based communication.

A Public Interest Group to be established in February 2017

A Public Interest Group (known as GIP) will be set up in February 2017 and include Excelis, FFSA, the Région and the main local communities concerned by Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and the CCI du Var.
Circuit Paul Ricard, after more 46 years of existence, is about to get a second wind.
When the industrial magnate died in the autumn of 1997, and the circuit was sold to a holding in May 1999, it marked the end of the “Circuit Paul Ricard 1” an era during which it was one of the high points in the world temple of motorsport. The “Circuit Paul Ricard 2” decade was that of the HTTT (the High Tech Test Track). And now, here we are deep in the heart of the “Circuit Paul Ricard 3” era.

Formula One French Grand Prix at Circuit Paul Ricard: and it’s back to the chequered flag on 5 December 2016

The venue has always had the gift of keeping up with the times, maintaining the soul and spirit already imbued in it by its creator. Every time you go through the doors to Circuit Paul Ricard you know that a very different day is beginning, and intermingling of emotion, passion and pleasure.
Every motorsport enthusiast, whether he is a driver or mechanic, an engineer or a spectator, an official or a journalist, an amateur or a professional, somewhere has a memory about the Circuit Paul Ricard.
The Formula One French Grand Prix is back for at least five years, starting in 2018, continuing its ever-alluring history again.

From Stewart to Prost, they all won a Formula One race at Circuit Paul Ricard

Pending 2018, and the 15th Formula One French Grand Prix at the Circuit Paul Ricard, 14 Formula One world championship races had already been run at Le Castellet, starting in 1971.
The first driver to win one of these races was the Scot, Jackie Stewart driving a Tyrrell-Ford, and the last three were won by Alain Prost, successively at the wheel of a McLaren-Honda then a Ferrari in 1990 - He was four-time winner and the record holder for F1 wins in Provence -, where he graduated from go-kart racing to a single seater at the Renault-Elf-Winfield racing drivers school.
1971 Jackie Stewart (Scotland, Tyrrell-Ford)
1973 Ronnie Peterson (Sweden, Lotus-Ford)
1975 Niki Lauda (Austria, Ferrari)
1976 James Hunt (England, McLaren-Ford)
1978 Mario Andretti (USA, Lotus-Ford)
1980 Alan Jones (Australia, Williams-Ford)
1982 René Arnoux (France, Renault)
1983 Alain Prost (France, Renault)
1985 Nelson Piquet (Brazil, Brabham-BMW)
1986 Nigel Mansell (England, Williams-Honda)
1987 Nigel Mansell (England, Williams-Honda)
1988 Alain Prost (France, Renault)
1989 Alain Prost (France, McLaren-Honda)
1990 Alain Prost (France, Ferrari)

Circuit Paul Ricard in the rear-view mirror

1970: 19 April, official inauguration of the Circuit Paul Ricard, notably attended by Paul-Ricard and Professor Joseph Comiti, State Secretary to the Prime Minister, in charge of Youth, Sport and Leisure activities.
1971-1990: 14 F1 French Grands Prix.
1973-1999: 13 French Motorcycle Grands Prix (125, 250, 350 and 500 cc).
1978-1999: 22 Bol d'Or races and return of the 24-hour motorcycle race in 2015, under the sun of Provence.
1999: purchase of the circuit site - renamed Circuit Paul Ricard High Tech Test Track - and the Castellet airport by Excelis. Modernisation of the track by Philippe-Gurdjian making it the first circuit in the world to be dedicated exclusively to testing and communication.
2006: homologation by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) of the new layout and specific arrangements to Circuit Paul Ricard. Essentially, these include run-off areas instead of gravel traps, a built-in system for watering the track on demand and testing of the lines monitored by a sophisticated camera system capable of following each car directly in action.
2007: Appointing of Circuit Paul Ricard to the status of “Premier Centre d'Excellence” by the FIA for Automobile Sport Safety.
2009: reopening of Circuit Paul Ricard to the public during competitions and Club track days. Construction of the stands with refurbishing of public areas and car parks.
2010: construction of Pit Building II as an extension to the Bâtiment Course, the Race Building, 40th anniversary celebrations of Circuit Paul Ricard.
2014: kick-off of a strategy for the diversification of Circuit Paul Ricard, especially with the Reebok Spartan Race, Music Festivals and the 24-hour bike race (24 Heures Vélo). Return of national and international car and motorbike, speed and endurance championships as well as the European and World GT, Endurance Championships and the Trucks Grand Prix events.
2015: return of the 24-hour motorbike race and the world endurance championship with Bol d’Or. Opening of an leisure park for all ages, Xtrem Park.

Monday they were in Paris at the headquarters of Automobile Club de France

Christian Estrosi, President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regional council, and Stéphane Clair, General director of the Circuit

Christian Estrosi, President of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur regional council and the Nice Côte d'Azur Metropolitan council, has been working tirelessly for over almost a year on the project to return the French F1 Grand Prix to the Paul Ricard race-track. His involvement has covered the economic side of the project as well as its evident sporting aspects. We have been talking about this with him and Stéphane Clair, the General Manager of the Circuit Paul Ricard.

"It’s because we love France”, insists Christian Estrosi, “because along with the share-holders of the Paul Ricard race track and its manager Stéphane Clair, we have the resources to make our case to the international bodies, Bernie Ecclestone (Formula One Management), John Todt (President of the FIA, the International Automobile Federation), the President of the FFSA (French Federation of Automobile Sport), the local councils involved and all of our prestigious sporting partners including the F1 drivers who know that with us, the Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur region, they will be able to compete in a Grand Prix which will be attractive, thrilling and above all safe.

The project has been developed over the past year in conditions of absolute confidentiality

"One year”, says President Estrosi, “is a long time but also it is not so long, we have had to be discreet and I think that, when you want to believe in something, the secret of success is confidentiality; the essential foundations we have worked together to complete are very much the results of a collective effort. And on top of that it has been a fantastic adventure on a human level. We are very happy for the Circuit Paul Ricard, we are very happy for the Region and we are very happy for France."

The return of the French F1 Grand Prix is the successful culmination of not only a sporting project but also an economic project.
"The project also has major economic aspects”, said Christian Estrosi, “since as long as motor-racing has existed it has been a driving force for innovation in the automobile industry allowing it to progress further and further. It's true that this is a sector which, through the driving power provided by the return of the French F1 Grand Prix to the Circuit Paul Ricard, will be able to generate a whole series of industries around it, from training programs, start-ups and right up to numerous of Small to Medium sized Businesses and Middle-Market Companies specialised in the mechanical, automobile and aeronautical sectors."

For Stéphane Clair, even if F1 will bring a certain glamour to the Circuit Paul Ricard it will of course remain accessible to all.

Stéphane Clair, General Manager of the Circuit Paul Ricard and also a native of Nice, welcomed the completion of the French F1 Grand Prix project with a certain sense of humour.
"President Estrosi forgets to say that being from Nice is also about being stubborn and willing... And for this project we have had to be stubborn and willing.
"And Christian Estrosi in particular, along with the people he has brought together and motivated to push this forwards. And today we are all so proud to announce this wonderful news and I hope that we will be excused for the fact that a lot had to happen behind the scenes.

Will the return of the French F1 Grand Prix change things at the Paul Ricard race-track?

"I think so”, said Stéphane Clair, “I think it will change the lives of a lot of local people and of the French people as a whole. Because we have really done it, the F1 is coming back to France, at the Circuit Paul Ricard. It's wonderful news.
"Evidently, this is an excellent return on all of the hard work that has been done, even if there is still a lot to do before 2018, to be fully prepared to receive the many spectators as well as television viewers from all over the world.
"We must not forget that F1 is also an excellent way for our region to present itself to the world; this will be an unbeatable advert for local tourism."
And the General Manager of the Paul Ricard race-track finished with:"It is important to be glamorous and remain accessible to all."

Maître Arnaud Pericard, lawyer

“Never give up” must be the motto of solicitor Maître Arnaud Péri-card, who studied law in the US at the University of Chicago where his teacher of constitutional rights was a certain Barack Obama, since he has now been working on the project for the return of the French F1 Grand Prix for five years. We spoke to him about it.

"I can't tell you everything because I am bound to the kind of secrecy in which I like to work”, reminded the pragmatic Maître Arnaud Péricard. “Discretion was one of the working conditions for the FOM (Formula One Management) teams and Bernie Ecclestone. But it was also very much a collective effort by a small team - Stéphane (Clair), Gilles (Dufeigneux) and Eric Boullier - who all know each other and work well together. The fact that they had known each other for many years and got on well allowed them to work effectively, seriously and above all in total discretion."

And is it the same for a solicitor with this project for the return of the French F1 Grand Prix to the Circuit Paul Ricard?

"Since we are in a very mechanical environment”, says Maître Péricard with a smile, “we had to oil the gears, coordinating all of the project's legal and organisational issues for the PACA region and for the negotiations with the FOM, the race-track and potential partners."

How would you define the project for the return of F1 to France?

"It was a difficult case, because we worked on it for five years”, admits Maître Arnaud Péricard. “There were some very complicated interactions, notably in terms of politics and non-sporting issues, but it is really a pleasure to work with such a team and benefit from the energy and drive of President Estrosi. When a project is supported by a real leader, that changes everything!"

So a F1 Grand Prix is not just a case of snapping one's fingers and signing a few cheques?

"Oh no, that really is not enough! There are a lot of people and countries all over the world who would like to have a F1 Grand Prix, and would be prepared to pay as much as two, three or four times what the European countries pay. It’s a question of being coherent, the project needs to include a very complete general and sporting policy, and it’s not just about money!"

What does the Circuit Paul Ricard represent to F1?

"For me the Paul Ricard Circuit is really marvellous. I have been working with them for five years; I have seen all of the works, all of the alterations and improvements that have been made to it.
"I remember going there when I was little in the 1980s, I must have been only ten years old. The PACA region is also wonderful and in 2018 the F1 will really be a great event.
"I have always been a fan of F1; I have fond memories of the old battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. I like Alain a lot, he is a good friend. If we could have two or even three drivers in 2018, with Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly and Romain Grosjean, that would be amazing!"

Patrick Tambay, former F1 driver

Patrick Tambay, ex-F1 driver for a number of major F1 teams such as McLaren, Ligier, Ferrari and Renault, was the first to launch a petition for the return of the French F1 Grand Prix to the Circuit Paul Ricard over the social media a number of years ago.

"It’s not about finishing first”, said a very emotional Patrick Tambay after the Press Conference, “it’s about being part of the team. We all need to get together behind this wonderful idea that Christian Estrosi has done so much to promote."

And Patrick finished with his prognostic for the winner of the 2018 French F1 Grand Prix: "Pierre Gasly... Why not! "

Pierre Gasly, driver

At just 20 years’ old, Pierre Gasly is the new Prema-Powerteam GP2 World champion and reserve driver for the Red Bull Racing F1 team, and will surely be one of the first young guns out of the blocks at the F1 French Grand Prix on the Circuit Paul Ricard.

"It’s incredible news", says Pierre Gasly, the new rising star of single-seater motorsport. "We’ve been waiting for so long for the return of the French Grand Prix, now it’s here and there are so many people and fans who love it. I will do my utmost to try to take part and be on the F1 starting grid in 2018. It’s going to be a very special moment!"

Pierre Gasly from the self-same Red Bull stable could envy Sebastian Vettel or a certain Max Verstappen...

"No, I don’t envy him, but I know Max very well and it’s true that he’s someone to look up to. I’ve raced with him in go-karting, he’s an incredible person and he’s really had a great F1 season."

Gasly the next F1 star?

"I’ve got plenty of good role models to motivate me to get where I want to be. I give it 100% every day, but I’m ready to dedicate all my time and energy to get into F1, it’s my life’s ambition!"

To finally take over from Olivier Panis, the last French driver to win an F1 Grand Prix in a Ligier-Mugen Honda at the Monaco Grand Prix in 1995?

"It’s time to change all that!’ Olivier (Panis) is a good friend; it would be an honour to follow in his footsteps. There are several of us young French drivers in F1, it’s already an honour to be here, and we will do our best to represent our country."
"Let’s face it; there can be no doubt that the stable has great importance. So, you have to be in the right place at the right time."

Alain Prost, former F1 driver

Alain Prost, quadruple F1 World Champion, quadruple winner and winner of the last French Grand Prix on the Circuit Paul Ricard, had business to attend to last Monday and was therefore not in Paris at the ACF headquarters. But he sent an audio-visual message of support to the whole team that successfully presented the case to Chairman Christian Estrosi and Stéphane Clair.

"I would like to sincerely thank and congratulate all those who worked to successfully bring the F1 French Grand Prix home."
"It's a huge project, and, of course, very good news for motorsport, the French motorsport economy, the French car industry and also, indirectly for tourism."

"I’m definitely going to be there (at the F1 French Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard Circuit) and I hope it will be a successful, well-attended sporting event!"

Eric Boullier, McLaren Racing racing director

It was Eric Boullier – former boss of the Renault F1 and Lotus F1 Teams, now at the helm of McLaren Racing – who, along with Christian Estrosi and Stéphane Clair, helped spearhead the battle to secure the return of the F1 French Grand Prix, and its return to the Circuit Paul Ricard.

"We just worked together with Stéphane (Clair), Arnaud (Péricard) and Gilles (Dufeigneux) to sound out the feasibility of the project and lend it credibility so the F1 French Grand Prix could come home", says Eric Boullier humbly.
"I believe that we had the confidence and credibility of the FOM (Formula One Management) Chairman, Bernie Ecclestone, who agreed to listen to us.
"‘It’s a very credible project; Christian Estrosi and Hubert Falco explained that it was a consolidated effort. As soon as it became serious with a strategy in place, we began to have real dialogue."
"I think that, even though France is a country that has always had a love-hate relationship with cars, it will bring new energy to the country. We have many French champions: Grosjean, Ocon, and now Gasly, not to mention past champions; Renault and Total are in F1. When we have 24 Hours of Le Mans, we should have an F1 French Grand Prix. It’s high time France opened up to the world!"

Link through Press Conference of December 5th and Circuit Paul Ricard photos


Circuit Paul Ricard media contacts :
Marine Deloffre : +336 43 98 43 43 - m.deloffre@circuitpaulricard.com
Magali Bernard : +336 70 26 96 01 - m.bernard@circuitpaulricard.com

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