Formula 1 will hold a record 23 stages in 2023, but not in France – the local Paul Ricard hosted the Grand Prix for the last time in 2022, and they decided not to renew the deal. There are several reasons at once: both the average entertainment of the race , and not the most exciting track with huge colorful departure zones , and constant logistical problems for the fans (due to poor road connections) … Previously, with low competition, the stage near Nice, thanks to a semi-state promoter, found tens of millions in fees , but after the popularity of F-1 in the world, the series had a dozen more alternative locations – and France could not resist.
The loss of the national Grand Prix in the presence of his own team and his two pilots in it hurt his pride. The promoter and the Paul Ricard track (by the way, it is private and belongs to the family of the former F-1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone) is headed by the same person, and he was replaced: instead of the former McLaren chief, the former Ferrari pilot Jean Alesi was appointed . The new boss immediately began to reflect on the topic “what went wrong.”
And I found out – the president is to blame!
“The problem of Formula 1 in France is not with the track, but with politics,” Alesi said in his first interview after the appointment. – Perhaps this is the only F-1 Grand Prix that the president has never visited – except for the only visit of Mitterrand (President of France from 1981 to 1995 – Sports.ru) to Magny-Cours as a manifestation of his political desire race at this circuit.
Since then, this has not happened. The problem is not with the track, the problem with the desire of the country. My second role is to be an ambassador of Formula 1, so I have a direct connection with the championship, no fools. And the championship speaks very clearly. At the moment, somewhere around 32 countries are asking for F-1 racing.
The French Grand Prix looks good on the calendar, but if this is not possible, then the country is not interested in motorsport – very disappointing. For “F-1” is not a problem to hold the Grand Prix, the fault in France. Naturally, my new role also implies that I will send a letter and request a meeting with the President of France, but I do not know if it will happen.
Alpin and Renault are very strong in F1. And not thanks to France, but thanks to the power of F-1. If I come to the Elysee Palace and talk to Macron, it will be much more useful than lobbying somewhere else.”
Although, it would seem, the country is already doing enough to host the race: the budget for the Grand Prix is fully covered from the treasury of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
Of the minuses: therefore, sometimes you have to report to the state for the money spent – and suddenly the result can disappoint both the budget and the public. We know this from letters leaked to the local edition of Var Martin from the leadership of the council of the Var department (part of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region, where the track is located) to the promoter about an investigation into budget overruns – the insiders were so surprised that they moved to Eurosport and to profile racing publications. And it seems that at the time of spending research, the promoter’s website even stopped opening, and the organization’s funding was completely suspended “until the circumstances are clarified.”
It turned out that the promoter of the French Grand Prix in 2022 exceeded the annual budget for the stage by € 27.5 million – with the main suspicions aroused by the strangely expensive overseas trips for the organizing team, luxurious catering (Red Bull fans will sarcastically smile) and justification payment for certain contracts.
For comparison, the average cost of the contribution for the Grand Prix at the European stage is about 30 million euros. That is, the promoters of the stage seem to have overspent the amount for the conditional 2023, and the new boss blamed everything on the lack of interest of the head of the country!
Moreover, it was the Var Department that raised the issue of overspending when it found out about the need to pay 4.5 million extra (the rest of the sums went to the provinces and the city hall of Nice): that’s why the department refused to complete the reporting period and cover debts “until the purpose of spending is clarified.”
At the suspicious contract hearings, Eric Boullier gave explanations in the style of “yes, catering is expensive in general” and “Formula 1 is a global sport consisting of 22+ events, you need to make expensive trips to attract partners.” And he lost his position after the hearings.
The only weighty counter-argument of the promoter is the statement of the chairman of the organization, Christian Estrosi, that “The Var Department received a positive economic effect of €140 million over 5 years, and the entire region – 280 million.”
Are presidents and heads of state in F-1 generally a common thing?
Maybe Alesi is right and heads of state still come to all other stages?
This is very easy to verify – such moments are carefully documented by the media and by Formula 1 itself. Precisely because, in fact, no – far from every Grand Prix, the head of the country arrives, and their list is a bit indicative.
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