The French GP, which made a return to the Circuit Paul Ricard back in 2018 after a prolonged absence, found itself off this year’s schedule when it was revealed that its contract had not been renewed following the 2022 event. Prior to this announcement, rumours had been swirling about a possible street event in Nice serving as a replacement for Ricard, with some speculating that F1‘s interest might have been partly due to ongoing negotiations with Monaco about a new contract, a matter which has since been settled.
As reported by Nice-Matin, Nice mayor Christian Estrosi recently reached out to Macron with a written appeal, requesting his support while stressing the importance of the French GP. Macron’s reaction was positive, directing both Estrosi and FFSA president Nicolas Deschaux to communicate with F1/Liberty Media, initiate a feasibility study for the race’s comeback, and to remain open to potential venues. Both Estrosi and Deschaux had previously contributed to the event’s relocation to Paul Ricard.
In Macron’s words, he fully endorsed Estrosi’s ambition, emphasizing that France, like other countries hosting major international sports events annually, should reestablish ties with F1 for public enjoyment. Additionally, he views F1 as an attractive platform for promoting the influence of their automotive industry, as well as their efforts to decarbonise the sector.
He further advised them to consider various location options within France, taking their economic models, ecological commitment, and potential regional and national development contributions into account. He encouraged engaging in talks with F1 rights holders.
Estrosi’s connection to Nice obviously positions the city as a suitable candidate, but it remains to observe which other cities get equally serious consideration. Macron’s endorsement is noteworthy, particularly as Jean Alesi, current Paul Ricard boss, identifies lack of political support as the underlying cause for the venue’s removal from the calendar. Alesi expressed to F1 Initiative that the issue with F1 in France isn’t about the circuit but rather the politics.
In his words, “The problem is not with the circuit; the problem is the wish of the country. My other job is a F1 Ambassador, so my link to F1 is direct – with no bullshit – and they are very clear about that.” An F1 source divulged that they were willing to explore possibilities of staging the race in a “French iconic location” with Macron’s team.
In related developments on Wednesday, the metropolitan authorities of Nice Cote d’Azur pledged €5m to assist the Public Interest Group of the French GP organisation settle a €27m debt from the Paul Ricard events. This decision has sparked controversy, particularly because it was made before the conclusion of an impending audit of the organisation’s activities, expected later this month. EELV MP Fabrice Decoupigny gave his criticism, stating, “There is no question of paying an advance of 5 million when there are potential irregularities.”
His sentiments were echoed by a local mayor, who claimed that he asked for the list of creditors but received no response, and also expressed concerns about the potential for the advance payment to exceed 5 million. These disagreements could potentially undermine future attempts to secure public funding for a street race project in Nice.