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April 24th, 2012
France is increasingly likely to return to the Formula 1 calendar after Bernie Ecclestone confirmed that a deal to race at Paul Ricard ‘is done’.
The country has not hosted a grand prix since Magny Cours was dropped for the 2009 season due to financial difficulties.
The event’s return now looks guaranteed, with Ecclestone telling France’s L’Equipe that he had ‘no doubt’ about the race taking place. AUTOSPORT understands that the contract is for five grands prix, in 2013, ’15, ’17, ’19 and ’21, and that the grand prix would use the full version of the Paul Ricard circuit.
“The deal is done,” Ecclestone said. “We actually agreed on financial terms with the sports minister, David Douillet, in my office last Tuesday.
“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.”
Despite long-running rumours of a race-share deal with Belgian Grand Prix venue Spa-Francorchamps, there has been no firm decision about which venue will take the slot in France’s ‘off’ years.
Ecclestone’s comments come as France heads for the second and final round of its presidential election, fought between incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy and his Socialist rival Francois Hollande.
Ecclestone said he was confident a deal would be sorted regardless of the winning candidate, saying that he was even open to completing before the final elections on May 6.
Asked when the agreement might be fully completed, Ecclestone replied: “before the result of the second round of presidential elections in France, if they wish. Whatever the outcome, I do not care. This is a domestic issue that does concern me.”