DECEMBER 12, 2001
Team bosses impressed by new Paul Ricard
BERNIE ECCLESTONE recently flew a number of the Formula 1 team principals down to the Paul Ricard circuit in the south of France to try to convince them to send their test teams to the circuit in the months ahead. Ecclestone has just spent a fortune to upgrade the facility and the F1 team bosses were impressed. Paul Ricard is, by all accounts, as good as it gets. The garages are all laid out so that teams do not have to worry about dividing them up to create offices and catering areas. It is all done for them. There are even permanent phone lines.
The track has also been reconfigured so that it can be used in a variety of different layouts,which make it perfect as a testing facility.
There is little doubt that Excelsis, the Ecclestone-controlled company which bought the track, intends that one day the Paul Ricard circuit will again host the French Grand Prix. Magny-Cours won the deal back in 1990 thanks to backing from the then French President Francois Mitterand. Magny-Cours is contracted to hold the race until after the event in 2004 but there is little doubt that after that the race will return to Paul Ricard. Magny-Cours remains one of the most remote on the F1 calendar with insufficient hotel accommodation and rampant exploitation of the F1 visitors by the locals.
There is a French presidential election coming next year but it is unlikely that there will be further political interference as the current French leaders cannot even be bothered to save Alain Prost's team and so it is unlikely that they will dictate where the French GP should be held.
The idea of making facilities permanent at F1 tracks is long overdue. Teams currently waste millions on motorhomes when they could simply move in and out of purpose-built facilities. Ecclestone has shown what is possible at Paul Ricard and future tracks will need to take this into account.
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