MAY 12, 2008

Bernie looks to Paris street race

The French Grand Prix will be held at Magny-Cours for the last time this year, according to Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, but he hopes that there could be a race on a new circuit in or near Paris in 2010. Magny-Cours promoters, the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile, had previously made it clear that it could not afford to risk a race in 2009 because of the 10% hike in race fees each year. The FFSA has worked hard to promote the event in recent years and has done a good job, but there is a limit to how many people Magny-Cours can attract because of the lack of local infrastructure, and the fact that the German fans are no longer coming in large numbers in their camper vans to support Michael Schumacher. The French are working on trying to have a new venue ready by 2010.

Ecclestone says he would like to see a French GP on the streets of Paris. This is not impossible given that every year Paris is disrupted by any number of big events, such as the Tour de France, military parades, remembrance events and so on. These rarely last more than one day, but the city is used to dealing with such things and knows how to handle the problems. With the support of the Prime Minister Francois Fillon nothing is impossible.

The idea of the French GP - the world's oldest surviving motor race - being on the streets is one that would be fantastic for F1 but there are still problems to be overcome. Paris is a city run by the socialists and mayor Bertrand Delanoe has long been a man who espouses environmental causes. His policies have included reducing pollution and vehicle traffic within the city with a large number of bicycle lanes and a "green" tramway project in the south of the city. His latest big success has been Velib, rental bicycles that can be picked up and dropped off at different places around the city. He was re-elected recently for 2008-2014 and it is felt that after that he may become a presidential candidate. He is not averse to big projects however and championed the Paris Plage (Paris Beach) idea, of turning roadways along the Seine into beaches each summer and was behind Paris's unsuccessful bid for the 2012 Olympic Games.

There are believed to be several projects for a new French GP, including running Albert Park-like events in parks.