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‘Politics’ are responsible for loss of French GP, says Alesi

The problem lays within French politics, not F1, says Jean Alesi.

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Jean Alesi, newly appointed president of Circuit Paul Ricard, says politics are responsible for the French Grand Prix’s departure from the F1 calendar.

Jean Alesi testing at Circuit Paul Ricard in 2002.
Jean Alesi testing at Circuit Paul Ricard in 2002. He made his F1 debut at the circuit in 1989. (Image credit: u/F1RetroGR on Reddit)

The French Grand Prix will be sitting on the sidelines this year, after it was announced that a race at Paul Ricard would not be on the calendar. It puts to an end a four-year run at the Le Castellet circuit.

The circuit has recently announced that former F1 driver Jean Alesi will be assuming the role of track president. Speaking to, the French driver shared his perspective on Paul Ricard’s absence from the 2023 calendar. In Alesi’s view, Formula 1 is not responsible — rather, the blame lies within French politics.

“The problem with Formula 1 in France is not with the circuit, it’s with the politics,” said Alesi. “It’s probably the only F1 Grand Prix that’s never had a president come to watch it – except for at Magny-Cours once, when [Francois] Mitterrand attended as part of his political wish for the race to be there. Since then, it’s never happened.” 

The problem is not with the circuit; the problem is the wish of the country. 

As part of his new role at the circuit, Alesi is making it a goal of his to lobby for F1 to return to Paul Ricard. “[P]art of my new role will be to send a letter, to request a meeting with the president of France, but I don’t know if this will happen,” said Alesi. “If it happens, and we can get the French GP back, I would be the happiest man in the world!”

Alesi will concentrate his efforts on lobbying French President Emmanuel Macron, rather than F1 officials. Speaking with Macron, says Alesi, “would be much more useful than lobbying anyone else.”

Alesi’s personal history with the track

Paul Ricard is a track that has played a significant role in Alesi’s life. The French driver made his Formula 1 debut there in 1989, driving for Tyrell-Ford. It was in this race that Alesi picked up his first F1 championship point, having finished fourth. Beyond Paul Ricard’s role in Alesi’s career, the track also holds sentimental value for the former driver. 

“The circuit is only 120km from Avignon, and when I was a child I was coming to watch the Formula 1 testing there, and my passion for motorsport grew up on this land,” said Alesi. “The spotlight was on me in 1989, that was an amazing day in my life, but it was already a place that was very special for me, that increased my desire to be part of the sport and to be around Formula 1.”

France has been a significant player in the history of Formula 1. There was a French Grand Prix in the first F1 World Driver Championship, in 1950. The race was held at Reims-Gueux, which closed in 1972 due to financial difficulties. 

The first F1 race at Circuit Paul Ricard took place in 1971. The French Grand Prix was then hosted at Le Castellet until 1990. From 1990 until 2008, the event was held at Magny-Cours. The event returned to Paul Ricard in 2018. 

A busy circuit

While Paul Ricard’s place on the F1 race calendar has been sporadic, the track is still heavily used for testing. In fact, Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and George Russell took to the track just days ago.

“We have a lot of Formula 1 teams coming to Paul Ricard for testing,” said Alesi, recounting the track’s virtues. “It’s a very useful circuit for these cars with long straights, lots of runoff area, the possibility to test wet tyres when you want with our sprinkler system. And, of course, the weather is always very good here.”

“We have 280 days of track activity booked for this year. It’s a very, very wealthy circuit with lots of revenue coming in, and we host sportscars, motorbikes, national racing – even some Italian championships come to us. 

“We are very busy, but Formula 1 is very glamorous for us – so to have a Grand Prix again would be great.”

Featured Image Credit: Motor Sport Magazine

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