French GP to be back from 2013
The French Grand Prix is expected be back in Formula 1 from the 2013 season. The last race in France was held at the Magny-Cours circuit in 2008 which was won by Felipe Massa and Ferrari. This time though the race is planned to be held at the Paul Ricard Circuit where the last French Grand Prix was held way back in 1990. Ferrari won then also but with Alain Prost.
Bernie Ecclestone and the Formula One Management (FOM) have been in talks with the French government to bring back the French Grand Prix, for a long time. French Prime Minister Francois Fillion is expected to make the announcement very soon.
France has always been a very integral part of Formula 1. The FIA headquarters are situated in Paris and many important men who have controlled the business of Formula 1 during previous years are French. France has had its fair share in the Formula One driver community too, the most famous of them being four times world champion Alain Prost. Last season there were no French drivers on the grid but this season there are three – Romain Grosjean (Lotus), Jean-Eric Vergne (Toro Rosso) and Charles Pic (Marussia) : so it is quite logical that France makes its return among the tracks on the calendar also.
But France’s alliance with Formula 1 has not been very smooth sailing all the time. French dominance of the results of some of the races has led to a lot of harsh words being said. This mostly happened when Alain Prost was fighting at the sharp end of the grid winning races. Two famous examples are the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix and the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. In Monaco 1984, Prost in the McLaren was leading but Senna in the Toleman was catching him very fast. Although the conditions were very treacherous, the cars were still drive-able but Prost waved his hands while crossing the start-finish line to begin Lap 31. And to everybody’s awe, the officials waved the red flag to stop the race at the end of Lap 31 so that Senna wouldn’t have the chance to catch Prost. This action was deemed very controversial because at that time, Frenchman Jean-Marie Balestre was the head of the FIA and the top management of F1 was mostly French. French dominance again reared its ugly head when Senna and Prost collided during the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix. Senna continued after the collision and won the race but was stripped of the win and hence the championship. Again Balestre was considered to be behind manipulation of the results so that Prost could win third championship.
Another important thing to note is that the French and the Belgian Grand Prix will alternate between themselves from next year onwards. It is quite difficult to think that the iconic Spa-Francorchamps will not be holding a race every year because it is considered to be the best track among the current ones on the calendar. The hole created by Spa cannot be filled up easily by any other track but we can hope that the Paul Ricard circuit shall be host to some of the most memorable races for a long time to come.