The Future Of The French Grand Prix Is Murky At Best, Will Le Castellet Return In 2024?
Formula 1 has recently released the most expansive schedule in its history that will have teams competing in a record 24 Grand Prix. Despite the wide-ranging schedule the French Grand Prix was given a pink slip and has been canceled at the very least for the 2023 season. The French Grand Prix’s contract comes to an end at the end of the 2022 season and with 2023 off the calendar the future of the race is not certain.
Stefano Domenicali the president of Formula 1 has stated that there is still some hope for the French GP to return to the schedule alternating with other tracks working with a rotation system changing yearly. A rotation system seems to be a necessary compromise the French will have to accept rather than losing the race entirely.
NOT THE FIRST TIME THE GP WAS CANCELLED
The last time the French Gp was canceled was when the Magny-Cours circuit was facing financial instability in 2009 forcing the race to be canceled for what was supposed to be a single-year-only only race returned at Le Castellet in 2018. That was the longest period Formula 1 did not include France on their schedules.
Since the inception of the Formula 1 championship, the French Grand Prix was canceled once in 1955 due to the horrific events that occurred in Le Mans where eighty-three spectators were killed and over one hundred and eighty other people were injured in the grandstands due to debris flying caused by the crash of Pierre Laugh. The GP was also canceled due the Covid-19 in 2020 due to the government’s rules that were set to combat the pandemic.
A LONG HISTORY OF RACES
The French Grand Prix is one of the oldest Grand Prix in history dating back to before the formula 1 championship began in 1950. The French grand Prix began in 1906 and has raced and taken place on over fifteen circuits across the country. The French Grand Prix in the last couple of seasons has faced tough scrutiny over the lack of entertainment value it brings to the calendar. Races that have seen extraordinarily little overtaking and drama that F1 fans are eager for.
Le Castellet is considered one of the safest tracks in F1 but due to the huge run-off areas for drivers to escape their errors, which fans argue that it is too easy to stay in the race. Despite LE Castellet’s criticisms the French Grand Prix still sold-out packing in seventy thousand F1 fans every day of the weekend. Financial woes are no longer a problem and race organizers consider the French GP a successful venture rather than a flop.
OCON SPEAKS OUT
The authorities at Formula 1 and Liberty Media have shown positive signs that they are not averse to keeping races in France, after all, it is a matter of respect for history and the country’s role in racing. Current French drivers like Esteban Ocon who drives for the French team Alpine shared his thoughts on the matter saying “When I started Formula 1, the [French] grand Prix was not there. It was rumored that it was going to come back, and it did. We’ve lived so many good moments with the French fans there and yeah, it’s extremely special when we go there every year.”, Ocon also added before the cancellation of the race was official saying “I’m very happy to discover new tracks but yes, to see the French Grand Prix at threat, definitely I will do everything I can, to be vocal on that. I will do everything I can to keep it on the calendar.”
THE FRENCH GRAND PRIX WILL RETURN, BUT WHERE AND WHEN?
Formula 1 has a long history and has created deep roots that fans and drivers simply do not want to uproot because of new races entering the calendar. Races like the French GP, Belgian, and Monaco GP have been under threat for multiple years now but only the French GP has been axed so far.
Stefano Domenicali the F1 president has iterated that the city of Nice has applied to a street race to be held there. With Formula 1’s growing desire for more street races, this seems to be an excellent opportunity for the French Grand Prix to return to the schedule as early as 2024.
Perhaps a more intense and dramatic French race taking place in the narrow streets of Nice will prove to be more favorable than Circuit Paul Ricard at Le Castellet. As Formula 1 expands and with the demand for the sport to visit more and more countries at an all-time high classic circuit will need to step up their games if they wish to remain a mainstay in Formula 1 for years to come.