Formula One heading back to France in 2018

The Formula One motor racing championship will return to France, it was confirmed today (Monday), after a five-year race deal commencing in 2018 was unveiled in Paris.

The French Grand Prix, previously a historic mainstay in F1, was last held in 2008 but a deal has been reached that will see a race held at Le Castellet’s Circuit Paul Ricard, which is located near Marseille. The deal was announced by Christian Estrosi, the president of the regional authority of Provence and the Cote d’Azur, at the headquarters of the Automobile Club de France in Paris.

Circuit Paul Ricard last staged a F1 grand prix in 1990, but has since undergone major renovations to become a popular destination for motorsport testing. Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours was removed from F1’s 2009 calendar after losing local backing and the country has since been linked with a return at a variety of facilities including Le Castellet and a speculative effort to stage a race near Disneyland Paris.

France hosted the first-ever recognised grand prix near Le Mans in 1906 and Estrosi said Paul Ricard was the most suitable circuit for F1’s return to the country. “Circuit Paul Ricard circuit is the one that has produced the most effort and investment in recent years to get to the standards and level of F1,” Estrosi said, according to French newspaper L’Equipe.

“Since 2002, €80m ($84.8m) has been invested by the shareholders. Its infrastructure is recognised and appreciated by teams and drivers. Furthermore, an audit was performed, and while the cost of hosting the grand prix is valued at €30m, the expected indirect benefits are €65m. This represents a growth factor and a potential to create 500 sustainable jobs.”

Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone last week confirmed to the Reuters news agency that a deal was in the pipeline, but said the race would likely be held in July rather than the late August or early September slot widely reported in French media. Circuit Paul Ricard is now owned by Ecclestone's family trust, which the F1 chief said would not be involved in hosting the race.

Estrosi added that the French GP will first be held in the summer of 2018, adding that the race fee “conforms” to that of other European events.