Alpine’s Esteban Ocon says F1 “needs to” race in certain countries such as France, as Paul Ricard is in danger of losing its grand prix.
Ocon has revealed his disappointment that the French Grand Prix could disappear from the Formula 1 calendar from 2023, with Paul Ricard’s contract up for renewal.
The French venue, which returned to F1 in 2018, is set to host its 2022 iteration on July 24, but no deal is in place to keep Formula 1 at the circuit, or even in France, for 2023 and beyond.
With Liberty Media eager to expand into less traditional markets as the sport’s popularity booms around the world, the focus is on “destination” races such as the recently announced Las Vegas Grand Prix from 2023, the arrival of Miami in 2022, as well as the likes of new venues in Saudi Arabia which has held two races in the past seven months.
Unfortunately for F1’s more traditional stomping grounds such as France, Germany, Belgium and Monaco, it appears as though annual races are no longer guaranteed – a rotation of races and a “year on, year off” approach may be taken to keep F1 visiting the likes of Spa-Francorchamps or Paul Ricard.
Given France’s history in grand prix racing, as well as the success of French manufacturers within the sport, Ocon says he is disappointed to see the direction the sport is going in as it appears France may lose its annual race.
“I’m following the conversations, obviously, and seeing how that’s going, but it doesn’t look too nice,” said Ocon, quoted by Motorsport.com.
“It’s very disappointing. I’ve been living in my young career when the grand prix was not there. Then it came back, and I’ve been very lucky and very fortunate to race there.
“We have it this year and we will enjoy it to the fullest.”
Ocon said there are some countries in which Formula 1 racing should be a given, due to their history.
“I think there are countries we need to race in,” he explained.
“France is part of that. Belgium is part of that and Monaco is part of that.
“We should keep these races that are special to us and see what we do with them.”
Alpine have partnered with this year’s French Grand Prix, which means there will be an Alpine grandstand as well as a separate ‘Tribune Esteban Ocon’ – a situation the French driver admitted to finding slightly surreal.
“To have a grandstand named after you at your home race is an absolute privilege and one I never thought I would have when I started racing,” he said.
“Every time I go past, I will think of what it means – for every young racer in that stand and watching at home, it shows what you can do if you put your mind to it and take advantage of all the opportunities that come your way.
“I hope to make everyone in my grandstand proud on that Sunday afternoon and bring home a good result for the team and the fans.”