Jean Alesi blames ‘politics’ for end of French GP, not the circuit

Sam Cooper
George Russell passes Sergio Perez for third place. French GP July 2022

Mercedes driver George Russell passes Sergio Perez for third place. France July 2022

With the French GP absent from the 2023 calendar, Jean Alesi has hit out at what he believes is the “politics” behind its removal.

The French Grand Prix was one of the seven circuits in the inaugural season of Formula 1 and remained a near permanent fixture on the calendar up until 2009.

The race was brought back for the 2018 season but is again absent from the 2023 schedule with no sign of a second comeback any time soon.

Getting any race on the F1 calendar can be a political minefield but nowhere does that seem more true than in France with the host of the grand prix frequently being shifted depending on whose voice was loudest.

In total, seven different tracks have held the race and in 1991, the venue moved from Paul Ricard to Magny-Cours as the French Federation of Automobile Sport sought to increase attendances. The centrally located Paul Ricard is 600km south of Magny-Cours.

But in 2018, the race returned to Paul Ricard after the French government refused to subsidise the owners of the Magny-Cours track who were struggling to meet the FOM-demanded sanctioning fee. The former venue had also proven unpopular with the teams due to its remote location and shortage of hotel rooms.

However, the race promoters would go on to confirm it would leave the calendar for 2023 with their aim for a rotational race deal.

Former Tyrrell, Ferrari, Benetton, Sauber, Prost and Jordan driver Alesi has hit out at the “politics” he believes is responsible for the grand prix’s exclusion.

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“The problem with Formula 1 in France is not with the circuit, it’s with the politics,” he told Motorsport.com. “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. My other job is a Formula 1 Ambassador, so my link to F1 is direct – with no bulls**t – and they are very clear about that.

“F1 has probably 32 countries in the world right now asking to host F1 races. The last grand prix we had here, last year, was very, very popular with the people. So it’s a shame to lose it.”

With a competitive French team and two French drivers representing it, the popularity of the sport should in theory be high but Alesi said it is the opposite. The 58-year-old said he would speak with the French president Emmanuel Macron as he was the one person with the power to change things.

“Having a French GP looks good on the F1 calendar, but if we don’t have the possibility to do it, then that’s because the country is not interested in motorsport, and that is a big shame,” Alesi said. “It’s not a problem for F1 to have a Grand Prix in France, the blame is on France.

“Of course, part 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. If it happens, and we can get the French GP back, I would be the happiest man in the world!

“With Alpine and Renault, they are very strong in F1 right now. But it’s not because of France, it’s because F1 is very strong. If I go to Elysee and speak with Macron, it would be much more useful than lobbying anyone else.”