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GP Week : Issue 147
Reports of the return of the French Grand Prix may have been slightly premature. While discussions about a proposed race in France are still on the table and a draft contract has been drawn up, nothing has yet been set in stone and no paper work signed by either Bernie Ecclestone or the French government. Given that the French presidential elections are less than three weeks away, it is highly unlikely that any formal announcements – positive or negative – will be made until the votes are tallied and the results made official, as a sizeable financial commitment in the run-up to the public vote is not the sort of thing that tends to benefit a political party. That being said, concerted efforts are under way to ensure that Formula One returns to its spiritual home, the country that gave birth to grands prix more than a century ago. On Friday, French Prime Minister François Fillon (pictured right) held a press conference at Circuit Paul Ricard during which he confirmed that negotiations with the Formula One group were ongoing. Fillon also confirmed that the French GP deal relied on Paul Ricard hosting the race, which it is thought would see France alternate grands prix with Belgium’s beloved Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps. “We are working on the idea of hosting a grand prix every other year at Le Castellet [Paul Ricard]. This idea was agreed by the F1 authorities,” Fillion told Reuters. “The Formula One organisers' proposal is reasonable enough, but we have to make them remove the 'enough'. “There is a two-million-euro gap. The French state will bail for [the fee] but we will not go further.” Fillon would not confirm the fee being proposed by the Formula One group, but French newspaper Le Parisien is reporting that the amount in question was less than €20 million. FRENCH GP RETURN STILL UNDER NEGOTIATION BRIEFLY » After nearly a month on the road, which itself came hot on the heels of car launches and pre-season testing, Felipe Massa was looking forward to the three-week break between Sepang and Shanghai as a chance to recharge his batteries with a trip home to Sao Paulo. But the Brazilian’s poor start to the season scuppered his plans, and the Ferrari driver instead high-tailed it to Maranello in an attempt to boost his stock with his employers. “I met my engineer Rob Smedley and I spent a lot of time with Pat Fry, going over everything that happened, because this is the only way I think we can understand the reasons behind these two bad weekends,” Massa told the Ferrari website. “I am disappointed, there is no denying it – not scoring any points in two races hurts – but now it's time to turn the page. It's the not the first time I've gone through a difficult moment like this and I know well that things can change quickly, but now is the moment to do my utmost because I want this negative period to come to an end. I want things to return to normal, to a situation in which I can show my talent as I have always done and as the team knows I can do.” » Last year, Gilles Simon caused something of an uproar when it emerged that the former FIA engine chief had moved to a new role with Craig Pollock’s PURE, prompting widespread concern that Simon would be bringing privileged information with him to his new role. This week Simon’s replacement was announced – Fabrice Lom, ex-chief engineer at the Renault Sport F1 engine supplier. Lom has been working as the FIA’s Head of Power Train since late 2011, but the governing body only confirmed his appointment this week. During his Renault Sport tenure, Lom oversaw Red Bull’s two constructors’ championships. French Prime Minister François Fillon 8 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> NEWS