A Formula 1 Grand Prix in Nice, a really credible hypothesis?
The International Automobile Federation does not hide its desire for change. Alternation of Riviera races, new date entered in the championship… And Nice in all this, is the hypothesis of the return of a Grand Prix in the city of Angels credible?
Real or fake good idea? The idea of a Formula 1 Grand Prix in Nice agitates associations and motor sports specialists for a few days after Christian Estrosi, the mayor of the city and president of the Nice Côte d’Azur Metropolis, did not make a secret of his meeting with the Italian boss of F1, Stefano Domenicali.
We know the appetite for sporting events for the former motorcycle champion, now at the head of the fifth most populous city in the country. Tour de France, Paris-Nice, Top 14 matches, marathon, triathlon…
Sport has clearly become a lever for growth and attractiveness under his mandates.
In its June 17 edition, L’Equipe – the sports daily – affirmed that « Nice […] working on the possibility of a GP » in an article with an evocative title « Domenicali puts an option on Nice ».
On the side of the mayor’s office, no comment. Or almost. Christian Estrosi said a few days ago that « Nice has definitely been at the center of all interests recently as a destination for the organization of the most prestigious sporting events ».
Frédéric Ozon, the president of the Automobile Club of Nice was still a few days ago with the Riviera leaders of one of these races : « I was at the Grand Prix historique de France this weekend, with managers from the Grand Prix de France du Castellet and the managers of the circuit. They were not at all aware of this project. [de course à Nice] and they wondered if it was really a project or a pressure move, because you know there is a lot of talk today of Formula 1 Grand Prix because it is the calendars that are being decided at the moment for next year, with contracts that are done over several years, and the Monaco Grand Prix is at odds. »
The president of the Automobile Club de Nice also confirms having presented to the town hall of Nice, in the past, a route for a Formula E race – the electric equivalent of the F1. He also explains that he asked the town hall to find out if a project concerning F1 was in the pipeline, whichshe has neither confirmed nor denied.
Negotiations are open between the International Federation of Automobiles FIA and some European circuits to renew their lease in the Formula 1 championship.
The Spa-Francorchamps circuit, located in Belgium, sees its contract with the international race organizer come to an end this year.
Ditto for the French circuit of Le Castelletin the Var, which has no guarantee beyond the next Grand Prix de France which will take place on July 24.
Christian Estrosi had also said to himself « rather conquered » by the idea of organizing only « one edition every two years » during his Monegasque meeting with Domenicali.
And the principality not to be spared by these desires for reform. The Monaco Grand Prix, could occur every other year. Worse still, the FIA is also eyeing this financial windfall that is the Monegasque race.
Le rock gives « only » 14.2 million euros to the FIA to appear in the calendar… when the Saudis pay 52 to run the F1 cars on the shores of the Red Sea, in Jeddah.
It is above all the extras that interest the FIA. Private property (yachts, apartments) welcome a large crowd during the event without it falling into the pocket of the federation.
Some posh places even go for several tens of thousands of euros to have an unobstructed view of the Monegasque circuit, which is not considered spectacular enough, but so historic.
A 24th date on the calendar is also being studied by the FIA.
The top category of motor sports attracts celebrities and wealthy clientele. During the last Grand Prix in Miami, a number of international stars invaded the paddock to parade on the asphalt, a highly appreciated media relay and carrier for the image of this sport.
Emerging countries are also interested in this softpower tool. In Morocco, in 1958, the F1s were already racing in the kingdom. The authorities have not hidden their interest in organizing the only African stage of the championship. Already in 2001, Stefano Domenicali confessed to the German newspaper Picture to be in great demand by this continent. A delegation from the FIA intended to assess and certify a circuit for motor events, including F1, were on site a few days ago.
Moreover, the Russian-led war in Ukraine cost the country led by Vladimir Putin its Grand Prix. The Sochi circuit has had its race withdrawn, and the F1 championship reduced from 23 stages to 22.
On the side of certain Nice associations. It’s an outcry. Airy Chrétien, one of the founders of Collectif Citoyen 06, rails against this new idea:
They will above all show the counter-example. The climate plan of the Metropolis of Nice is very late, a season of Formula 1, it is 250,000 tons of CO2 at the very least. So a Formula 1 circuit in Nice is several thousand tons of CO2. How do you then ask people to make climate efforts.Airy Chrétien, one of the founders of Collectif Citoyen 06
The association has launched an online petition against this race project, which flirts this Friday, June 24 with the 1 500 signatories.
If the project were to be validated by all the actors, it should at least « between 12 and 18 months to organize such an event » emphasizes François Ozon. He considers the infrastructure easy to adapt, and Nice would offer a route that could offer spectacle, even if work on certain surfaces would be necessary.
With the main straight lines of the Var plain, and those of the Promenade des Anglais, this would allow overtaking between single-seaters. A rare thing in the Monegasque neighbor where the place is limited.
A return of the Grand Prix to Nice would make it possible to find part of the historic circuit. Run between 1932 and 1935, and in 1946 and 1947, facing the Mediterranean, the Nice event at the time offered 100 laps on a 3.213 km circuit.
Some specialized sites or fan accounts relay rumors that spread within the paddock.
According to Formula 1 journalist Joe Sawardthe course of the race would even be established in the vicinity of the Allianz Riviera…
Enough to do a little product placement according to some observers.
Whatever the cost, the financial benefits could be very interesting for Nice and its agglomeration. Overnight stays in hotels, services, transport… Tens of thousands of people could travel to the Côte d’Azur to enjoy this new race.
At Le Castellet, before the return of the French Grand Prix a few years ago, 70 million euros in benefits were touted by the politicians who worked to see the return of single-seaters in the Var, including Renaud Muselier, the President of the Region, and Christian Estrosi.
80 million euros were invested between 2002 and 2018 to bring the Var circuit up to standard at the time.
Will an expense of this order be essential in the event of validation of a Nice Grand Prix by the FIA? The answer in a few months.
It is well known, when one loves, one does not count.