I spent much of yesterday at the launch of the planned Formula E race in Paris. This event was held in the regal setting of the Hôtel de Ville, where the mayor of Paris and the city’s administration is based. It is an impressive place and there were some lovely cameos, notably Jean-Eric Vergne sitting on a golden chair that looked an awful lot like a throne. The event was attended (albeit briefly) by FIA President Jean Todt, who disappeared off before any questions could be asked, having to travel to Valentigney, near Montbeliard, for the funeral of Roland Peugeot, the former head of the Peugeot car company, who was Todt’s boss when he first made his name in the sport with Peugeot Talbot Sport between 1982 and 1993. This left Alejandro Agag, the boss of Formula E; Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris; Patrick Kanner, the French Minister of Towns, Sport and Youth and various others to answer questions and to offer insights into the event.
The circuit will run on the streets around the Hôtel des Invalides, a large military building, which houses the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte and the French Army museum. This is located close to the Pont Alexandre III, over the Seine, which is walking distance from the Champs Elysées. It is a brilliant location and while getting all the red tape sorted out has been something of nightmare, it seems that Todt played an important role in the process, thanks to his friendship with Rachida Dati, a Republican politician, who served as the minister of justice between 2007-2009. She has been the mayor of the 7th arrondissement of Paris, where the race will take place, since 2008. Todt has long had close links with republican politicians, notably the former Prime Minister François Fillon, who is a member of the FIA Senate.
The most interesting part of the Formula E plan is that the track will run over a section of road that features historic (and protected) cobblestones. In order to solve this problem, Formula E will have to put down (and take up) around 300 metres of temporary tarmac. Aga said that the average cost of a Formula E event was between $6.5-11 million.
Also at the launch was Alain Prost and so I asked him whether he was going to be part of the new Renault F1 team. He said that he did not know and that there were ongoing meetings about a possible role and he had to decide what he wanted to do. He did say that whatever the role, it will not be an operational one.
Patrick Kanner also said that the French government remained keen on trying to find a way to revive the French GP, at either Magny-Cours or Paul Ricard and was willing to help out with some funding, along with other regional, departmental and municipal authorities. He did admit, however, that putting together a package to meet the requirements of the Formula One group was not easy.