Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen lead the opening lap of the 2007 French GPEnlarge Photo
When the FIA released the 2009 Formula 1 calendar, the only notorious absence was the Canadian Grand Prix. Now, financial circumstances have forced the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile (FFSA) to issue a statement dropping its support for and sponsorship of the 2009 French Grand Prix, effectively canceling the event.
The unfortunate result follows an earlier commitment from France itself to preserve the French Grand Prix, whether at Magny Cours or Paris. While the loss of the historic organizer of the event means the 2009 race has no expectation of remaining on the calendar, it is possible - in theory, at least - that other forces and agencies within France could step up and keep the race going.
In 2008 the French Grand Prix had nearly been marked off the calendar as Bernie Ecclestone criticized the French government's laissez-faire attitude toward preserving the event at Magny Cours. FIA officials, including Eccelstone, had wanted to move the race to a more metropolitan area like Paris, because the remote Magny Cours venue cut significantly into the experience of the Grand Prix.
This latest development could be all Ecclestone and crew need to finally get the event in a more modern, central location, though that would necessitate finding the financial and organizational backing to plan and oversee the Grand Prix, which is no small feat.
The cessation of the French Grand Prix is also historically significant to the sport itself, as it is the oldest surviving motor race, having been run since 1906. It was also the first international event to garner the title "Grand Prix," itself a French phrase.