Boullier: "Big meetings coming" to discuss potential of fans at the French GP

05-05-2021 07:30 | Updated: 05-05-2021 10:31
Boullier: Big meetings coming to discuss potential of fans at the French GP

Last week another change was made to the 2021 F1 calendar. The street circuit in Canada was removed from the schedule and Turkey, like Portugal, will once again be on the F1 calendar this year. The final changes don't seem to have been made yet either, with countries still under strict lockdown and a race now looking unlikely, including France. 

The French Grand Prix is scheduled to take place from June 25 to June 27, but the French are still in a strict lockdown at the moment. Nevertheless, Eric Boullier, general manager in the organisation team for the French Grand Prix, expects the F1 cars to race around Paul-Ricard Circuit at the end of June.

Grand Prix likely to continue

"To be honest we have to review a little bit more about what's going on. When you have new measures, there is time for everyone to adapt. By my understanding the Grand Prix can happen, it will have restrictions in terms of capacity," the Frenchman acknowledged in an exclusive interview with GPblog.

Ticket sales for the French Grand Prix are currently on hold, but Boullier does expect tickets to become available. "It looks like we can have fans. It looks like we have to restrict the capacity, that's the position we are in since last year October, with the French authorities," he added. The Frenchman estimates that a reasonable number of visitors could come to the circuit in southern France.

Three separate bubbles at Paul-Ricard

"We limited the capacity to 15,000 people, but because the Paul-Ricard circuit is so big, we can split the circuit into three separate bubbles. Those are completely independent from each other."

In 2020, Boullier and his team already thoroughly explored how to safely host the French Grand Prix. That makes the former F1 team boss of Lotus and McLaren a good judge of what measures fans can come to Paul-Ricard with. "Even accessing the bubbles via different roads and you never cross another bubble, so we can have three times 5,000 people in these bubbles."

No deadline for organisers

With the cancellation announcement of the Canadian Grand Prix, time also seems to be running out for the French, as after the Canadian Grand Prix the F1 paddock was supposed to travel to Paul-Ricard. Now they will do so from Istanbul. Boullier makes it clear that no deadline has yet been drawn up from the FOM for a decision on the race. "No, we have not been given a deadline. We have always said that the Grand Prix will happen. There will be some big meetings in the coming days, to see how we can apply the current measures and restrictions."

In 2019, when the race was last organised, there was a lot of criticism of the circuit. It was said to be boring and the layout would provide little spectacle. "We had some plans to try something different in 2020, but because COVID came, everything was shut down. We had to stop and postpone the plan. The focus is now purely on the Grand Prix."

Why did the 2020 event not go ahead?

"We had a lot of discussions about different scenarios. We considered a race behind closed doors or trying to move the date. With 23 races, you have to fit them in a way so it's practical for the promoter and practical for the teams. Not incredibly costly in terms of travelling. The slot we were given in 2020 wasn't suitable for us, so we had to cancel the race," Boullier concluded.

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