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French Grand Prix back on F1 calendar from 2018

FILE - In this Jan. 26, 2016 file photo, Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, of Germany, steers his car during a testing session of Pirelli Formula One rain tires, at the Paul Ricard circuit, in Le Castellet, near Marseille. The French Grand Prix will return to the Formula One calendar in 2018 at the Paul Ricard circuit after a 10-year absence. (AP Photo/Claude Paris, File)

PARIS (AP) — The French Grand Prix will return to the Formula One calendar in 2018 after a 10-year absence.

Christian Estrosi, the head of the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region, said Monday that the race will be organized at the Paul Ricard circuit in southern France.

The world's oldest grand prix was first held in 1906 but was dropped from the calendar in 2008 because of financial issues.

The Paul Ricard circuit, also known as Le Castellet, last hosted the French GP in 1990. The race was organized at Magny-Cours from 1991-2008.

Estrosi said French officials have sealed a five-year deal with F1 organizers. Financial terms were not disclosed.

"Losing the grand prix was a true scar for our country," Estrosi said at the Automobile Club de France. "I can today make the firm and definitive announcement that the Grand Prix de France will return at the Paul Ricard circuit as soon as the 2018 summer."

The announcement came just days after the German Grand Prix was dropped from the 2017 calendar.

Estrosi paid tribute to the late driver Jules Bianchi, who died last year following a long battle to recover from major head injuries sustained at the Japanese GP in October 2014.

"I'm dedicating this big return to my friend Jules," Estrosi said. "My thoughts are with his family."

Jean Todt, the president of motorsports' world governing body, said the return of the French GP is an "enormous satisfaction" for FIA.

"This is big news for France and its capacity to host major international events," Todt said in a pre-recorded message. "Le Castellet has been modernized and has all the required qualities to organize this event."

According to Estrosi, the track shareholders have invested 80 million euros ($85.6 million) since 2002 to renovate the Paul Ricard, which is regularly used by F1 teams for test sessions.

"It is the circuit which has invested the most in Europe over the past few years to adapt to international standards," Estrosi said, adding that he expects the race to generate about 65 million euros ($69.6 million) of indirect revenues for the region, and to help create about 500 jobs.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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