France's sole Formula One champion Alain Prost fears the chances of the country hosting a grand prix again in the near future have receded.
"I am not optimistic," he told reporters at the Monaco Grand Prix, where Lotus driver Romain Grosjean has a real shot at becoming the first French winner since Olivier Panis in 1996.
"I think it's going to be difficult.
"It's not only a money problem...it's more the signal that with the election of Mr Hollande it's going to be quite tough to take the decision," said the four times world champion.
France, whose language permeates the paddock from chassis to parc ferme, last hosted a grand prix at Magny-Cours in 2008 after an unbroken run on the calendar since 1956.
Hopes for reinstatement at Le Castellet, a track in the south of France owned by a family trust set up by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, rose after financial terms were agreed earlier in the year.
They appear to have receded with political change in France after the election of Socialist Francois Hollande as president this month.
Ecclestone has opposed any return to Magny-Cours, which is in an area of rural, central France where jobs are scarce and is likely to be more favoured by the new administration for economic reasons.
Prost was heavily involved in previous attempts to take the race to Disneyland Paris and then at a planned new circuit in Flins-Sur-Seine to the northwest of the capital.
"Flins was a fantastic project, really good and with no public money. Everything was set up and the French government decided to stop it," said Prost.
France currently has three drivers on the Formula One starting grid, with Jean-Eric Vergne at Toro Rosso and Charles Pic at Marussia. Carmaker Renault supplies engines to four teams, including champions Red Bull.
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|William A. Cook|