By Alan Baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - The French Formula One Grand Prix is set to return in 2018 after a 10-year absence, the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Friday.
"Yes, I think it will happen," the 86-year-old Briton told Reuters when asked about French media reports that a deal had been agreed to host the race at the Le Castellet circuit in southern France.
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Also known as the Circuit Paul Ricard after the local pastis magnate who financed it, Le Castellet last hosted a grand prix in 1990. The most recent Formula One race in France was at Magny-Cours in 2008.
Ecclestone indicated that France was likely to be scheduled for a July date rather than the late August or early September slot reported in French media.
"More or less sort of the German date, probably," he said, referring to a race under threat that has traditionally occupied a late July slot.
Germany has been axed from the 2017 calendar due to financial reasons, despite the country having world champions in Mercedes and Nico Rosberg, but Hockenheim still has a contract to host the loss-making race in 2018.
Le Castellet, which features the long Mistral straight, has been fully renovated and is now owned by Ecclestone's family trust, which will not be involved in hosting the race.
"It's nothing to do with them at all. I think they are renting it to the people that are going to be the promoters," said the Briton.
L'Equipe reported that a five-year deal had been agreed with the Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur (PACA) region in association with the city of Toulon, department of Var and the French motorsport association (FFSA).
PACA president Christian Estrosi is a an ex-mayor of Nice and also a former car and motorcycle racer who finished fourth in the 1978 French 500cc Grand Prix at Nogaro.
The race's return is expected to be announced formally at a news conference scheduled for Monday in Paris.
(Editing by John O'Brien)