There has been talk of a Russian Grand Prix for years. Two days ago, we saw a lovely picture of Bernie Ecclestone and Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin shaking hands, announcing that there will be a race in Sochi, near the Black Sea, from 2014.
However, with India joining in 2011, and the USA returning in 2012 we’re now faced with the introduction of three new grands prix in the next four years. Also, there’s talk of South Africa hosting an F1 race for the first time since the early 80s.
Since we already have 19 races this season, and Ecclestone has said 20 is the highest he would go, it poses the question, which venues will lose their race by 2015?
Ecclestone is above all, a businessman. He knows which grands prix make money and which don’t. He knows which are worth having, the politics of the sport, and which he can cut with minimal disruption and effort. In all likelihood, he could publish a fairly accurate 2014 schedule tomorrow.
So it won’t be just the unpopular, inaccessible circuits that are left off the calendar. If he could make money in the long run, by cutting Monaco for three years, he would do it. Nothing is sacred. Without knowing the contracts signed between Formula One Management and the race organisers, it’s difficult to know which are the most likely to go, but we can still have a guess.
First of all, we can eliminate some tracks from the discussion. The new tracks such as Korea, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, India, the US and Russia will almost certainly be there.
China and Turkey are relatively new, having hosted seven and six GPs, respectively. They are old enough, however, that cutting them from the schedule isn’t out of the question. Bahrain is popular enough to keep its place relatively safe.
As for the historic races, the British and Italian Grands Prix have appeared in all 61 F1 World Championships; they will stay. Monaco is Formula One, so it will stay. Germany has a long-term deal with FOM to keep their race, but no one ever seems to be happy with Hockenheim.
Valencia’s contract means it should be on the calendar until at least 2014. After that, it should be sealed off like Chernobyl and no one should ever race on that horrid track again.
Attendance at Melbourne has always been poor, but the Victoria government say Albert Park will host a race for a few years to come. The Australian GP can be good, but how good would it be to see a return to Adelaide?
Montreal is a great venue, and after a year absence in 2009, is apparently signed through 2015.
What’s left? Suzuka, Spa, Hungary, Interlagos and Sepang.
Of the five, the Hungaroring is probably the worst track. The other four, one would be hard-pressed to find people who dislike them.
Suzuka, Spa and Sepang can be brilliantly entertaining. Especially when one compares them to the likes of Valencia, which is nothing more than an abomination.
Sadly, the most likely to go is Spa. One gets the feeling that FOM feels the same about it as it did about Magny-Cours in France.
2015 is a long time away, and those with long-term agreements could still be cut from the calendar. Things can change quickly in F1; the upcoming Korean Grand Prix was only given the go-ahead a fortnight before the race. Unfortunately, the way things are going, it’s likely that we will see one or two of the better circuits go.
Ecclestone would be more than happy to keep F1 away from Spa-Francorchamps for a few years to make money though newer tracks, while building up a huge public demand for the venue’s return. He will do what he thinks is best for Formula One, and that isn’t always what is best for the fan.