Where in the world is Formula One?

28 07 2009

The Formula 1 world championship has seen its calendar undergo a lot of changes over the past few decades. Under Bernie Ecclestone charge formula one has visited more than 40 circuits since 1979, and all of the current venues bar Monaco Silverstone and Monza have been added to the championship by Bernie (http://formulaone.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/23/interesting-ecclestone-fact/)

Circuits come and go off of the calendar as their contracts with Bernie allow. The criteria, appears to almost be entirely be based upon the financial strength of the race promoter. This system does not lend itself to be particularly stable. The United States has seen its grand prix jump on and off the calendar like an angry kangaroo, whilst the French Grand prix, a race which dates back to 1906 and ran interrupted from 1956 found itself without a spot on the F1 calendar for 2009.

It is in this context that race fans all across the world live in perpetual fear that their race could be about to depart and be replaced on the calendar by an event in Shanghai or Istanbul which will be attended by the proverbial 3 men and a dog.

The calendar itself has no fixed number of events, flirting over the past decade from  16 in 1999 to 19 in 2005 with 17 this year. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Formula_One_Grands_Prix#Races_by_season) Races are normally announced through deals being signed between Formula one management and the circuit promoter for a certain number of years. This is followed by the publishing of a provisional calendar, usually in June, which is then ratified by the FIA World Motorsport Council, Usually at the end of the year.

I am writing this post as it is now the end of July, and no provisional calendar has been announced. There are clouds of uncertainty over the presence and location of both the British and German Grand Prix’s. The world championship has missed North America completely in 2009, and there are question marks over the future of races in Hungary and Turkey.

The political turmoil and potential breakaway have done negotiations for venues next year no good at all. It is likely the provisional calendar will be released after the Concorde agreement is signed. However the global financial crisis has put pressure on a lot of venues under pressure, with questions over the funding of the upgrading of Donnington Park to F1 level, and the Race promoters at the Nurbergring declaring that they have no interest in running the race every year as it is not viable.

So where are we going in 2010?

The Monaco Grand Prix is pretty much the centrepiece of F1, so we can assume this is going to be run. A new circuit is being added to the calendar in South Korea (http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns17550.html). Existing multi-year deals are in place with many of this years venues as well giving us a probable calendar looking like this

Australia// Malaysia// China// Bahrain// Barcelona// Monaco// Turkey// Britain// Valencia// Belgium//Singapore// Korea// Brazil// AbuDhabi

Despite the Hungaroring supposedly having signed a deal to host the race until 2016, announced ahead of the 2008 race. But doubts have been aired as to the viability of the race this year, with suggestions for replacements in both Romania and Bulgaria being put forward.

Turkey has one year left on its deal and it is likely that F1’s return to the Istanbul track will be its last for the foreseeable future. Malaysia’s deal is also in its final year next year, although this is expected to be renewed. The British Grand Prix is likely to return, with a deal being signed with Donnington, however if they are unable to deliver on this, it can return to its previous home at Silverstone.

The Italian Grand Prix needs to renew its deal this year to continue at Monza for 2010, and although this hasn’t happened, it is expected to be confirmed at the race this year.

Both Germany and Japan face some uncertainty, deals were in place to alternate the races between two circuits in each country, however both Hockenheim and the Fuji circuit have stated they will be unable to proceeded with hosting next year. It remains to be seen if the partner venues can or will host every year.

The absence of North American races has caused some discomfort with the teams who are eager to be racing in such a big market. Negotiations for a return to Montréal for the Canadian Grand prix next year have been taking place though, although no resolution appears to have been found. The teams have also been making noises about having more input to the calendar, with a return to the US being heavily hinted about. It is interesting that the former venue of the US grand prix, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is now under new management, so new negotiations may be possible.

We should have a better idea of where the calendar is headed when the provisional list is published. But I hope to comment on the rumours and speculation as negotiations develop.

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