Are The European Grands Prix Expendable?

Are The European Grands Prix Expendable?

Formula One is being pushed into new markets, attracting new fans and visiting ever more diverse and wonderful places. In the not-too-distant future, the circus will be setting up camp in Abu Dhabi, India, Korea, Singapore… all on newly constructed circuits (or street circuit in the case of Singapore) and further challenging the drivers and teams. But the addition of new tracks to the calendar, combined with the insistence of not extending the championship past 20 races, means that some of the current staples will be lost. Is losing these circuits good for Formula One, or is the sport losing its heritage by failing to visit some of the tracks that have made Formula One into what it is today?

In recent years Formula One has lost Imola, Indianapolis and Suzuka from the calendar. Initially, Imola was struck off the list because Ecclestone wanted to add pressure to the circuit owners to complete renovation works to the paddock and pit lane area, bringing the track up to the standards now set out by new facilities like Shanghai and Turkey. The Suzuka circuit in Japan has been able to negotiate a return, but the Honda-owned figure-of-eight will have to share the spoils with Toyota-owned Fuji, a track that is yet to really show its pedigree as a great racing circuit.

France’s Magny Cours is another that will be dropped from the calendar after their 2008 race, meaning the nation that arguably started motor racing at the turn of the 20th century will be without a grand prix. The only other year where France were not on the championship run was in 1955. Finances and remote location have been blamed for the demise of the race, but of course losing its spot means Bernie’s life is made a little easier when he comes to decide on the 2009 calendar.

Silverstone is another European circuit that regularly comes under fire from Ecclestone, the Briton complaining of inadequate facilities at the track. It is interesting though, that along with France, Britain would be under pressure, the country also being heavily rooted in motor sport’s history. In fact, the Silverstone track hosted the very first round of the organised Formula One Championship back in 1950, such is the heritage of the former Northamptonshire airbase. Circuit owners, the BRDC, announced modification plans recently, but Bernie is a tough character to please. The popularity of the event appears high though, as tickets for this years event are rapidly running out, and the circuit has had to add another grandstand to cope with demand.

It is clear that if Bernie is indeed pushing for further afield circuits to be included, then some others will have to fall by the wayside. But it seems that his way of choosing the venues to face the axe is a little harsh. I personally don’t mind the Magny Cours circuit; it has a good mix of high and low speed corners and the track undulates a far bit. Silverstone is another track that isn’t entirely bad in its design, although perhaps a little duller in terms of undulations the Copse corner and Becketts complex are simply awe-inspiring to view.

From a fan’s point of view, and that is all that I am, it appears as though Ecclestone is not listening. To drop Suzuka from the calendar was simply unforgivable in my mind. To allow Belgium to suspend their event at the incredible Spa Francorchamps circuit was just plain crazy. To lose Imola was sad, to lose Silverstone would be even sadder.

As I write this, I don’t know how the new Valencia street circuit will pan out, but currently it appears to be a decent layout and should provide an interesting venue for a grand prix. But would it have been a little fairer to replace Circuit de Catalunya with Valencia? For sure, Formula One has a double world champion from the same country currently, so TV revenue should be capitalised, but it strikes me as strange that the powers-that-be have decided on losing some tracks that evoke emotion over those that just aren’t really all that exciting.

It could be that I’m being too critical of the way the calendar is going. Of course, Formula One will eventually enter new markets, and some of these are important and necessary for the future of the sport. India deserves a race; they have been working tirelessly for many years to get one. Providing they come up with a decent layout, the grand prix will almost certainly be a belter. But when I hear of Korea, Poland, Lebanon wanting to join the party, I cannot help but ask myself if this will be at the expense of some of the sport’s traditional venues. Venues that have shaped the sport, hold great memories and are still awesome spectacles of speed and courage. New circuits are excellent, but not at the expense of the greats.

I guess, at the end of the of the day, Formula One is apparently limited to 20 races each season. And I also guess that as fans, we would like to see as many races in as many countries on as many different tracks as possible. I’ll finish up with a run down of how I think the 2009 calendar should look. Feel free to add your own views on this and the post in the comments below.

My Proposed 2009 Formula One Calendar

1. 15th March 2009 Australian Grand Prix Albert Park
2. 22nd March 2009 Malaysian Grand Prix Sepang
3. 5th April 2009 Indian Grand Prix
4. 19th April 2009 Bahrain Grand Prix Sakhir
5. 26th April 2009 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Yas Island
6. 17th May 2009 Spanish Grand Prix Valencia
7. 31st May 2009 European Grand Prix Imola*
8. 14th June 2009 Monaco Grand Prix Monte Carlo
9. 28th June 2009 Turkish Grand Prix Istanbul Park
10. 12th July 2009 Canadian Grand Prix Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
11. 19th July 2009 US Grand Prix Indianapolis/Laguna Seca**
12. 2nd August 2009 French Grand Prix Magny Cours/Paris/Paul Ricard
13. 16th August 2009 British Grand Prix Silverstone
14. 30th August 2009 German Grand Prix Hockenheim (old layout)
15. 6th September 2009 Belgian Grand Prix Spa Francorchamps
16. 20th September 2009 Italian Grand Prix Monza
17. 4th October 2009 Brazilian Grand Prix Interlagos
18. 18th October 2009 Singapore Grand Prix Singapore
19. 25th October 2009 Chinese Grand Prix Shanghai
20. 8th November 2009 Japanese Grand Prix Suzuka

*This circuit should rotate around various countries and become a what it was intended to be. Maybe even extend it beyond Europe, although that may make transportation a little tricky.

**I honestly hated the Indianapolis infield layout, so I’m not too keen on a return to the track. But F1 should be in America, so maybe Laguna Seca or something similar; Laguna Seca is a little on the short side though.


  • I have a question – if Bernie cares so much about European fans (assuming Britons are a high % of that audience) so much that he is forcing Asian races to be during European prime-time, how could he get rid of both UK and French races? It seems to me the PR backlash for dumping both those venues would result in killing ratings. Maybe ratings wouldn’t drop instantly, but for sure it would be when F1, to use a US term, “jumped the shark”.

    Answer – Bernie is smarter than that, but as a fan, I really tire of hearing Bernie’s paper tiger threat every 18 months. When is the last time Bernie was public about RACING rather than politics?

  • Oliver,

    I realize this is a bit nit picky, but the schedule shows three American Grand Prix…one in Canada, one in Brazil and the one in the United States. I identify myself as an American as the term United Statesian is not currently in use, but as a courtesy to my fellow North, Central and South American compatriots, I prefer to say I am from the US.

    Someday I will post a comment about racing here…that day has not yet arrived ; )

  • @bill: That is an interesting point bill. It does seem odd that the organiser says one thing and then does another. I’m not so sure Bernie is as clever as some make him out to be, especially when he makes decisions regarding the calendar and races to include. And especially when he has something to work from – the AMD/FIA Survey that many of us filled in a couple of years ago.

    @Kathryn: Fair enough. I never really know what term to use, even for myself; United Kingdom, Great Britain, British Isles…

  • Here’s what I’m thinking – some of the ideas are perhaps not going to happen but anyway…

    15/03 – Abu Dhabi GP/Yas Island 1

    22/03 -Bahrain GP/Sakhir 2

    5/4 -Malaysia GP/Sepang 3

    19/4 – Brazil GP/Interlagos 4

    3/5 – San Marino GP /Imola (15th Anniversary of Senna’s death) 5

    10/5 – Monaco GP/Monaco 6

    31/5 – European GP/Jerez 7

    7/6 – Spanish GP/Valencia 8

    21/6 – Turkish GP/ Istanbul Park 9

    5/7 – Canadian GP/Ile Notre-Dame 10

    12/7 – US GP /Infineon Raceway 11

    26/7 – British GP/Silverstone 12

    2/8 – German GP/Old Hockenheim 13

    16/8 – French GP/Circuit De La Sarthe (and the full Mulsanne Straight) 14

    30/8 – Belgian GP/Spa Franchorchamps 15

    6/9 – Italian GP/Monza 16

    20/9 – Singapore GP/Singapore 17

    4/10 – Indian GP/? 18

    25/10 – Japanese GP/Suzuka 19

    8/11 – Australian GP/Adelaide 20

  • All those new circus are for good, new change, new horizon. But it’s true 20 Grand Prix it’s enough for one season so what we should do ? Best to do, I guest it’s to mix different one and the year after include the one we didn’t see. Or either extend the season but that will not be the best to do.

    Europeans does have a lot of circus but we can’t lose.

    Official should find a good solution to not losing some great circus.

  • I did um-and-ah over Hungary. The circuit has produced some corkers in the past, but maybe it is just my generation, but I see it as an “soulless dust bowl” with only a few great races to give it its credibility. Now you’ve mentioned it actually, Sakhir and Hungaroring are probably 50:50 in my mind. The idea behind Hungary at the time was great, but times have moved on.

  • I think that your calendar is great, but why don´t use the Road America track in the United States. That track is known as the Spa Francorchamps of the US. And by the way, if you can choose the old Hockenhein (wich I do too), what about the old Interlagos?

    Fernando Voigt

    Ponta Grossa – Pr


  • Ooh yes, Road America, I’ve heard some good things about that place. There’s little doubt in my mind that the United States have some great circuits, and I doubt it would take much work to bring them up to FIA standard, if indeed they’re not already.

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