Spanish World Champion Fernando Alonso has a lot to answer for. Not only has he won two successive titles at the wee age of 24 and 25, becoming the youngest to do so, but he has also pushed Formula One to the top of Spanish sports fan’s agenda. It seems Spaniards just can’t get enough of F1, and ticket sales at the traditionally boring Spanish Grand Prix event have sky-rocketed in the previous two years. The sales haven’t stopped this year either, despite Alonso’s move to McLaren. But Fernando’s fans have stood by him and the Circuit de Catalunya is once again sold out. Local fans line the circuit each time Fernando tests in Barcelona, and even the countries love of motorcycling appears to be less watched as F1 viewing has improved and taken hold. So what does this have to do with Valencia?
Well, Bernie Ecclestone is a wise businessman. Although he’s no spring-chicken at the grand age of 76, he is still quick to realise the potential of an emerging market to which he can push Formula One in. The diminutive Brit has been in talks recently with Francisco Camps, the President of the local government which controls Valencia, and according to Pitpass, an announcement will be made on Wednesday regarding a new Grand Prix in the city for 2008.
Valencia has seen a lot of redevelopment in recent years, and the America’s Cup yacht regatta is due to descend on the shores of the city later this year. The port area in Valencia has welcomed $2.7 billion of investment, and now, it seems, they want Formula One. The circuit would be based on closed roads, much like Monaco, and and would help to feed the popularity of motor racing in the country. Whether or not Spain would now be holding two races remains unclear, and it should be pointed out that this news is entirely speculative. However, should it be true, Spain could alternate between to the circuits, just as Germany are currently doing with the Nurburg and Hockenheim rings. Having said that, Formula One does have a history of allowing a country to host two rounds of the championship, Italy and Germany being two in recent memory, albeit disguised as San Marino and European Grands Prix respectively. Recent trends do suggest that Ecclestone is keen to introduce more new venues for the championship, and with the Barcelona circuit being a relatively uneventful race, it is more likely that the circuit will be dropped or forced to alternate.
Obviously more will be known on Wednesday when the announcement is expected (or not).
This news item has since been made official at a press conference where Bernie Ecclestone and Francisco Camps were present. The Grand Prix is dependent on Camps retaining his seat in the upcoming elections, and the race will not be shared with Catalunya. This means Spain will host two rounds of the championship next year and Valencia will be titled the European Grand Prix.