Friday, 27 July 2012

The Tempest - How #F1 May Have Less European Races But More Countries Involved

Black clouds are forming over the European F1 map. Voices of lack of finance are echoing from all corners of the continent. Some even fear that the circus leaves the 'old world' for good and sets foot in the Middle- and Far-East where (seemingly) unlimited money is. Is it so and if yes, what can be done about it?

Weather is the ultimate scriptwriter of motorsports. Just think the 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix and you'll get the picture. But there are more subtle appearances of its influence. Think the British Grand Prix this year. No, not the parking lot Odyssey, but Murray Walker during Qualifying. While the torrential rain was in a sense very much British, it was also very much British to let Murray Walker speak. And of course, what else he could talk about but "F1 coming home". Fortunately he never forgot to mention that the actual home of Grand Prix racing is France, which is sadly not on the F1 calendar anymore. Take that and the news that the Nürburgring in Germany might close for good with Hockenheim being unable to host F1 from year-to-year alone.

This could mean that F1 could miss a consistent German GP. Lack of consistency means here that the event could be converted into bi-annual event.

In further not-so-news the Belgian GP could be off the calendar as well, as it has been hung on the verge of vanishing. I am not taking the time and the will to collect all the reasons why these events are wavering towards the exit (nevertheless they are deeply rooted in financing, what else), but what is almost certain that we can expect less European F1 races in the future. So for now let us be progressive and see where this could lead us.

Currently there are eight European rounds out of the twenty: Spain, Monaco, Europe, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and Italy. Quite a lot considering it is a World Championship, even when the proportions showed further European dominance in the past. Obviously Bernie Ecclestone likes consistency, little resistance and profitable events, thus it would all seem reasonable to move away from Europe to Asia, where there is less control over advertising, politics has less influence on the events, and there is money. Lots of it. But of course F1 would and could not break away from its European roots that radically, so how could you cut races in Europe while maintaining consistency and keep all the countries interested in hosting F1 races?

The recipe may be embedded in what the Germans invented a few years back. With neither the Hockenheimring or the Nürburgring was being able have an F1 race every year, they collectively decided to be the host of the German Grand Prix alternatively, making it a consistent round on the calendar, but with the duty shared.

This is something that may be applied to the whole continent in the near future. The already-saturated 20-race calendar will unlikely to be able to pick up further (European) events, but countries could come to an agreement to team up and rotate the calendar by matching up events.

The French Grand Prix is said to make a comeback. Clearly they could only do so by dodging some other round out of the calendar. Most likely the Belgian GP, which is one fan-favourite but dying on its own anyway. So why not just have a French GP one year and a Belgian the next? Same for the Russian GP. Concerning the geography and the market, the Hungarian GP is an equivalent, which is a firm competitor, being backed by the government, but not the pinnacle of F1 racing. Thus see example above.
If we are thinking this through, we could easily find European events to match up, e.g.:

  • Belgium - France/Germany
  • Hungary - Russia/Bulgaria
  • Spain - Portugal/Italy
  • Great Britain - France/Germany (ha ha!)
  • Monaco

The possibilities are of course much greater than that, but all of them seem to be a reasonable choice. By 'reasonable' of course I mean after I dodged all the rotten tomatoes and death threats from Italian, Spanish, Hungarian and British fans. Of course, there are are tracks that can afford F1 every year and willing to do so (they could bid for the European GP when being "off-season"), but may have to sacrifice their permanent status to a relay run.

Otherwise, the FIA must do something about countries left without F1, don't they?

Well, step in Formula Two. The series that have been recently revived by the FIA, seemingly unnecessarily due to the existence of GP2, GP3 (which are support events to F1 races in Europe) and other, strong single-seater series, such as the World Series by Renault (in multiple categories), Auto GP, various national and international F3 series, etc. Thus it would be a great opportunity for the FIA to promote their very own junior single-seater championship in these countries during "off-F1 season", accompanied by further, European series. This would not generate an empty spot on the calendar of the venues (not that they would not be able to fill it on their own, but at least they would be granted a fixture by the FIA), cut costs, improve variety, and the audience could further get to know more young drivers, who might be seen in F1 the next year.
This is of course just from the mind of a European who wants to see more European F1 races, but aware of the cost and the reality of it. In my mind we could have more countries involved with less races on the calendar, while reinforcing that junior series are worth watching, not just when they come in a package.

What do you think?