Many thought the plans to build the Sochi Circuit and the Winter Olympics venue on the same site, and to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and inaugural Russian Grand Prix in the Black Sea port in the same year, were ambitious. The race promoter, Formula Sochi’s', Operations Director Oleg Zabara has given an update however confirming that things are on schedule with work taking place 24 hours a day on the track.
At one point it had been planned that the track surface would only be placed after the Winter Olympics in February, with the Russian Grand Prix planned for Autumn 2014 at the Sochi Olympic Park, with much of the same infrastructure set to be used. Next week though David Coulthard and Sebastian Vettel will sample a section of the track for Infiniti; in an event similar to that held on the streets of Port Imperial that will hold the Grand Prix of America next year.
According to Zabara “Now the construction project goes with two main directions – track surface is first, while buildings are second,…..The first layer of asphalt has been laid on 60 per cent of the 5.8 km lap. We simply can’t do more just now because of Olympic stadiums and pedestrian bridges.”
The really hard work then will presumably begin after the Winter Olympics at Sochi Olympic Park in February when the contractors will have around 7 months to complete the circuit ready for the 2014 Russian Grand Prix, which is likely to take place in September or October, potentially as the last race in Europe before the fly away races. Which race will lose its place on the calender in 2014 remains to be seen but the Hungarian Grand Prix would appear to be the front runner.
Rio de Janeiro could host yet another Blue Riband Sport event with the possibility of the Brazilian Grand Prix moving from it’s current home at Interlagos, Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro by 2016, the same year the city will host the Olympics.
The Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace in Sao Paulo, otherwise known as Interlagos, though seen as one of the great circuits of the world, does have some issues. It needs modernising and space even for this is limited, it is likely the pits will be moved in the near future. Also though a motorway alongside the current pit straight means that no extra run-off area can be added leading to safety issues.
Fernando Alonso had a major accident here in 2003 and in other formulas there have been even more serious crashes including two deaths in 2011 in truck racing and stock cars. In Formula One safety is paramount and a loss of downforce in the curve coming into the start finish straight or a coming together here could even in modern F1 potentially lead to a serious injury or even fatality.
So Interlagos either needs a serious overhaul and new layout, in which the Senna Ss and the pit straight could even be lost if potential plans unveiled in 2012 are followed, or Interlagos may find it loses out to a new circuit and it seems that Rio is willing to build this.
As Brazil’s two main cities there is certainly a rivalry between the two, Sao Paulo on the one hand is an economic powerhouse and the biggest city in the southern hemisphere. Rio is seen as Brazil’s cultural capital though and one of South America’s biggest tourist destinations: with people flocking to Copacabana beach.
The funds therefore could be probably found for a new circuit in Sao Paulo or an overhaul of Interlagos that would meet Bernie Ecclestone’s requirements but he does seem to like the idea of a Grand Prix in Rio de Janeiro: where F1 was last seen in 1990 at the Jacarepagua circuit, itself recently demolished. Talking about the potential for a race in Rio Bernie Ecclestone said “The mayor has told me they can get it done,”.
While there has been little news on contracts for new races or news of new circuits in the close season, we do have the Formula One Pre-season tests to look forward to: starting in only two weeks time on the 5th of February.
The full pre-season test schedule is
Jerez 5-8th of February
Barcelona (Circuit de Catalunya) 19-22nd of February
Barcelona (Circuit de Catalunya) 28th February-March 3rd
Last the scene of a Grand Prix, and what a Grand Prix, in 1997 Jerez took the place of of the Portuguese Grand Prix, which was cancelled last minute by the Estoril Circuit. 1997 at Jerez was of course the scene of Schumacher’s unsuccessful lunge at Villenueve, that gave Jacques the title and led to Michael being excluded from the season’s results.
Jerez also hosted F1 Grand Prix from 1986, as a new circuit, to 1990 and again in 1994. Jerez is located quite remotely however meaning that Barcelona seemed a better Grand Prix venue in terms of accessibility, though the Circuito de Jerez draws a good sized crowd for Moto GP.
Teams find it a good place to test though as reasonably warm and dry weather is likely in February and it has a good range of corners including the hairpin and turn 11 chicane, tricky Curva Dry Sac (turn 6) and a long straight. There is also the first corner, a third gear right hand turn with a awkward up hill braking zone and blind apex.
All that has been confirmed is that this gap will have a European race slotted in, which could include a Turkish Grand Prix, this is a better solution wherever the race is held as if the race had taken place on the weekend after the Canadian Grand Prix, where the New Jersey race was set to take place, then it would have been tough for teams to get from Montreal to Europe in the two days between finishing the Canadian Grand Prix and being set up again to race in Europe.
The gap being made shows Bernie Ecclestone’s determination to make 2013 another 20 race season and he initially backed a French
Grand Prix, which is still a possibility. The Turkish Government though have said it is up to them whether a race happens at Istanbul Park as the funding is not forthcoming but the Turkish Government have since said they wouldn’t fund a race, meaning a 2013 Turkish Grand Prix could still happen if funding is found elsewhere but is less likely. Istanbul Park is a popular circuit with teams and with fans, although seemingly not local fans who failed to fill the stands in the past.
So now the only other circuit that looked like it might have the setup in place to host a race in 2013, the Red Bull Ring, formerly the A1 Ring, has thrown its hat into the err…. ring. The circuit at Spielberg hasn’t hosted F1 since 2003 but Dietrich Materschitz has invested heavily in the circuit to bring it up to modern standards and bringing back an Austrian Grand Prix to the circuit, potentially alternating with another circuit, has been on the cards for a year or two now, the circuit reopened in early 2011, with little progress. Funding for the race could potentially come from Red Bull as well though and with F2 at the circuit in 2012 it has been put through its paces with top quality motorsport.
The four circuits in question could all provide good races and European F1 fans will be happy to see an extra race on the continent that has been losing races over the last few years with 2013 otherwise set to have the least World Championship F1 races, 7, since 1969 when there were 7 European races but of a total of 11 Grand Prix .
There will be more races added to the calendar over the next few years, not just Sochi in Russia and New Jersey in the US but the likes of Thailand, Greece, Argentina and Mexico are planning circuits, there’s also existing circuits looking to get races back though.
A few years ago there were few if any circuits of the right standard to host formula one, which weren’t already hosting it: that standard including not just the track and its safety standards but facilities for spectators, guests and press and infrastructure including most importantly transport links.
Magny Cours left the calendar partly due to poor road links, since improved, the transport links for Paul Ricard have been questioned regarding their suitability recently by the French Government. Other circuits that are closer to F1 standards though but currently don’t host F1 include Jerez, still used for testing but a little dated, Estoril a little dated now and the circuit fell out with F1 with a last minute cancellation in 1997.
Then there’s Portimao, a testing circuit without enough facilities for a major race, the same is true for Valencia (Circuit_Ricardo_Tormo), the permanent circuit rather than the street circuit. There’s Imola which would need some safety improvements to host F1, which may not be practical without redesigning the layout. There’s also the Red Bull Ring, previously the A1 ring and before that, the site at least, of the Österreichring, no races have been held here since 2003 but Dietrich Materschitz has bought it up to standard.
The Red Bull Ring could host races right now and so could Istanbul Park, off the calendar for no reason but lack of spectators and
therefore lack of money to compete with better offers Bernie Ecclestone is getting from elsewhere. Magny Cours as mentioned could host F1 now too and may even get a chance in 2013 to fill in for the postponed inaugural American Grand Prix in New Jersey.
Probably the only other current track that could potentially host F1 in the world right now is Indianapolis and we can discount that for at least the rest of Bernie’s lifetime.
What future for these circuits that have the overheads of maintaining an F1 standard circuit but no F1? There will however be more in the near future, especially in Europe where Bernie wants to slash the calendar down to only a handful of European races, with numbers as low as four mentioned.
The Nurburgring could be gone from the calendar very soon as the circuit is in financial trouble and may be unable to maintain a contract going forwards even if it finds a buyer and even on the current basis on which it shares the German Grand Prix with Hockenheim alternating each year. Hockenheim may struggle to finance a race every year, Barcelona and Valencia’s Street Circuit will alternate but neither circuit is completely safe.
Spa Franchorchamps’s medium term future is safe with a new contract signed this year (2012) and Silverstone has a long contact, Monaco isn’t going anywhere and the same can probably be said for Monza. The Hungaroring’s owners should feel a little nervous then, especially with a race in Russia at the Black Sea port of Sochi, ensuring a race in Eastern Europe.
For those who dream of the return of classic tracks like already mentioned Imola as well as Brands Hatch or Zandvoort there seems to be no room for this sadly and Tilke’s grip on designing circuits doesn’t seem to be set to end, with the exception of the new Piraeus Street Circuit on the edge of Athens. Speaking of Greece in fact they may not only be planning this circuit but a F1 standard circuit at Patras is also tabled, though if this does become a reality testing is the only way it is likely to see F1 action.
Ok so that’s the situation now with over supply of F1 circuits so what can be done with them? Well maybe we will see the rise of the super sub circuit?
A few times in the past races have been cancelled and then moved elsewhere, often last miunute: teams, drivers and FOM prefer to keep a round in place and ideally on the same day and time to fit in with pre-planned TV schedules; not to mention ensuring the championship isn’t cut short when a race could be crucial for the championship. In the past though there weren’t any circuits ready to fill in these gaps. If Bahrain had been cancelled this year there was talk of the race going to Turkey the year before Magny Cours was the only circuit mentioned as a replacement and this never looked likely.
Estoril being replaced for the last round by Jerez in 1997 was the last time a swap actually took place, the last minute cancellation of the last round really wouldn’t have been an option with the championship so finally poised.
In future though circuits could keep themselves ready to cash in on other circuits not being able to host a race, and financial problems aren’t uncommon for circuit owners nor are problems completing work on time.
A circuit able to quickly get ready for a race could cash in with reduced fees, if any, and get fans in as a result by not needing to charge as much, though some tracks would have less trouble anyhow with the Hungaroring for example always well attended and with a big market in Scandinavia and central and Eastern Europe who would jump at the chance to go to a race without having to travel as far.
The Sochi Park circuit is due to have its track put down after the Winter Olympics on the same site at the beginning of 2014, there should be time but this could be one opportunity for a super-sub circuit and more immediately Bernie Ecclestone would like to add in a race to replace the cancelled New Jersey race and has said he would be happy to do a deal for a French Grand Prix at Magny Cours or Paul Ricard, which he happens to own.
So the New York Grand Prix of America, to be held at Port Imperial has missed the boat with finances and won’t take place in 2013 despite having been put on the provisional calendar as part of a double header with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. It seems though that the French Grand Prix, despite a decision being needed on where it would be held and no finance in place for either option could still be on the 2013 calendar: its advantage being two candidate circuits, Magny Cours and Paul RIcard, that are ready to go.
The return of the French Grand Prix has been a long running saga and it had looked dead in the water for 2013 at least when the new government under President Francois Hollande ordered a review into the race that the previous government had all but signed a contract for: to take place at at the Paul Ricard circuit close to Marsailles.
The loss of the Grand Prix of America from the calendar though offers an interesting opportunity as it seems that the French Grand Prix may be able to sign a one year deal to fill in next year. This would allow the government of whichever region the race takes place in to minimise their risk, a one off race that was poorly attended would have less potential for loss than a five or more year deal that then loses money each year.
If the French race was successful of course then a new deal could be agreed and another race may be forced to make way or agree a deal to alternate with the French race, though which race this would be is now less obvious since the Belgian Grand Prix signed a new deal to host the their race every year, Spa Frnachorchamps had been considering a race share with the French Grand Prix earlier this year.
The German Grand Prix is a candidate though if the Nurburgring fails to sort out its finances and cannot continue alternating with the Hockenheimring who have said they can host a race every year but may prefer a race every other year if the deal is right.
Whatever happens regarding negotiations for a 2013 French Grand Prix though will probably happen fast or not at all: time is ticking and though the two options of Magny Cours (in central France close to Clermont Ferrand) and Paul Ricard are both up to Formula One standards already there is more to putting on a Grand Prix than this and promoters would want to begin selling tickets as soon as possible, probably by the end of 2012, to ensure enough were sold to cover costs. Of course with a gap in the calendar, and right in the middle of the European season, Bernie may be willing to reduce the cost, especially for a race at the Paul Ricard circuit that he happens to own.
Bernie certainly seems keen on one of the French circuits filling the gap, though he is also in no doubts that the Grand Prix of America will take place at Port Imperial in 2014. Mr Ecclestone this week was quoted as saying of a 2013 French Grand Prix:
“Which circuit they are going to use is one thing… Who is going to pay for it, that’s the bottom line. If they are ready, we can slot it in the calendar.”
Despite it being built to Grand Prix standards it appears that the new government funded Patras circuit in Greece may not have any plans, even in the long run, to host a Formula One Grand Prix and that rather than a replacement for the other touted Greek Grand Prix circuit at Piraeus, Athens both are likely to be built with the Piraeus Port circuit planning to host a Greek Grand Prix from the off.
DielpisFormula1, the group behind the Piraeus circuit, today denied reports that their plan had been cancelled or that the Greek government had decided to back the Patras circuit instead of their development. The plans as we previously reported for a Greek Grand Prix at Piraeus have been submitted to the FIA and to Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management (FOM) and there is no reason to believe that the application has been withdrawn: it appears in fact that the plans have now also been submitted to the Automobile and Touring Club of Greece (ELPA).
In a press release today DielpisFormula1’S Architect Athanassios P Papatheodorou made it clear that the project was continuing and that contrary to reports the Greek Government didn’t back their bid the Greek Deputy Minister of Development has in fact given his support for the project to move forward apace.
Little news has been heard from the Piraeus project since the plans were submitted to the FIA but the press release also made it clear that Bernie Ecclestone does support the Grand Prix, in principle, we await to hear an outcome therefore.
It may be that DielpisFormula1 have chosen to speak out at this time as rumours swirled due to the fact they are still seeking investment, which any doubt on the race’s future could scupper,; the press release ended with Mr Papatheodorou writing:
“In the present time we are making contact with interested investors and we deem that pretty soon the procedure shall be completed, in order for the Greek dream regarding the hosting of F1 races in the Port of Piraeus to come true”
The Piraeus circuit will be a temporary circuit around Piraeus, Athens’ main port and Europe’s busiest Ferry Terminal.
The Greek government has announced plans to release €30 million for the building of a new Formula One standard circuit near to the country’s third city of Patras. The move to unblock the funds has been pushed by the country’s Ministry of Development which hopes the benefits to the country’s struggling economy will outweigh the costs: with just the construction itself likely to create many much needed jobs in the flat construction sector in Greece.
The circuit it is hoped will allow the government to secure a Greek Grand Prix although plans have already been submitted for a race at Piraeus, the main port of Athens, which would have been a street circuit similar to Valencia.
It is unknown whether the plans for this Piraeus circuit may have been turned down already leading to the change in plan, which will see a purpose built circuit built in the country; requiring a larger up front cost but lower annual costs to hold a race. The circuit could also be used as a stage in other championships and it would be hoped would help with grassroots motor sport in Greece itself.
The circuit will cost a total of around €95 million, with other money coming from private investment, and development will be overseen by Racetrack Patras SA at the Xalandrista site just on the edge of the Patras urban area.
Motorsport has never been huge in Greece and it is rallying that is the premier motorsport in the country, with a current round of the World Rally Championship taking place here. Greece has never even had a driver in Formula One though and many will argue that similar problems to those in neighbouring Turkey will result: where too few locals attended the race making it unviable long term.
Those fans in Turkey who did get behind the sport though will perhaps come to Greece to watch the race and Greece is also easily accessible from most of Europe including nearby Italy whose fans certainly do like their F1 and may consider a quick trip over the Adriatic.
Some pessimists thought that neither of the mooted Grand Prix in America would ever actually happen but with the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas now cleared as ready for racing, this year’s November 18th US Grand Prix is almost certain to go ahead.
The same can’t be said of the Grand Prix of America which should be taking place for the first time in 2013 in New Jersey. Included on last weeks provisional calendar for 2013, the 2013 Grand Prix of America looks unlikely to still be there when a more final calendar is released tomorrow( Friday 28th September) .
The Grand Prix of America is,it is understood, already in breach of several of the terms of the contract with Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Management company and little progress has been made, with questions still being asked about the financing of the project: the source of which has been kept secret, though presumably Bernie Ecclestone knows.
For anyone who suspects Bernie Ecclestone of game playing with his comments on Tuesday that “The organisers have not complied with the terms and conditions of the contract” they should remember this is a race that Bernie Ecclestone dearly wants to happen: along the New Jersey Shore the Manhattan skyline would be the backdrop for the Port Imperial circuit.
Ecclestone’s comments on Tuesday though do give a glimmer of hope: he conceded that the right backer could see the race on the calendar for 2013 and confirmed that “they have come a long way with the circuit”, these comments again suggest though that the problems are to do with the financial side of the race and quite possibly to do with the matter of race staging fees.
The Circuit of the Americas problems had been to do with securing funding from the state government (the Port Imperial race is meant to be funded privately): but as far as the FIA and Charlie Whiting are concerned the Austin Circuit of the Americas is now ready for the US Grand Prix on November 18th, almost a month before the FIA’s deadline for homologation a month before the event.
The Circuit of the Americas at Austin had construction delayed following contract problems between organisers and Formula One Management but will see its inaugural grand prix, and the first in the US since 2007, this year having caught up on the delays that came when work actually stopped in November last year.
It is of course highly likely that if the American Grand Prix in New Jersey can’t be organised in time to be put on the 2013 calander it will be possible to simply delay it until 2014. Many Formula One bosses as well as Mr Ecclestone himself believe that the United States warrants two Grand Prix each year due to the importance of the US economy and the number of multinationals, including current and potential sponsors, based in the country.
Following much discussion within and outside of Greece as to whether Greece should even be considering a Grand Prix given its financial situation let alone whether such a project is viable in terms of interest within the country, a plan has been submitted.
Kostas Tzavaras a Greek Member of parliament has been ones of the countries politicians to put his support behind the race which organisers believe will actually boost the economy and pay for itself bringing in tourists. Mr Tzavaras has been quoted as saying in reference to the race: “The priority of the government has to be the creation of instruments, which will help the country’s development “.
It certainly seems that Greece will need tourists to attend the race in a country with no history in F1 the track is set to be at Piraeus Athen’s main port to the south of the city the hope would be fans would stay in the city, go to the nearby beaches along the coast or they could get a ferry from Piraeus itself which is the main gateway to Greece’s many islands with their holiday resorts.
The circuit would be likely to have some resemblance to the Valencia circuit, also based around a harbour and not a permanent track though Valencia has, until this year at least, failed to create exciting races and has also failed to bring in enough spectators. Nearby Turkey has also struggled to make F1 work in a country with no historical link to the sport of famous drivers and the Turkish Grand Prix is no longer on the calendar and the Istanbul Park Circuit rarely used.
Not being a permanent circuit the investment required would be less, though the cost per race thereafter would remain high, the decision now though is in the hands of Bernie Ecclestone and Formula One Management as well as the FIA who now have the full plans put together by architect Thanasis Papatheodorou, meaning this could be the first new circuit for several years not to be designed by Hermann Tilke.