The calender was shuffled and there seemed to be tracks willing to stage a race so why a European race couldn’t be found to replace the postponed inaugural New Jersey race may never be known.
Maybe time just ran out and a week before practice for the season opener at Melbourne the FIA confirmed the calendar for 2013 with only 19 races.
Broadcasters among others would have wanted to confirm schedules. Also perhaps those who were originally willing to fund races at tracks such as the Red bull Ring in Austria, Portimao in Portugal and Magny Cours and Paul Ricard in France lost patience and feared the late addition of the race would effect ticket sales: as many fans choose which races to attend and buy tickets early in the new year.
The other interesting thing to note from the confirmed calender is that the Nurburgring remains on the calender and has not been switched for the Hockenheimring; tickets are now on sale for the German Grand Prix at the financially troubled circuit so it seems the race will go ahead here.
So the final calender for 2013 confirmed by the FIA is :
March 17th Australia (Melbourne /Albert Park) March 24th Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur /Sepang) April 14th China (Shanghai / Shanghai International Circuit) April 21st Bahrain (Sakhir) May 12th Spain (Barcelona /Circuit de Catalunya) May 26th Monaco (Monte Carlo /Circuit de Monaco) June 9th Canada (Montreal /Circuits Gilles Villeneuve) June 30th Britain (Silverstone) July 7th Germany (Nurburgring)* July 28th Hungary (Budabest /Hungaroring) August 25th Belgium (Spa /Spa Franchorchamps) September 8th Italy (Monza) September 22nd Singapore (Marina Bay) October 6th Korea (Yeongam) * October 13th Japan (Suzuka) October 27th India (New Delhi/ Buddh International Circuit) November 3rd Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) November 17th United States (Austin /Circuit of the Americas) November 24th Brazil (Sao Paulo /Interlagos)
The 2013 provisional Formula One Calendar was released in the run up to the 2012 Singapore Grand Prix with no major surprises and in another unsurprising move the hugely successful Singapore Grand Prix has had a contract extension for 5 more years up to and includeding 2017.
The initial five year deal that bought F1 to Singapore began in 2008 and the sports only true night race has been very popular with fans and drivers: apart from the turn ten chicane which driver’s would like to see replaced and it is understood this may have been discussed in negotiations.
Despite this potential tweak though the layout of the Singapore Grand Prix is one of Formula One’s best street circuits looking back over the sport’s history: with overtaking oppurtunities and plenty of good racing. There have been a number of hastily put together street curcuits in the past that have failed to put together good races and even Valencia, despite massive investment, failed to deliver what most fans would describe as exciting races, up until 2012, despite this though as anticipated there is no European Grand Prix at Valencia in 2013 though it is likely that it will be back in place of Barcelona in 2014 and that the races will alternate going forwards.
The other big change to the 2013 calendar is the inclusion of a second race in the US, the American Grand Prix in New Jersey scheduled for the weekend after Canada giving a North American double header. Of course the New Jersy race is still not certian with some legal issues and contract issues thought to be outstanding and with a cloak of secrecy over exactly where funding is coming.
Question marks also remain over the Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam that is awaiting the conclusion of contract negotiations, the race is proving too expensive for the local government though and if no discount is offered by Bernie Ecclestone the race could be off the calendar.
The German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring also is yet to be confirmed as the holding company who own the circuit are in financial difficulties, if the Nurburgring can’t host the 2013 German Grand Prix the Hockenheimring, which alternates with the Nurburgring, have said they are ready to step in.
The complete provisional calendar
March 17th Australia (Melbourne /Albert Park) March 24th Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur /Sepang) April 14th China (Shanghai / Shanghai International Circuit) April 21st Bahrain (Sakhir) May 12th Spain (Barcelona /Circuit de Catalunya) May 26th Monaco (Monte Carlo /Circuit de Monaco) June 9th Canada (Montreal /Circuits Gilles Villeneuve) June 16th America (New Jersey) * June 30th Britain (Silverstone) July 21st Germany (Nurburgring)* July 28th Hungary (Budabest /Hungaroring) September 1st Belgium (Spa /Spa Franchorchamps) September 8th Italy (Monza ) September 22nd Singapore (Marina Bay) October 6th Japan (Suzuka) October 13th Korea (Yeongam) * October 27th India (New Delhi/ Buddh International Circuit) November 3rd Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina) November 17th United States (Austin /Circuit of the Americas) November 24th Brazil (Sao Paulo /Interlagos)
A few years ago a disastrous British Grand Prix weekend with traffic chaos and cars stuck in boggy parking fields led to the future of the race at Silverstone being questioned, though moving the event to April was probqably never a good idea and it was soon moved back to July and problems since then have been a little less severe if not totally non-existant.
Ahead of what is expected to be a wet weekend for the 2012 British Grand Prix this July weekend though the circuit owners and race organisers have announced that they have contingency plans in place and have invested £1 million in traffic control solutions.
Circuit Boss Richard Phillips told journalists that they will try to pre-empt any problems and said “……we have contingency plans in place, whether we use them or not will be reviewed as we go on, and that is looked at every four hours”
Though the circuit now has many more tarmaced car parks and car parks with tarmaccecd roads to stop busy points turning into quagmires it seems that organisers will keep a close eye on weather forecast and any met office warnings and may squeeze cars into hard standing car parks if needed to avoid use of fields: meaning that clearing car parks after the race will take longer but no one will get completely stuck.
One of the few areas of the world never to hold a Grand Prix could soon be set to have one, and we don’t mean Russia that gets its Grand Prix debut in 2014, but the Caribbean and specifically the Domincan Republic it seems. If the first thing you think of when you think of the Dominican Republic is that they have Haiti as neighbours then this is why they want a Grand Prix to bring back tourists scared away by the political troubles across there border.
These talks of a Caribbean Grand Prix are slightly more than rumours as well with Danilo Medina, one of the front runners for next month’s Presidential elections, saying that if he gets elected he will ensure that Formula One comes to the island and that the government will pay the race hosting fees with private investment to be found to build a circuit. This is likely to go down well with Dominicans as the island has suffered from its loss of tourism and the hope would be that race fans would stay for a longer break.
If you are wondering about how yet another race is going to fit on the calendar don’t because it seems that 24 races on the calendar are now being talked about. The unofficial limit had been 20 with Bernie Ecclestone saying more were unlikely then he said he could see a 22 race calendar but not more and now it seems teams are discussing 24: and no doubt if their are countries with potential sponsors and where existing sponsors want to sell these races will join the calendar, great for fans, great for potential and current circuits and great for team’s finical directors but a headache for everyone else within the team perhaps.
Unsurprisingly, given the option to take an extra test session mid season or wait until the season is almost over, ten teams have told Pirelli they will need tyres for a Young Driver’s Test to take place at Silverstone in July shortly after the British Grand Prix rather than at Abu Dhabi.
Only Red Bull and Toro Rosso will wait until the Abu Dhabi Young Driver’s test, perhaps showing their dedication to bringing young drivers through the ranks so that the Red Bull teams can focus on running young drivers without the distraction of gaining data for the second half of the season’s developments. There is also a potential to gain an advantage at Abu Dhabi testing next season’s tyres early, which Red Bull may have in mind; they may be even thinking about switching to development early and giving up on a title challenge in 2012?
Now for anyone wondering it has been confirmed that teams can still pull out of Silverstone’s young driver test, this is of course likely to be advisable if the rain pours down but it also means teams can keep their options open, importantly though once a car leaves the pits they have chosen to run at Silverstone and won’t be able to run at Abu Dhabi.
It will be interesting to see who drives at Silverstone in the Young Drivers test and there is a chance that someone like Gary Paffet or Marc Gene could be eligible and used by teams to get the most development out of their cars. Mclaren are already planning to run Gary Paffet at Mugello, alongside Oliver Turvey ,showing the faith they have in what they see more as development drivers than young drivers perhaps.
For other teams though the test will be a good chance to test drivers that some teams may even consider giving a race towards the end of the year if they are dissatisfied with a current driver and have seen enough at Silverstone to convince them a young driver is ready.
As cars take to the Sakhir track it feels a little sureal, we honestly never expected this race to go ahead and still have our doubts. With tensions around Manama running high and security stepped up ahead of practice any threat of violence around the circuit or realted to the race could still lead to a cancellation.
If security around the circuit clashes with protestors against the race and things get ugly can Formula One really continue and risk being left with blood on the hands of the FIA and in the eyes of the world the Formula One Group, Teams and of course sponsors?
Despite saying repeatedly that security wouldn’t be increased above levels for previous years today ahead of practice the race organisers have tightened security, though with so few fans expected to attend controlling matters inside shouldn’t be a problem; some suggested the race should be run behind closed doors with no spectators and that will almost be the case it is thought.
If things do flare up around the race it may be this afternoon(Friday) at 4 o clock lacal time when a protest is planned to take place at the race, this should be allowed to go ahead and the worst thing for Formula One would be a tough clamp down but of coutse the safery of all involved with the race must be paramount at all times and the balance could fall either way very easily of what is desired.
Force India of course have already beeen involved in an incident in Manama when a car carrying team personnel from their hotel got caught up in clashes betweeen Polic e and protestors and with firebombs feet away and teargas entering the vehicle their safety was at risk and it was only luck that no injury occurred.
Sponsors could still play a part if they risk damaging their brands by being in Bahrain and linked to deaths or injury to protesters. British MPs who called an early day motion for the race to be called off have urged sponsors to pull out of the event, meaning that cars if they do run may run without sponsorship. UBS, Gulf Air and DHL are the main sponsors with hoardings around the circuit and they may be the most visible companies to be involved with the race, Gulf Air are the title sponsor but are as a Bahraini company less likely to pull out.
Silverstone not that long ago and for much of Formula One’s history was the main testing venue for teams: not least because of its location close to most of the teams, and on the doorstep of Jordan, now Force India. With testing limited and mainly done in February and March teams inevitably wanted to go to circuits where they would be much less likely to have rain and where temperatures would be higher, closer to those they would experience during the season; Force India’s filming day launch run in February this year was done in near freezing temperatures: not what the Pirelli ribber is designed to run in.
With the chance of in season testing coming back though Silverstone could see testing return; teams want to replace the Abu Dhabi young drivers’ test with a test straight after the British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Such a test would mean that teams actually get more value out of the testing with data that they can then use on their existing cars, although in the past some parts for the next year have been bolted on to the current year’s car at Abu Dhabi.
Discussions are on going as to whether this change may go ahead and it could come as early as this season; the likely solution following discussions at the Chinese Grand Prix though is that teams may be given a choice over where and when to run.The issues that may need ironing out are whether cars running at Silverstone will miss out on trying out Pirelli developnt tyres and what will happen if it rains at Silverstone: though the likely solution is that teams can abandon Silverstone and go for Abu Dhabi instead if the weather forecast looks unpromising on the first day.
Whether it will be possible to split days between the two events is as yet unclear, nor is what will be done to ensure that the Silverstone test remains primarily a young driver test and not a testing session where an eligible test driver, which could include the likes of Gary Paffet or Marc Gene, test the cars to get the best results for use in developing the car for the second half of the season.
The FIA after talks with the Formula One teams, at which they have supposedly all stated they are happy to race, have said that the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead.
The FIA are responsible for ensuring the safety of anyone at a Grand Prix and in their statement they included the following:
“The FIA ensures that any event forming part of an FIA World Championship is organised in compliance with the FIA Statutes and the relevant Sporting and Technical Regulations and that the safety of the public, officials, drivers and teams is secured at all times during an event”.
If there are problems and injuries occur then the blame would fall on the FIA but they seem happy with arrangements and security at the moment for the race to go ahead: so regardless of what the teams say they must be certain that the race can be run safely. Whether the race will see protests is another matter and whether the race should be run from a moral perspective is another matter; the FIA seem to only be considering security and safety.
The key information in the FIA’s statement was towards the end and read:
“Based on the current information the FIA has at this stage, it is satisfied that all the proper security measures are in place for the running of a Formula One World Championship event in Bahrain.
Therefore, the FIA confirms that the 2012 Gulf Air F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain will go ahead as scheduled.”
The mentions of ‘current information’ and ‘at this stage’ though suggests they are still monitoring things and things could change. You could also argue that if they are considering cancelling the race, but are yet to decide, the right thing is to release this statement so that speculation is put to bed and so it remains in their control rather than becoming a self fulfilling prophecy due to everyone else assuming the race will be cancelled.
The FIA have admitted that they have made their decisions based on information given by ’Bahraini authorities and by the Commercial Rights Holder’: this in itself may raise questions as it is in the interest of both to see the race go ahead and so the information may be biased.
The FIA also mention Jean Todt’s fact finding mission in November as a basis for their decision, when he was accompanied by Damon Hill. Since November though things have almost certianly changed and protests and violence have increased, Damon Hill who backed the race in November recently called for it to be reassessed but the FIA have obviously not taken the same view, or have reassessed it and not changed their opinions.
Only three weekends before the 2012 Bahrain Grand Prix protests have taken place in Bahrain specifically against the staging of the race. A weekend of protests in Bahrain have followed the shooting of a protestor on Saturday. Though protests in the country have been ongoing most have been small but the protesting led to larger and more widespread protesting on Saturday and Sunday, in Abu Saiba a village close to Manama, and in Tubli protests were held specifically to protest the running of the Grand Prix in a country that activists believe still needs change and is yet to atone for events in 2011 where many more protestors and others were injured, tortured and killed by government forces or forces close to the government. These anti Formula One protests were eventually dispelled but only with the use of tear Gas, no further violence was reported.
Saturday’s shooting was itself by Militia, loyal to the government and following police closely but in a civilian car, authorities have said the shooting is being treated as a murder but people are asking why the militia were there at a protest seemingly in support of the police.
It had seemed that the Bahrain Grand Prix was almost certain to go ahead but events this weekend may lead to further questions not least about security arrangements and the potential for the Grand Prix to be marred by protests that could lead to violence, this is something that all involved will want to avoid not least the Bahrain government.
French Prime Minister Francois Fillon visiting the Paul Ricard circuit at La Castellet near Marsaille gave an update regarding the 2013 French Grand Prix, negotiations are ongoing and finnicial arrangements and a circuit to share with need to be agreed. With elections not many weeks away it may be that Fillon was hoping for more positive news, what will make some people happy though is the announcement that no government unding will be given to the race, which is expected to cost $20 million to host.
The organisers and Francopis Fillon himself have draft contracts that are all but agreed it seems but the thing stopping an announcement that the Grand Prix is certain to return in 2013 is the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. The French Grand Prix is thought to be likely to alternate with the Belgian Grand Prix so that each will take place every other year. The Belgians however, though they are keen to alternate, do have a contract that doesn’t end until after 2013 meaning they are currently contracted to host the race next season. It may even be then that the French Grand Pric could still be delayed until 2014 or that both races could take place in 2013, with the Russian Grand Prix running from 2014 one race could take that slot next season if needed. Other options to share a race with could include the Red Bull ring in Austria or even a non European race with several countries such as Mexico waiting in the wings for the chance to host a race.
Some still expected a full confirmation of the race today but as expected it was more an opportunity to release details of the race including provisional dates and the costs which newspapers have already reported to be around €20 million, reasonable compared to many races and perhaps helped by the fact Bernie Ecclestone is the owner of the Paul Ricard circuit.