Formula One’s biggest provisional calendar was released towards the tail end of the 2013 season, with a possible 22 races included. It was in the end cut down to 19 as Korea disappeared, India delayed and the New Jersey circuit yet again ‘would be ready for next year’. Russia has come in to make its debut on the F1 scene whilst the popular Red Bull Ring returns after a hiatus of 11 years. As well as this, Mexico is likely to make an appearance in either 2015 or 2016.
However, in recent times there has been a great turnover of circuits as controversial F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has taken the F1 circus to destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Bahrain, India and Korea. He has also elected to go to the street circuit in Valencia for the European Grand Prix rather than stay in Germany for the race, again for more money whilst dropping largely more popular circuits such as Magny-Cours. The decision to incorporate Valencia into the calendar proved to be a terrible one for all parties except the accountants. Valencia saw many processions excluding 2012, before it was dropped for last year.
Whilst we’re on the subject of processions, the decision to have a night race in Singapore is another for the bank balance rather than the motorsports fan. Singapore is famed for being almost impossible to overtake on, with it being nicknamed ‘Singabore’ by some fans. The drivers largely like driving on the track, but have complained of the lack of overtaking opportunities. That was brought in for 2008 and remains on the calendar for the foreseeable future. This means a likely two hour procession will remain for years to come because it is in one of the richest areas of the globe. Is this really for racing reasons?
Abu Dhabi is another race that pleases the bank manager rather than the fans. It does have long straights that should in theory lend themselves to overtaking, but the array of 90 degree corners in the final sector mean that only a good DRS system will get you past the car in front. Granted, it does see a lot more action than Singapore and Valencia, but that’s like saying Usain Bolt can beat your ten-year-old sister over a 100m sprint. The track could be improved heavily by removing some of the frankly needless right-angled corners.
The three examples listed above do not include Monaco. This is because of the history and soul that Monaco has. Drivers love the circuit and respect Monaco immensely, as you do not get a rest and one moment of ill-concentration sees you pay a visit to the barrier. Around a lot of the aforementioned circuits, there are run-offs to make sure this doesn’t happen. These circuits do not have the soul that Monaco has, nor the fear factor, nor the respect. This is what sets them apart from principality.
And what of the circuits that have fallen foul of this? Well, Magny-Cours in France is a real racers track. A fast circuit that does lend itself to overtaking, particularly with a tight, sharp hairpin at the end of an extremely long straight. It could be argued that the French Grand Prix lost it’s place to Singapore as France disappeared the year after Singapore appeared on the calendar. And we all know that Valencia was the reason that the Nurburgring and Hockenheim have to share the German Grand Prix, as the former hosted the European Grand Prix. Now though, Europe doesn’t have designated race. So why not take the opportunity to give both of them an annual race and give the fans something to cheer about? And Imola, which has modernised as Ecclestone asked it to, has not returned either. It makes you wonder as to what Ecclestone’s motives are.
Ecclestone is currently in trouble anyway in Germany, where he faces charges of corruption having won a damages case against him in the High Court. Giving his verdict, the judge branded him ‘unreliable’ and concluded that he had paid a bribe to a German banker. He could well topple from his position, meaning that Formula One could take on a new direction. Locations might not be the determining factor when the CEO of a circuit discusses with the FIA and FOM. Perhaps then, glitz and glamour could be matched by the shining lights on the track.