Yesterday (Wednesday 24th), Red Bull’s owner, Dietrich Mateschitz announced that he and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had struck a deal to return Grand Prix racing to Austria for the first time since 2003.
On the face of it, this sounds great. An extra race in Europe at a time when the traditional heartland of the sport is being lost to exotic new locations around the world. My excitement didn’t last too long however. There are already 21 circuits with contracts in place for 2014, which is one too many before we start.
Looking at the potential races that could perhaps not go ahead next season, you first have to look at the new, untested venues that appear for the first time. Both the Sochi International Circuit, Russia and the Port Imperial Street Circuit, New Jersey, USA fall into this category. The New Jersey race was initially scheduled to debut in 2013 but the organizers had not complied with the terms and conditions of the contract forcing Bernie to annul it shortly after it was signed. New Jersey do have a new contract in place and now seem to be ready to host a race in 2014.
I have no doubt that the Russian circuit in Sochi will be ready on time, the circuit is being built in the middle of the Winter Olympic park that will host the games in the winter of 2014. Work has been going on at the Olympic park for quite some time and Sebastian Vettel was there recently and gave the progress the thumbs up.
Another possibility is that one of the current circuits that are struggling my leave the calendar. Both Korea and China have suggested that they would want to re-negotiate their current deals if they were to stay in F1. This in itself isn’t anything new but the comparative lack of local enthusiasm seems to compound the money issues.
All of the above do seem less likely with the Austrian race being given the provisional date of July 6th which is the start of the traditional European season that runs through to mid September. Looking at the European races we have for 2014 and the date that Austria have been given, I fear that Germany could well lose its race.
The two famous old circuits have been in recent years sharing the race. It has been no secret that both Hockenheim and the Nürburgring have both being struggling financially so a get out of jail free card my be just the ticket for them both.