Three F1 races in jeopardy as deals not struck yet

LONDON • Formula One is in danger of losing three of its most famous tracks as the sport's traditional heartland loses ground to the multi-million-dollar muscle of countries demanding to stage Grands Prix.

Just days after the European Grand Prix took place in Azerbaijan for the first time, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone warned that the Canada, Germany and Italian Grands Prix are all liable to be missing from the calendar next year unless deals are completed soon.

Speculation that the record 21-date calendar of this year could go up to 22 next season was also firmly rejected by Ecclestone.

The 85-year-old Briton said: "It is more likely to be 18 races next year."

That would be the lowest number since 2009 and a significant sign that European venues and those funded by private corporations are struggling to keep up with the big spenders, backed mainly by ambitious governments in other parts of the world.

Azerbaijan is thought to have paid Ecclestone's F1 business as much as £28 million (S$55 million) for the rights to stage Sunday's race, and then spent as much preparing the city-centre's track.

That included covering an ancient cobbled street with "geofabric"- sand and then asphalt - that had to be pulled up after the race, which was won by Mercedes' Nico Rosberg.

The attrition rate among circuits, new and old, has been high with one disappearing every two years on average.

Monza has been the traditional home of the Italian Grand Prix since 1981. However, finances have been a struggle and Ecclestone has been in negotiations with authorities desperate to cut hosting fees.

The Montreal authorities felt the sharp end of Ecclestone's tongue after failing to invest and upgrade the ramshackle facilities on Ile Notre-Dame. Ecclestone has warned that, should there be no development next year, then there will be no Canadian Grand Prix.

Hockenheim stages the German Grand Prix next month, with the Nurburgring circuit scheduled to take over next year.

However, the collapse of the Nurburgring's finances means that the historic venue is unlikely to return, while low attendances mean Hockenheim does not want to fill the breach.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 23, 2016, with the headline 'Three F1 races in jeopardy as deals not struck yet'. Print Edition | Subscribe