Used to keeping her eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama, Kate Walker looks at all the speculation and talk concerning the provisional 2014 F1 calendar...
After the summer shutdown, the loudest noise in the Spa paddock should have been 22 engines firing up as one before the start of every session. But that guttural roar was drowned out by the incessant chattering over the 2014 provisional calendar - or the lack thereof.
The calendar speculation has been intense this summer, with all sorts of changes afoot. The first story was that India would be moving to the spring, where it would be back-to-back with China. And it will be, albeit in 2015. Both Melbourne and Bahrain are in line to kick off proceedings in 2014, and we're all still wondering whether to book pre-season testing hotels in Jerez, Barcelona, Bahrain, or Dubai.
What was interesting about the speculation taking place in Spa is that much of it differed depending on the nationality of the gossip in question. We have long been expecting Mexico to return to the calendar, but while the Europeans have been looking to 2015 - pointing to all the work needed to bring the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez back up to F1-spec - the Latin American media are talking seriously about 2014.
Charlie Whiting, the FIA's race director and safety delegate, is due to visit Mexico in the coming weeks to inspect the circuit, and if the race organisers are able to complete the necessary work in time, Mexico could appear on the calendar as early as next year. The aim is to run the race back-to-back with Austin, giving the F1 circus a week off in the Americas before traipsing down to Interlagos for the season finale.
Austria's return to the calendar - with a provisional date of 6 July, no less - is looking more and more like a replacement for the German Grand Prix, and not an additional European event. But even that much-heralded event has its own issues, thanks to crowd capacity restrictions of 40,000, lower even that the 60,000 widely reported elsewhere. Exceptions can be applied for, but there is a lot of red tape to wade through.
Speaking of red tape, Formula One looks likely to trade one behemoth of bureaucracy for another, with the Russian Grand Prix at Sochi set to claim India's late-October date. Or thereabouts, anyway – should Mexico join the calendar in 2014 there will be a lot of shuffling of dates in the final round of flyaways.
And then there's New Jersey to consider. The weekend's reports that the race was off have been denied by F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who said the race would go ahead as long as the organisers complied with the terms of their contract.
But the NJ race will complicate the summer somewhat. Monaco is generally fixed as the last weekend in May, and the WMSC have blocked out the weekend of 14 June for Le Mans. If Austria takes place on 6 July as scheduled, that leaves Montreal, New Jersey, and Silverstone all looking for a June slot.
With all these permutations to take into account, it's no surprise the 2014 provisional calendar is a little behind schedule...
Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to Crash.net. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, she keeps an eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes Formula One a political melodrama.