5 November 2013
Kate Walker: Calendar chatter
Kate Walker: During the Indian Grand Prix weekend I was shown a copy of a 20-round calendar [for 2014], with Korea sadly present and both Mexico and New Jersey missing...
Used to keeping her eye on the behind the scenes wheeling and dealing that makes F1 a political melodrama, here columnist Kate Walker takes a look at the latest gossip concerning the 2014 schedule...
Formula One logistics are something of a headache at the best of times, but in the run-up to a year that should see four additions to the calendar - two brand new and two returning events - getting the scheduling right is rather more complex than normal.
The 2014 Formula One calendar will not become official until the final World Motor Sport Council meeting of the year, scheduled to take place on 6 December in Paris. The WMSC will ratify the calendar on the same day as the FIA elections take place, making it a busy day for the bigwigs of the four-wheeled world.
But while the official calendar is still more than a month away, draft versions more recent than the crazy document released post-Singapore have been doing the rounds, and finalising what looks to be a particularly complex schedule is becoming something of an organisational and political crap shoot.
During the Indian Grand Prix weekend I was shown a copy of a 20-round calendar, with Korea sadly present and both Mexico and New Jersey missing. No one expected the second American race to come to fruition next year; its inclusion on September's provisional calendar was simply a piece of legal manoeuvring designed to ensure that it was the NJ race organisers - and not the commercial rights holder - who were in breach of contract when the venue failed to meet its deadlines.
Looking further to the future, few expect the New Jersey event to ever take place, appealing though it is as a concept. Having been scheduled and then dropped for the past two years, it is looking ever less likely that the combination of lack of funding, piles of red tape, and necessary construction work are obstacles that will ever be overcome.
Mexico, on the other hand, is certain to happen in 2015. The current delay is down to the impracticality of building a new pit and paddock complex in the next 12 months, and not due to a lack of funding or government support. Permits have been or are in the process of being granted, and Mexico's increasing involvement in F1 has made a return to the country a matter of necessity.
There is no question at all over Sochi's inclusion on the 2014 calendar, even though the new circuit cannot be given official approval until after it has been formally homologated by the FIA. Representatives from the Russian Grand Prix were roaming the Abu Dhabi paddock last weekend, watching and learning at one of F1's best organised events. On Friday, the Russian delegation spent much of the day in the company of an FIA official who used the time to explain just what recent additions to the calendar have done right – and where they have gone wrong.
As a returning event with which the F1 circus is incredibly familiar, Austria needs no introduction and no hand-holding. A long overdue return to a classic F1 circuit, the Styrian event is the easiest addition to the calendar from a logistical point of view. While there may be a paucity of suitable hotels in the region, the long memories of the paddock truckies mean that the easy to access and freight-free grand prix doesn't even need to be added to the teams' SatNavs.
Whatever nostalgia one feels for classic races past and present, bringing an old European venue back into rotation is the only way to boost the calendar while keeping things simple in both practicality and finance.
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.
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