The German Grand Prix could be set to join Canada, the USA and France on the F1 scrap heap in 2010, it is feared, after the city of Hockenheim revealed that it is no longer willing to fund the race due to spiralling losses in recent years.
The Baden-Württemberg circuit has hosted the German Grand Prix on 31 occasions since 1970 – and almost exclusively since 1977 – and is currently alternating the event with the Nürburgring, which will stage the 2009 edition in just over a fortnight's time. The layout was redesigned and significantly shortened by renowned F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke earlier this decade on safety grounds, with the popular long, sweeping forest section disappearing altogether – rendering the track, drivers rued, somewhat more bland and nondescript.
Almost wholly owned and financed by the city of the same name, Hockenheim had been due to welcome the top flight again in 2010 – but following a city council stakeholders meeting this week and in the light of the current global economic downturn, it seems that will not now happen.
“We will not be the promoters anymore,” mayor Dieter Gummer told German media, alluding to annual multi-million Euro losses and a €6 million deficit last year alone.
It is understood, however, that Gummer is engaged in discussions with F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone in an earnest bid to find a solution, with the latter keen to ensure that the venue remains on the calendar. Should investors or a new promoter come forward, all hope may not yet be lost.
Hockenheim had reportedly expressed an interest in joining the Formula One Teams' Association's new breakaway series, quashed at the World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) meeting in Paris yesterday (Wednesday).
Meanwhile, Red Bull Racing star and British Grand Prix winner Sebastian Vettel has been honoured for his success in 2009. As he heads next to his home race at the Nürburgring as arguably Brawn GP world championship leader Jenson Button's principal challenger for the crown, a 'Sebastian Vettel' package will be available to fans, including seating in the newly-renamed Sebastian Vettel Grandstand, formerly known simply as T6. In a similar vein, after stunning seasoned paddock observers with his breakthrough triumph in the top flight in the Italian Grand Prix at Monza last year, the 21-year-old's former school paid tribute to him in temporarily changing its name.
“It is a big honour,” admitted the Heppenheim-born ace – who has stood on the top step of the podium at the Eifel mountains circuit before, in both Formula BMW and Formula 3 – speaking to Cologne-based newspaper Express