FIA president Jean Todt has said that the future of the Belgian Grand Prix is out of his hands, after the popular event again came under threat of failing to take up its slot on the schedule.
Although the Spa-Francorchamps circuit rates highly among drivers for the challenge it provides, the event has never enjoyed the securest of positions on the calendar, with political and financial problems having already seen Belgium miss out from time to time. F1's return to the Ardennes in 1985, during its period of alternating with Zolder, had to be rescheduled after the tarmac broke up during practice, while there was no Belgian Grand Prix in 2003 because the country's tobacco advertising laws clashed with those then in operation in F1.
It returned to the schedule in 2004, but missed out again two years later due to development of the facilities. Although it has been on the calendar since, there have been constant threats of financial shortfalls, with organisers even requesting a renegotiation of its contract with FOM after making a £2.6m loss on the 2009 event. FOM chief Bernie Ecclestone has ruled out investing personally in the event, as he has with other circuits, and even suggested that, in the lights of the financial worries, Spa may alternate with another circuit, possibly in Germany, to help alleviate the issue.
The circuit also had its operating licence suspended until 2026 due to noise complaints from local residents in 2007, although that has not stopped the grand prix from being staged since then, but, with potential hosts queuing up to join the series, Ecclestone has warned that weaker existing venues may have to be culled.
"The world and the economy is constantly changing, so we have to be careful," Todt told Belgian newspaper De Standaard
, "In Belgium, the problem is less a sporting one, and more one of government. We hope the Belgian Grand Prix will be on the calendar for a long time, because it is a fantastic circuit but, when the money runs out, there is a problem."
Todt was similarly non-committal about the chances of his homeland returning to the schedule. There have been several proposals to make the French Grand Prix a viable addition the F1 calendar, but none has yet to come to fruition, and Todt admits that he has no influence over the situation.
"I am French, but I am not responsible for putting a grand prix in France," he told national sports publication l'Equipe
from Korea, "It is about the country, the national federation, the promoter, and Bernie Ecclestone's FOM. When these things come together, the FIA - as legislator - has the responsibility to endorse the circuit. But we are not involved in the process. If you think France should have a grand prix, I think so too, but, unfortunately, not everything is in place."