Despite having ostensibly been threatened with the axe itself on a number of occasions, it appears Valencia could just be set to secure its long-term future on the annual F1 calendar – at the expense of Barcelona.
Two authoritative Spanish sources – Radio Valencia
and Cadena SER
– have claimed that Valencia will switch from being the home of the European Grand Prix to take the Spanish Grand Prix title from next season until at least 2021, based upon based on a 'verbal agreement' made over the weekend with Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, shortly to be confirmed in writing.
The Spanish port city joined the F1 schedule in 2008, but the harbourside Valencia Street Circuit has proven unpopular amongst drivers and fans alike, with last Sunday's race by common consent the dullest and most processional and incident-free of the 2011 campaign to-date. With poor crowd numbers adding to the event's troubles, it had been rumoured several times that its future was far from certain.
Indeed, F1 commercial rights-holder Ecclestone, the man pivotal to brokering any new deals in the sport, reportedly left Valencia 20 laps into the grand prix last weekend – and those of a less charitable nature might say that his patience lasted 19 laps longer than that of most TV viewers – but still, it seems the city may be set for an unanticipated reprieve.
Valencia Mayor Rita Barbera told EFE
news agency that race organisers were pushing for an earlier date for future editions in order to attract greater crowd numbers, revealing that Ecclestone is willing 'to bet on Valencia being an important capital of Europe' and adding: “It (F1) is spectacular in terms of boosting the economy through tourism.”
Such an earlier date could feasibly be Barcelona's traditional May slot, and to add weight to the speculation, the Circuit de Catalunya last week extended its contract to host MotoGP until 2016 [see separate story – click here
]. It should be noted that the only two other tracks to welcome the pinnacle of both two and four-wheeled competition are Silverstone and Sepang, with the former pitching for the MotoGP deal primarily because it believed it had lost F1. It is not beyond the realms of probability that Barcelona has done likewise.
Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta – Ecclestone's two-wheeled equivalent on the commercial rights side of MotoGP – has hinted that he does not believe it to be a good thing for circuits to stage both races too close together, and it is palpably of benefit to MotoGP to be the main draw on a circuit's annual schedule.