17 May 2012
Barcelona to wrest back sole control of Spanish GP?
The Circuit de Catalunya could be on the brink of keeping the Spanish GP in Barcelona instead of alternating it with Valencia.
Just as the F1 world was getting used to the idea of having to make alternating trips to Barcelona and Valencia in coming seasons, the Circuit de Catalunya appears to be finding a way out of the agreement to share the Spanish Grand Prix with its rival.
With the clamour for spots on the F1 calendar, the two Spanish venues - each enjoyed and detested in equal measure - had been expected to share the Spanish round with the impending demise of Valencia's Grand Prix of Europe, and had even apparently come to an interim agreement that would have seen the circus return to Montmelo in 2013 and then head to Valencia's port-side street circuit the following year. Both races are on this year's calendar, with the trip to Valencia following two weeks after the championship makes its first trans-Atlantic crossing to run in Montreal.
However, reports in Spain's Mundo Deportivo newspaper suggest that the Circuit de Catalunya has attracted a new investor that could help it afford the hosting fees that were at the root of its decision to run biennially.
It is believed that Barcelona City Council could become part of the Circuit de Catalunya Consortium, strengthening the financial ability of the facility and allowing it to continue staging the Spanish Grand Prix every year. While the event is currently funded by a combination of the Generalitat, the national motorsport body RACC and the municipality of Montmelo, the addition of the City of Barcelona would provide greater symbiosis with the internationally-recognised 'Barcelona brand', which has already seen visitors to this year's race take up offers to include other aspects of the city in the stay. Early studies have already suggested that the financial impact of the circuit is approximately €135m a year, with the annual F1 weekend contributing just over €90m, and with a large chunk of that coming from foreign visitors to the race.
"We are working to see how we can become involved," deputy mayor Sonia Recasens confirmed, "It is clear that the circuit has an economic return, and when there is a major event on it does not only fill the hotels in Granollers."
Should Barcelona managed to put itself on such a financial footing that it is able to continue running the Spanish GP on an annual basis, it is not clear what will become of Valencia's position on the calendar. The city and its government appear to be good friends with Bernie Ecclestone, so an alternative race-share arrangement could be sought, with the proposed - but still not certain - French GP at Paul Ricard providing an obvious ally should its planned share with Spa-Francorchamps become a non-runner.
Meanwhile, money is already being spent at the Circuit de Catalunya to get it ready for the impending MotoGP round there, with particular attention being focused on repairing the pit garages damaged by the effects of the fire that took hold during Williams' victory celebrations on Sunday.
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