The F1 calendar 'leaked' to the paddock and beyond during the recent Singapore Grand Prix was labelled as 'provisional' and it is just as well, as it looks entirely possible that its make-up could change even in the next few weeks.
While much has been made about the doubts still surrounding the viability of the second F1 race planned for the United States next year [see separate story
], another fixture included on the list could also be in jeopardy, as stories emerge that a deal still has not been struck to keep Germany on the schedule beyond 2012.
The race, one of only seven European rounds included on the 20-strong calendar, was among the four - including New Jersey - that carried an asterisk marking them out as having issues that needed resolving before they could be cemented into travel plans. Singapore and Korea were also included, although the former can now be considered a definite stop on the schedule after a new five-year deal was announced ahead of Sunday's race, but Germany's position could be the most precarious as expected host Nurburgring continues to face financial woes, with no guaranteed safety net in the shape of Hockenheim, despite Bernie Ecclestone's initial assertion that the race could be switched to its 2012 venue in the case of emergency.
Indeed, Ecclestone's latest claim, reported in the Financial Times
would suggest that the Nurburgring - in its original form, one of the most fearsome grand prix venues in the world - has staged its last F1 race, with the event only running at Hockenheim in future. That, however, overlooks the fact that Hockenheim entered into an alternation with its rival as neither could bear the cost of an annual place on the calendar, and it remains to be seen how it will react to effectively having its arm twisted to revert to the more costly past.
Should it be unwilling to stage a race every year - and it would likely take some hefty financial inducement from Ecclestone to do so - Hockenheim may find a willing partner for alternation in whichever French circuit eventually emerges as the favourite to bring F1 back to its homeland. Both Magny-Cours and Paul Ricard recently tabled bids to become the new home of the French Grand Prix, but this week's news that there will be no state backing for the event [see separate story
] casts the situation in a new light.
While both bidders are likely to be called to meet with the French motorsport federation to examine other possibilities for putting the race back on the calendar, Le Parisien
claims that Paul Ricard had already anticipated the government's decision and has private investors lined up to ensure that it is able to stage the grand prix as and when it is reinstated on the calendar. L'Equipe
, meanwhile, insists that the French Grand Prix could still appear on next
year's calendar, although not necessarily in Germany's traditional slot..
“We would have appreciated a few words of support and encouragement [from the government] and we are disappointed, but [the decision] was completely expected,” ,” Paul Ricard director Stephane Clair told the report, before going on to hint at interest in a September date, “I can quite imagine a Grand Prix de France in 2013 and, after the summer break, the teams would be ready to contest three grands prix consecutively in Belgium, France and Italy."
Meanwhile, as the F1 schedule continues to take in fewer and fewer European venues, two other suitors continue to express their interest in joining the fray.The Bangkok Post
reports that Thailand has agreed terms with Ecclestone to add a street race in the capital from 2014, possibly aping the successful night race format that has made Singapore a 'modern classic'.
"It will be a city race like that in Singapore and Monaco, and it will be a night race like the Singapore Grand Prix," governor of the Sports Authority of Thailand Kanokphand Chulakasem said.
Chulakasem, also an advisor to Red Bull owner Chalerm Yoovidhya, met Ecclestone during the Singapore Grand Prix to hammer out details of the agreement, although the still appear to be question marks, as usual, over the cost of a place on calendar. Thailand is thought to be pursuing a figure close to that agreed by Singapore for its new contract, although tourism and sports minister Chumpol Silpa-archa has already said that the government would fund up to 60 per cent of any fee, with the rest hopefully coming from the likes of Red Bull and Singha.
As well as Thailand, South Africa continues to make noises about returning to the F1 schedule, even though such claims have proven to be little more than pipedreams in the past.
According to iol.co.za
, the team looking to bring a grand prix to the streets of Cape Town claim to have attracted backers willing to invest the one billion Rand needed to host the event, but now need the approval of the national government before proceeding with an official bid. The report says that members of Cape Town Grand Prix SA are hoping to meet with sports and recreation minister Fikile Mbalula to secure the go ahead required.
Again, 2014 is being targeted as a likely debut for the Cape Town race, which could follow the lead set by the Russian Grand Prix - also due to run from 2014 - and one of the two proposed London layouts in taking advantage of the proximity of a major sporting stadium to form part of the layout.
“From what we know, the minister's office is not averse to meeting with us," Ester Henderson, communications chief officer for Cape Town Grand Prix SA, commented, "We do understand he has been very busy with international events, [but] we are still pursuing that meeting.”
Grant Pascoe, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing, has welcomed the proposal, agreeing that a grand prix would increase visitor numbers, but remained wary of the cost implications.
“There will be need to be big infrastructural changes, huge engineering changes," he noted, "We need to weigh up the costs of hosting the grand prix.”
Ecclestone is tipped to present the draft 2013 calendar to the FIA's World Motor Sport Council for approval on Friday.