24 January 2016
Argentina ramps up pitch for F1 return
Argentina is forging ahead with plans to entice Bernie Ecclestone with an F1 return in the coming years.
Plans are gathering pace in Argentina to secure an imminent return to the Formula 1 calendar as part of a bid to secure more high-profile sporting events.
Argentina was one of the first non-European countries to host a round of F1 in 1953, its inner-city Buenos Aires Circuit – known locally as Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez – hosting a total of 21 races, four of which were won by the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio.
With its most recent stint lasting between 1994 and 1998 following modifications to the venue, though financial issues saw it drop off the schedule 18 years ago, a recent change of government has seen it return to the political fore alongside plans to pitch for the 2030 Football World Cup.
Indeed, new president Mauricio Macri is known to have been pushing for an F1 race through his erstwhile role as Buenos Aires mayor, with the recent success of the returning Mexican Grand Prix – which saw 135,000 attend race day alone – likely to strengthen his cause further.
“These are tests that have a cost and a complication, but we have decided to pursue this and other major events," tourism minister Gustavo Santos told the EFE news agency. “It would strengthen our brand and positioning."
Though it would require updating, the Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez is still used for domestic motorsport – including the hugely popular Super Touring Championship -, though the Termas de Rio Hondo venue does host MotoGP and World Touring Car Championship events.
It is no surprise that Argentina is keen on the idea of a return to the F1 schedule.
There are many similarities to be drawn from Mexico's hugely successful F1 comeback in 2015 – a much-missed event last held during F1's perceived 90s heyday, a prime inner-city location and – despite the absence – still a huge following across the country that could definitely strive for similar six figure spectator numbers.
Similarly, a return to Argentina is arguably a bit of good PR for Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA. Indeed, while the most recent stint for the Argentine Grand Prix between 1994 and 1998 is not remembered for its thrilling racing, the venue and country retains an intrinsic link with the heritage that many feel F1 is forgetting with its desire to visit the likes of Abu Dhabi, Russia and, this year, Azerbaijan.
Argentina does currently have a venue potentially capable of hosting an F1 race – the Termas de Rio Hondo circuit in the south of the country -, which hosts MotoGP and WTCC, but if the government goes ahead with its plans, surely an update to the Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez has to be the target with its ideal location well within the capital city limits, even if the twisty layout (with its numerous configurations) could stand some tweaking.
The only notable difference with Mexico is the lack of current or upcoming Argentine drivers… and therefore potentially sponsors. Argentina's last F1 driver was Gaston Mazzacane, who drove for Prost in 2001, while there are precious few youngsters coming through the ranks.
A lack of local drivers never hampered F1's desire to visit certain locations in the past, but while Bernie may want you to think F1 is not completely out of touch with fan's desires to revive former venues like the 'A1 Ring' and Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, it's worth pointing out they returned with massive financial clout from Red Bull and Carlos Slim respectively…
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