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German GP in doubt as 'Ring cancels contract?

8 February 2012

The future of the German Grand Prix could ultimately be in doubt amid rumours that the operators of the Nurburgring have been dismissed and the circuit's F1 contract cancelled.

Despite having a deal to operate the 'Ring and its surrounding leisure facilities until 2040, Nurburgring Automotive GmbH [NAG] has apparently been relieved of its duties by the local government, according to the Rhein-Zeitung newspaper's website. The politicians are citing a lack of lease payments as good reason to cancel the contract, despite NAG claiming that, if it doesn't get relief from its financial commitments, it will be forced to lay off almost 100 employees. NAG poured more than €300m of taxpayers' money into a project to turn the famed circuit into a wider leisure resort, but are now claiming that it needs to be allowed extra time to make repayments on the lease.

Although Hockenheim is in line to host the German GP this season, according to the agreement to alternate in order to lighten the financial burden of an annual contract for either circuit, the Nurburgring had been hopeful of extending its stay on the schedule, and had already opened talks with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone about returning in 2013. Rhineland-Palatinate minister Roger Lewentz confirmed that he wished to speak with Ecclestone personally to ensure that the race remained a possibility.

With NAG potentially out of the equation, however, it would fall to whoever takes over the role of operator to continue those negotiations - should they want or afford to - and then for the local government to sign off on any deal. Lewentz insisted that there had already been several interested parties enquiring after the role of operator, but that the position would be put out to tender, a process that could take up to a year to resolve.

If the 'Ring can no longer continue as an F1 host, the onus to maintain Germany's position on the schedule would fall back on Hockenheim, and the Mannheim-based venue has made no secret of its own financial pressures, which led to it seeking a date-share with its Eifelland cousin in the first place. Should it not be able to return to hosting the race on an annual basis, Germany could find itself in a similar situation to France and Belgium, where it has to share its slot on the calendar with another country, although obvious partners are not immediately apparent.


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