Calendar rumours

The Formula 1 calendar continues to develop as the Formula One group tries to eradicate the remaining question marks over the 2010 dates. There remain doubts over Canada but everyone seems to think that these will be solved as F1 is keen to get back into the North American market.

There are also doubts over the British Grand Prix. Donington Park is now out of the picture as there is no money to do the necessary work. All that remains in that case is for Ecclestone to negotiate some kind of financial settlement. That will probably not be easy because the company involved will presumably seek bankruptcy protection at some point. As the promoter is in breach of contract (and perhaps also in breach of the circuit lease as well) there is little in the way of assets. The circuit will presumably revoke to the original owners – the Wheatcroft Family – and in time they will hopefully find a promoter with more realistic ideas who will run the track at a more sensible level.

The British Grand Prix deal will also be cancelled and as Ecclestone has no other choices, Silverstone will be the most likely venue. At the moment Silverstone and the Formula One group cannot agree terms. Silverstone says Ecclestone is asking for too much money, particularly as he has cut a deal with Hockenheim to help the Germans afford their race. Silverstone, quite rightly, argues that it is just as important an event as Germany and says that its offer to Ecclestone is as high as it can go without putting the circuit in financial danger.

Ecclestone’s view is that Silverstone should sign the deal on offer, which is $18m a year and a seven percent annual hike in the fees, or the race will not happen. However there is a danger in carrying through with this threat. The British motorsport industry wants the race to happen and failure to cut a deal will not help the reputation of the Formula One group. This is only relevant in that Ecclestone and his backers CVC Capital Partners need to consider the long-term danger of the F1 teams and the FIA getting together and refusing to work with him unless better terms are available. This could happen as early as 2013.

Ecclestone is brilliant at finding deals that keep everyone happy and the most likely solution to the current impasse is to get the teams to accept 20 races (which he has always wanted) with Britain and France both being offered deals. Both are considered to be important traditional events and both have struggled to survive. With a new French FIA President in Jean Todt and pressure from CVC to keep generating more money to help pay of the Formula One group debt, Ecclestone’s best strategy would probably be to offer Britain and France similar deals. The two together will generate more money than one higher-priced contract and the teams will accept the extra race as it is one of the least expensive on the calendar and will, of course, generate extra income for them. Todt will be happy as he will be a hero in France; Britain will have its Grand Prix back and he will have 20 races. And, as there is provision for traditional races in the deal between the Formula One group and the FIA, so he can justify doing such deals if other promoters come to him with their caps in their hands.

In other words it is a win-win situation for all concerned.

Bernie’s kind of deal.

32 thoughts on “Calendar rumours

  1. I would like a 20th Grand Prix for 2010, however, I don’t see any realistic dates on which to hold an additional French GP.

    The only gaps between races longer than a single weekend, are between China (April 18) and Spain (May 9). May 2nd is not a likely option, since that would have 3 races (France, Spain and Monaco) on consecutive weekends, something that hasn’t happened before. But having the French race on April 25th isn’t an option either, since the cars would have to be flown back from China and driven by truck to France in some 4 days.

    The other gap is the Summer Break between Hungary (August 1) and Belgium (August 29), and adding a race there would reduce this break to a minimum. And August 8th is probably out of the question, since that would have 3 GPs (Germany, Hungary, France) on consecutive weekends, too. Perhaps a double-header with Belgium, with France on the 22nd, is an option.

    On other date appears to be available, July 4th between Valencia and Great Britain, but also results in a triple-header.

  2. I agree a double deal for French and British GPs has best chance of success. I really don’t understand how Bernie can persist with the 7% per annum escalation in fees in the contract. In the current economic climate, it is totally unreasonable. Even Bernie must know we are now in a low inflaation world.

  3. Joe,

    I agree this is a good solution and that it is imperative we keep a British and a French Grand Prix (along with other ‘heritage’ races of course), but I think 20 races is too many for me.

    F1 puts itself at risk of diluting the product too much in order to break into new markets – which I think has already happened with NASCAR…

  4. Hi Joe,
    Any word on how the likes of Italy, Brazil and Japan are doing with their Grand Prix?

    It’s great that the British and French GP’s may be back on, but are they potentially running the a danger of over-saturation?

  5. I hope you’re right Joe, but I am uneasy about your concept ‘F1 is keen …’ Do either Ecclestone or his backers really care what ‘F1’ is keen about?

    Giving Silverstone a sweetheart deal now would be like admitting defeat for Ecclestone, and I don’t see why he needs to do that. He gave the contract to Donington so as to close the British GP. He has achieved that, so why go back on it? It’s not as though any of his cherished improvements to Silverstone have been made, nor are they in the offing. It’s not as though the pressure over the British GP has extracted any cash from HMG (at least not yet, and as far as we’re aware). It’s not like him to go back to something that is worse for him than what he found unacceptable before.

    People envisage Ecclestone as the ‘F1 supremo’ or ‘boss of F1’, and this carries with it an assumption that he must have F1’s best interests at heart. But that’s not even fair to him. He is the CEO of a company that aims to make as much money out of F1 as possible, and he is responsible to CVC for doing that and that alone. People expect him to do things that are not in CVC’s interests because they would be good for F1, but why would he ever do any such thing? How could he justify it? Like any other CEO, his duty is to work to maximise CVC’s profit in everything he does.

    It may be quite plausible to argue that the best way for FOM to increase total revenues is to globalise the sport, so as to increase TV audiences in countries where it isn’t yet popular. If ‘F1’ wants FOM to go in the opposite direction and give sweetheart deals to European GPs, then ‘F1’ needs to find a way of applying pressure on FOM. But with the loss of the manufacturers this is a time of weakness for ‘F1’.

  6. One thing that gets overlooked with this push for 20 races is the physical and mental capabilities of the teams to cope with 20 plus weekends away from home.

    Fine for NASCAR where team members are flown in on the Sunday morning and home on the Sunday night, because all races are within the States. F1 involves different continents, time zones and huge logistical problems.

    This weekend the Brawn team have had their first weekend at home since the beginning of September. This takes a big toll on family life and is no surprise that Bernie and Ron Dennis went through divorces. Ross Brawn took a sabatical when he left Ferrari and now often travels with his wife.

    In Bernie’s push to pay the debts lets have a little realism of what is possible constantly travelling the world and some allowances made to human needs.

  7. I still don’t understand how the British Gov. wont help Silverstone, or at least keep Ecclestone reasonable knowing that F1 is very important to the UK… most teams are based there, not to mention 2 British champions on the grid now.

    i also don’t quite understand why Silverstone doesn’t expand it’s grandstands, that applies to other circuits for that matter… drop the attendance fees a wee bit, entice more spectators and make more money altogether…

  8. @ Nigel,

    Actually one of the great criticisms of the NASCAR calendar (36 race weekends in total) is that it has caused excessive emotional and marital stress to many of the mechanics and background people involved in the sport.

    There was a survey done a few years back that show that NASCAR had the highest percentile divorce rate for professional sports – most of the reasons cited were because one half of the couple were constantly away.
    It’s not inconceivable that the same may happen (and is already happening) to those involved in F1 and you are right – F1 is on numerous continents which pushed that stress factor rather high.

  9. Hockenheim is the Mercedes Benz Home Grand Prix, and to cancel it would have been a slap in face of a company that is increasing its involvement in the sport where others are leaving it.

    Not having a British Grand Prix would be a bad thing for everyone for a myrad of reasons, but Bernie already tried to make a point by taking the risk to give it to Donington, so we will see.

  10. OT Enjoyed your last AAWJ-podcast, totally agree with Toyota having chosen the wrong base (Cologne) for their operation.

    The should have chosen somewhere in the UK tapping into the existing knowledge there, considering the amount of money they spent, this should not have a been a problem to lure people away of existing teams.

    The leaving of the big manufactures is weakening the sport considerably, I wonder how long it will take until the first circuits will start and want to renegotiate contracts with Bernie because they did not agree to pay all that money to see the likes of Manor and others to race.

    What would happen to the Premier league if suddenly ManU, Liverpool and Chelsea decided to stop playing. The league might become less predictable and more interesting for “real” fans, but in terms of “marketing value”, this would be a real blow.

  11. @Ronman. F1 has more cash floating around it than almost any other sport I can think of, given the limited number of events staged.

    And if so many foreign governments had not allowed themselves to be mugged and conned by Eccle$tone, we would not be in the parlous position we are. It is they that have dramatically upped the ante for everyone else. It would be interesting to get an honest appraisal of their venture into F1 from the newcomers. I’d be surprised if most of them now wish they had never heard of F1.

    I can think of no good reason, not one, why the British taxpayer should contribute a single cent.

  12. U know Bernie wanted $30m for USGP, right? Yet, historical “must have” races are given a 40% cut.

    As I pointed out in my blog, here:

    If BMW, Toyota, Mercedes, and Ferrari all chip in to cover the $30 million fee charged by Bernie to host the United States Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, then it will only cost them $7.5 million per team, less than the cost for developing KERS for 2009 for each team, which they have agree to drop in 2010! Now let’s pass the savings onto the customer and/or fans!!!

    All the manfacturers beg for NA races. But we don’t have BMW and Toyota. You don’t seriously believe that wasn’t factored into a reason why the exited? even if the smallest of reasons, .1% of the reason why they left… but we all knows it’s more than .1%.

    Merc could basically have a second GP here in the U.S if they wanted. Merc could pony up a year’s worth of AMG profits to pay for the USGP to happen.

    And what happens if England MISSES ONE YEAR. I am an American. UK folk get back-to-back wdc, two of F1’s biggest faces, and you whine and cry about MISSING JUST ONE YEAR.

    I’ve been to 4 usgp. Next year, we get our own team. ^_^ I am so happy.

    But the royal grand prix that is british cannot miss a single year. Dude, there are plenty of wealthy people in england. Why not get Jeremy Clarkson to auction off some supercars, get almost a rich people’s charity going to make this happen. lot of them petrolheads. give em special ultimate gold pass vip privileges for the weekend. It might take the brdc to look like a bunch of sellouts for however they fund this, but IT WILL HAPPEN. They are too stubborn though. Got to go back to drawing board. Eccle and brdc don’t really like each other. they need to start over their relationship. lol

    We saw scott speed crash and burn. I’d like ken block to take a test in the car. He’d do well.

    Maybe we’ll get another usgp. someday. i’m thinking of saving my money to go to canada next year. 🙂 I’m broke as shit, but I’ll find one way or another.

    But forbid that maybe england doesn’t make it on the calender for one year. this will piss everyone off, and they will be determined to find one for 2011. lol

    i just want a USGP. hey, moto gp modifications approved for F1, just in case anyone forgot.

    Until then, all I can do is visit the IMS Museum and look at 1 90’s F1 chassis. I’ve seen barrichello-stewart ’97, and schumacher-benetton ’93. these have both been in the winter time. i guess they switched ’em out.

    Here’s a crazy idea: brdc pay for usgp. THAT WOULD PISS EVERYONE OFF.

    Just saying.

  13. Today is my birthday (very close to 40), 25 years ago F1 was different , was more racing than business.. hope for fight on track next year, ..hope, because F1 survive that’s for sure, don’t know about racing…

    Regards Bartosz

  14. “20 races is too many.

    Bernie needs to remember where the fans are – because without us, Bernie cannot make is millions.”

    I fail to understand this point.

    What are you saying, that the fans will watch 19 races on TV but not 20 because that’s too many? Or that they will go to 19 tracks to see it live but not 20 tracks because that’s too many?

    An extra race will still pull in the TV viewers and if people are going to go to a track they will go to it regardless of if there is an extra race in the schedule.

    Now if you’d said Bernie should go to places like Silverstone instead of Shanghai because that’s where the fans are, I’d have understood…

  15. F1 Troll,

    I can’t say that I agree with your assessment that the British GP can’t stand to take a year off- if you look at what nation has the most invested in F1 in most all categories, it is Britain by a long shot.

    But on that same hand, I do appreciate your enthusiasm and interest in a revived USGP. I agree that the total and complete disrespect for the American market by FOM and CVC is not a good thing for business, and may have indeed contributed to driving some of the car makers out of the sport- for sure it did not help. But on the same hand, I say why didn’t they just get off their chairs and do something about it? It would have only cost them a few million each to keep the race in the first place…money that would have been well-spent, if you ask me.

    But in the whole thing, it still amazes me (and insults me, to a degree) that so many people in the F1 establishment think that the return of Montreal will solve all of the problems in “North America”. For the more than 300 million of us who live south of the Canadian border and north of the Mexican border, there is no substitute for our own race. yes, Montreal is a fantastic event- it should have never gone off the schedule in the first place. But it still is just a start- if anyone doubts me, just ask the MotoGP people about how important racing in the U.S. is to them.

  16. Gman,

    several times while during the weekends I attended USGP, i found A LOT were canadians. they said IT WAS CHEAPER TO GO TO USGP THAN MONTREAL.

    No, not flying either. Driving.

    I met Stoddart once. In ’08. He promised me the USGP would return. lol

    Montreal can’t be the saving grace for F1 in north america. It is too expensive.

    Just go dual-usgp, tie in with canada, and make it a three round north american leg of the schedule. Montreal, USGP, then NYC. Makes logistical sense as well, as it circles out and once the last race is finished in nyc, the teams are right at the border to fly straight back to Europe (for valencia).

    wall street motorsport enthusiasts could bankroll a usgp easily. no doubt. great chance for bank ceo’s to flash their cash, know what i mean?

  17. If a deal were to come to fruition for the French GP where would they hold the race? Surely not Magny-Cours again?! As an ex-pat living in Paris for the last few years I’ve never seriously considered attending a race at Magny-Cours because it seems like such a total pain to get to if you don’t own a car. Although that wasn’t a problem this year obviously!

    It’s about time someone in French motorsport sat down and worked out a viable long-term option for the race at a decent circuit which in some way is a fitting place to hold a race in a country with such a long and rich racing tradition. Periodically there’s been a story in the press about a new track outside Paris or somewhere but it always seems to come to nought.

    Joe – keep up the great work on blog, have really enjoyed your coverage and posts this year.

  18. Joe, five days ago Bernie gave the men in blazers 48 hours to sign. I’ve heard nothing since, have they called his bluff?

  19. Joe:

    I wouldn’t say ‘win-win’ is necessarily Bernie’s kind of deal. I can’t think of a single instance in which he really cared whether the other party could be considered a winner or not (although he makes a token effort to convince them they are). And there is ample anecdotal evidence that he gets his rocks off by leaving the other guy a whimpering wreck.

    However, I think you are right about the direction this one will go. Bernie has as fine a sense of anyone of the political cost to him of letting the British GP disappear and will see giving up a little cash as a reasonable trade-off for getting other things he wants which have been hard to get, such as the 20 races.

  20. F1 Troll

    I don’t know why you think the British GP is at risk only for one year. I would guess that if it was only a one-year issue over being able to afford the required 2010 fee, then BRDC/Silverstone might stretch a point and sign up. But the 7% escalation clause means that the problems of balancing the books would be even worse in later years. So if there isn’t a British GP in 2010, I see no reason to assume that there will be one in 2011.

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