A new draft calendar for 2014 has been kicking around in FIA circles, in preparation for the next World Motorsport Council, which will be held in Dubrovnik on September 27. There is a month before that and much will happen in that time, although it seems that Bernie Ecclestone is getting the house in order now just in case things get complicated.
A new deal has been struck in recent days with Japan to keep the race until 2018. This is no great surprise given Honda’s plans to return to F1. The Suzuka circuit is owned by Honda. Next week the Mexicans will be at Monza in force and a deal is going down for 2015 and beyond. Mr E would love to have a new high-paying Spanish-language race in 2014, but the Mexicans have too much to do to make that happen in the time available.
The word is that the Korean GP will be going ahead in 2014 as well, despite stories to the contrary. There are still question marks over Germany but the Austrian GP has been lined up as a possible replacement. It will probably be a case of one or the other, because fitting in both will be hard. There will be a new race in Russia and India, as we know, will drop out of the World Championship until the tax authorities remove their heads from the sand.
This leaves the question of New Jersey.
At nearly 83 years of age, Bernie has few ambitions remaining. One of them is to get Formula 1 races into the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas. This is his goal and while he may say things to gullible journalists in his thrall, what he says and the reality of the situation may not correspond 100 percent. This is because he is using the media as a lever in his negotiations. Thus, if he says New Jersey is off, it does not mean it is off. It means that perhaps they have to pay some money and are dragging their feet. Or perhaps it means that they have some problems with local authorities and he is trying to help to solve them. One never really knows. What we do know is that the real estate market on the Jersey side of the Hudson is picking up, although the market has shifted away from sales to rentals because mortgages are harder to find these days. This means that it takes real estate developers longer to make money and so they are probably less willing to spend what they have than they would be if the properties were flying off their books. However, they know that a race will increase the value of their properties and so want the event to go ahead but would rather pay for it later.
The word from New Jersey is that the race is going ahead in 2014 and that the work is going on to relocate utilities and prepare the roadways and sidewalks. The organisers are doing deals with vendors and applying for permits so obviously things are moving. And, never forget, when Bernie really wants something he is willing to make some compromises… but he will play hard ball before he does that.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.