BY KIERAN RUDRUM (@Kieran_Rudrum) AND JAKE DEWBERY (@JakeDewbery)
Formula One is in crisis; excitement and audiences are down, financial problems are hitting the small teams, the race calendar is threatening to let go of fan favourite circuits and it is under threat from a new series (Formula E) which could eat into support and become more relevant to manufacturers and audiences. We will be posting a series of blogs in the run up to the new season to discuss the issues bugging the sport currently in detail, and suggesting how to create a solution to these problems. In our final instalment we shall be discussing the issues towards the current race calendar.
Both of us have our own dream calendars, which you can see in the table below. However, the issues towards the calendar revolve round more than what we would have in an ideal world. With costs of hosting venues going through the roof; and some iconic, popular Grand Prix such as the French and German GP’s have been cancelled in recent years, while circuits funded by governments with questionable human right records such as Bahrain and Azerbaijan continue to soak up more of the calendar.
|–||Kieran’s Dream Calendar||Jake’s Dream Calendar|
|1||Australian Grand Prix-Melborne||Australian Grand Prix-Melborne|
|2||Malaysian Grand Prix||Pacific Grand Prix-Bathurst|
|3||Chinese Grand Prix||Malaysian Grand Prix|
|4||Spanish Grand Prix-Jerez||European Grand Prix-Donington|
|5||Dutch Grand Prix-Zandvoort||Monaco Grand Prix|
|6||Monaco Grand Prix||Canadian Grand Prix|
|7||Canadian Grand Prix-Montreal||USA Grand Prix East-Watkins Glen|
|8||USA Grand Prix-Detroit/Watkins Glen Alternate||USA Grand Prix West-Laguna Seca|
|9||French Grand Prix-Le Man Bugatti||San Marino Grand Prix-Imola|
|10||Turkish Grand Prix||British Grand Prix-Silverstone|
|11||British Grand Prix-Silverstone||Austrian Grand Prix|
|12||German Grand Prix-Nurburgring||German Grand Prix-Nurburgring|
|13||Hungarian Grand Prix||Belgian Grand Prix-Spa|
|14||Belgian Grand Prix-Spa||Italian Grand Prix-Monza|
|15||Italian Grand Prix-Monza/Imola Alternate||English Grand Prix-Brands Hatch|
|16||Singapore Grand Prix||French Grand Prix-Le Man Bugatti|
|17||Japanese Grand Prix-Suzuka||Singapore Grand Prix|
|18||South African Grand Prix-Kyalami||Japanese Grand Prix-Suzuka|
|19||Mexican Grand Prix-old layout||Oceania Grand Prix-Adelaide|
|20||Brazilian Grand Prix||Brazilian Grand Prix|
KR: We have already lost the French Grand Prix, a heartland of Formula One with widespread support and a top driver in Romain Grosjean and a top team in Renault. Last year, we lost the German Grand Prix, as the Nurburgring could not afford to host the event. This meant that three drivers and the world champion constructers did not get a home race. There are also rising rumours that the Italian Grand Prix, home to Ferrari and the adoring tifosi; and the Brazilian Grand Prix, home to Massa and Nasr, may also lose it Grand Prix privileges due to lack of funding compared to new tracks whose governments are funding hundreds of millions to host. This is simply unacceptable. In this case Bernie Ecclestone and his team must realise that there is a line between business and destroying the heartland of a sport.
I propose that he must guarantee that the spiritual and most popular Grand Prix (Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Monaco and Australia) a place on the calendar to maintain the heart of the sport, and to satisfy the fans with the Grand Prix they all look forward to and attend. I also believe that every established driver (who therefore should have a sizable fanbase) should be able to be guaranteed a home Grand Prix to satisfy demand. It was utterly unacceptable that Vettel and Rosberg did not have a home Grand Prix last year and unacceptable for the German fans. Tickets for all Formula One events should also be cheaper, the price for an average race day ticket for European events is quite frankly disgraceful for the faithful fans of the sport and must be lowered. This can only be done if Ecclestone worries less about maximising profits and more about taking care of the sport and its fans.
JD: I agree completely with the excessive costs and the race calendar itself. Regarding the distinguished locations on the F1 calendar I would propose a rule that at least eight ‘classic’ races are on the calendar every year. This allows plenty of scope for new tracks to develop whilst ensuring that the F1 fans are kept satisfied in the knowledge that their favourite races are protected. Again the initial protected races should be Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Monaco and Australia. At these locations there could be track rotation (e.g. Hockenheim and Nurburgring at Germany) with overall rotation between these ten locations to fill the eight slots. Every 5 years one or two locations could be added to this list, such as Malaysia, and the classic race limit may need to be raised to accommodate this development.
Perhaps one reason why most new tracks fail to become fan favourites is because they’re all very similar, as you’d expect when only one man is designing every track. There are exceptions to this, some of Hermann Tilke’s early tracks such as Sepang and Istanbul are very good circuits, but one only needs to look at the boring and very similar discarded tracks like Valencia, Korea and India to show the problems that having only one mind brings. Despite the apparent shortcomings of Hermann Tilke his circuits are often ruined by the copious amounts of run-off area that the FIA has deemed necessary.
No one can argue that this and other developments have made F1 very safe, and whilst we don’t seek fatal injuries maybe we’ve sanitised the sport a bit too much. The reason we love the classic tracks like Monaco and Spa is because one mistake and a driver gets punished, and therefore there is less margin for error from the drivers. Any new entries in the calendar should have less run-off to make Formula One circuits as a rule, more unforgiving towards driver mistakes.
KR: This is something which needs to happen. When selecting new Grand Prix, the sport needs to be very careful about who gets to host it. The human rights record of Bahrain is lamentable to the point they should have lost a Grand Prix on a permanent basis back in 2011 until they had softened their stance. Back in 1986, Formula One decided to boycott the South African Grand Prix as a appeal against apartheid. It did not return until 1992, after the racist policy had been cancelled. I do not understand why Formula One does not take the same stance against countries such as Bahrain, Russia and now Azerbaijan.
A sport with such complex inner-politics should understand that taking a moral stance against these governments by removing their Grand Prix’s can be a powerful weapon against the abuse of human rights, as public refusals reflect badly on these countries and hurt their economies. Furthermore, supporting such countries reflects very poorly on the sport. Knowing that the race calendar and the circuits are such an important part of the sport surely this should be a part of the sport which goes beyond a “sold to the highest bidder” mentality, and should be chosen on the prospect of the spectacle, and should consider how going to certain territories will reflect on the sport.
We have concluded that the current way of choosing the calendar is and designing new circuits is firstly too profit orientated and not taking into account the fans, secondly, that the design of the new tracks is both too narrow-minded and too safe, and that thirdly that it did not take into account the political ramifications of hosting Grand Prix in certain countries. We believe that all these must be dealt with through safeguarding iconic races, guaranteeing their place on the calendar, to boycott races in countries with appalling human rights records and to open up the procedure of designing new racetracks to more architects other than Hermann Tilke.