Five Countries That Need F1 Races
Could the F1 schedule see a revamp with Liberty Media’s purchase of the sport? What countries not on the list now could host a race in the future?
One of the most popular topics for sports fans to discuss is the expansion or contraction of competition within a league. For soccer fans in America, all the talk has been about where MLS will expand next. Meanwhile, in football, the questions are around whether the Raiders and Chargers are on the move. These conversations are happening in motorsports too.
Formula One is quite possibly the biggest series globally in motorsport, but also the one with the most fluidity in its schedule. 31 nations have hosted Grands Prix in the long history of F1, ranging from the 94 races held in Italy to just one race (so far) in Morocco and Azerbaijan. Even more individual tracks or circuits have hosted races, with a total of 71 places hosting an event. And in more modern times of racing, it seems without fail that one race either is added or dropped from the F1 schedule each season.
In the last three seasons, these changes have continued. Heading into the 2017 season, the German Grand Prix was dropped from the calendar, while 2018 will see the return of the French Grand Prix. Combine this with the 2016 schedule seeing the return of the European Grand Prix at its new home on the streets of Baku, Azerbaijan, and the F1 calendar is a near constant state of flux.
Not only are races dropping or being added to the calendar each year, but races that are staying on the schedule are moving around frequently too. Date shifts have proved necessary to avoid conflicts, ease the travel schedule for teams, and even accommodate other sporting events.
With so many changes happening each year to the Formula One calendar, many fans in many nations are wondering if there is still a place for them on the schedule. With Liberty Media’s recent purchase of F1, there could be an expansion of the schedule from the roughly standard 20 races per year. Discussions are already underway about a second race in the United States, but what other countries could play host to the world championship?
The FIA and F1 need not look further than some past venues for future homes of the expanded schedule.
Force India F1 and the Indian Grand Prix – a partnership for the future of the sport?
A recent host of Formula One racing, could the Indian Grand Prix make a comeback into the world championship? There are a number of hurdles the race would have to jump to accomplish the task, particularly the tax issues surrounding whether F1 is entertainment or a sport. But if these issues can be resolved, one of the world’s most populous nations would welcome back the series with open arms.
The concept of this race began 1997 with a street circuit in Calcutta. However, the race would never get off the ground until the construction of the Buddh International Circuit outside of New Delhi in 2011. From there, three F1 races would be held at the circuit before the Uttar Pradesh province, where the track is located, wanted to levy taxes on the event, calling it entertainment and not a sport.
This argument surrounding the race in India harkens back to the bitter argument over whether or not auto racing is deemed a sport on a global scale. Despite many facts that have presented the physical and mental strength required to be a racecar driver, many still deride racing as cars that simply go fast. Perhaps this bias is partially influencing officials in this case, or more likely a desire to bring in as much money as possible to the provincial government.
Of course, one of the big proponents for the return of F1 to India could be one of its teams carrying the nation’s flag. The Force India F1 team has seen steady improvement in their performances each year, with Sergio Perez heading into 2017 as a possible contender for race wins. This increase in stature for India’s race team could help lead the world championship back to the subcontinent.
South Korea previously hosted Formula One from 2010 to 2013. But is it time to bring the grand prix back?
One of the short-lived, and more trouble-prone, races in F1 history was the Korean Grand Prix. However, if those issues can be overcome, and cooler heads prevail, then another race in Asia could be a success for a region that is widely considered key to the future of auto racing.
From 2010 to 2013, the Korean Grand Prix ran at the purpose-built Korea International Circuit. Three out of the four races were won by Red Bull Racing with Sebastian Vettel, with the final event going to Scuderia Ferrari and Fernando Alonso. Ultimately, lack of funding is what did in this race, as the high price for hosting a race led to large losses in each of the Grands Prix held. In fact, despite a reduction in the sanctioning fee for the race starting in 2013, the event lost over $20 million in the following two iterations.
The big sticking point for this event has been the fee associated with hosting F1 at the track. With no governmental support for the race, the promoters are responsible for paying a multi-million dollar sum to host the world championship. Without funding, the race cannot be held. Because of this lack of dollars (or Won in this case), many consider the Korea International Circuit a gratuitous waste of money.
While the future of the Korean Grand Prix on the F1 schedule is cloudy at best, the auto industry in South Korea could be key to its revival. Should a Korean manufacturer like Hyundai or Kia get involved in the track itself, or less likely in Formula One, then that cash flow could help bring the world’s top racers back to the Korean peninsula.
While currently the African continent does not host any Formula One races, there is some history of the world championship there. Morocco and South Africa have hosted events for the series, and any future races in Africa will likely run through its southernmost country.
The South African Grand Prix ran as part of the Formula One world championship from 1965 to 1985, with the 1996 and 1981 races not counting towards the title. The race would be suspended from the FIA due to apartheid, and was brought back for 1992 and 1993 once it ended. The final race winner at the Kyalami circuit was Alain Prost.
Today, the Kyalami race course is owned by Porsche South Africa, and likely if F1 were to return to the nation, a new track would need to be constructed. And while the construction of a new Formula One track can be cumbersome and time-consuming, the dividends it could pay for this nation would be large.
As the only continent without a Formula One race, the world championship could set itself apart from other international competitions by racing there. Africa has mostly been left behind by the sports world, as outside of the FIFA World Cup in 2010, there have been no major international sporting events of note. F1 could help turn the tide in this regard, reopening Africa to the racing world, and to the sports world as a whole.
South America has put out many great racers over the years, and perhaps one of Formula One’s greatest drivers came from Argentina. Now, could the home of Juan Manuel Fangio return to the calendar after almost twenty years away?
The Argentine Grand Prix dropped from the F1 calendar in 1999, after running from 1995 to 1998 on a permanent course in Buenos Aires. In fact, all iterations of this race that ran as far back as 1953 ran on this circuit. Since then, there were rumblings of the race returning in 2012 and 2013, only to be just smoke with no fire. If the race were to make a comeback, the big move that would need to be made would be the search for a new home.
The old Buenos Aires facility would likely not meet F1’s standards for a track to race at. However, other options could exist in the country. The city has hosted the Formula E world championship on the streets of the capital for three seasons, and a similar setup could be found for Formula One. The question becomes whether or not the FIA would add another street course to the schedule, as they have hesitated to add more street races in addition to Monaco, Australia, Russia, and Singapore. The last rumored street circuit to be added was the Grand Prix of the Americas on the streets of Weehawken, New Jersey, which has yet to get off the ground.
What also remains to be seen is any geopolitical impacts within the region. Brazil has been experiencing economic and political issues that nearly impacted the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and the running of this year’s Brazilian Grand Prix. Without assurances that the only current South American F1 race will continue, what would the future be of a potential second race there?
Plenty of questions need to be answered before a second race comes to South America.
Perhaps a track that holds the most infamy in F1 is the closest to returning to the sport. Home to the San Marino Grand Prix from 1981 to 2006, could Imola climb out of its dark past and into a future where they help lead the charge among the European world championship races?
Considered the home track for Ferrari, Imola dropped off the F1 calendar over safety concerns, especially after the track experienced a number of high profile deaths in 1994, highlighted by the passing of Ayrton Senna. While the facility worked to make safety improvements in the years following, the track needed major improvements to remain on the schedule.
Since 2006, the track has undergone a number of improvements and was considered as a potential replacement for Monza as the home of the Italian Grand Prix in 2017. Despite having a contract in place to host a race going forward, a deal was reached with the primary home of the Italian GP to continue hosting in the coming year. That certainly does not discount the track’s future prospects, however.
Imola has been known for its throngs of Ferrari fans migrating to the track to root on the red devils. And with Ferrari linked to a potential Alfa Romeo junior team in the future for F1, the track located just 80 kilometers from the home of the reds would be the big attraction the sport may need in the region. Many of the European races have seen sagging attendance and questions about their future, necessitating the need for strong races on the continent with big fan appeal.
Of course, there are many other countries that have hosted F1 races (Portugal, Turkey, and Germany to name a few) that would like to come back to the sport. There are also other countries that have never hosted races that have been linked to the world championship too. The Formula One calendar can only expand by so much, and any additional races will face deep scrutiny and questions from team principals. But at the end of the day, if the owners of F1 want to see more of their product, one can anticipate some new races coming into the fold.
What countries would you like to see Formula One visit that are not on the calendar now? Are there any current races you’d like to see dropped?
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