With the return of the French Grand Prix in 2018 after a 10 year break, and with Liberty Media looking to expand the F1 calendar to up to 25 races a year, we take a look at where else might make a return to the F1 calendar in the near future.
Turkey – Istanbul
Chase Carey met with the Turkish President earlier this year to discuss the possible return of F1 to Istanbul. The city hosted races between 2005 and 2011. Mostly popular with drivers, it was positively compared to Spa, but the track did not age well. The surface became dangerously bumpy in later years, causing safety concerns. This undoubtedly prompted the circuit to be dropped.
To see the 3.314 mile circuit return to the calendar, the track would need to be resurfaced. However, we’re sure the Turkish government would love to see the return of such a prestigious, high profile, international sporting event after the political upheaval the country experienced last year.
There’s still the issue of very low crowd numbers. The last time F1 raced at the 125,000 capacity Istanbul Park, there were only 25,000 spectators. Unfortunately there is just not (yet) the same tradition of motorsport in Turkey as in other parts of the world. Liberty Media could assist here. Cheaper tickets, demonstration runs in the centre of Istanbul and other profile enhancing events would boost visitor numbers. Donuts on the demo run please!
If Turkey can afford it, it will probably happen.
Argentina – Buenos Aires
FIA Formula One Race Director Charlie Whiting visited the 2.614 mile Autodromo Juan y Oscar Galvez just outside Buenos Aires last month on an informal visit to inspect the track with a view to the circuit returning to F1. Buenos Aires last played host to an F1 race in 1998.
Charlie provided constructive, positive comments to the circuit operator after his inspection, raising hopes the circuit will be granted the FIA Grade 1 Circuit Licence required to hold a Grand Prix. It is anticipated that a race in Argentina would be in addition to the races currently held in Mexico and Brazil.
A GP weekend in the party city of Buenos Aires would be amazing!
Portugal – Algarve International Circuit
Not Estoril, but the 2.915 miles Algarve International Circuit. The 100,000 capacity circuit is more commonly known as Portamiao. The undulating circuit is compared to Spa and the Nurburgring – which can only be a good thing. In fact, it’s so good the design of the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona was partially inspired by Portamiao.
The circuit currently holds a Grade 2 Circuit Licence, so some improvement works would be required. Whether we actually get to see a race there also depends on an agreement with the circuit promotor, which, as ever, will come down to money.
Copenhagen – Denmark
Copenhagen has proposed itself as host of a Danish Grand Prix, to be held from 2020 onwards. A 4.5 kilometre city circuit is at the heart of the plans. Both the city and national authorities have backed the idea. The proposed track consists of a slower technical section with several 90 degree corners and a faster section of long straights. Former Danish F1 driver Jan Magnussen was involved in the planning process and said “it could be similar (in layout) to the Grand Prix in Baku”. Hermann Tilke was in the city in March, and has approved the plans in principle. The project organisers are currently engaged in developing funding for the project.
Where else is possible?
Istanbul and Buenos Aires will probably see a Formula One race from 2019. New York, Las Vegas, Long Beach and Miami are also contenders.
It is no surprise there are so many American proposals to host a race considering the size and almost untapped nature of the market to Formula 1 and Liberty Media originating from the US. Additional US races would almost certainly be held at temporary street circuits. While the financial benefit of a street circuit race in a city is easy to see, the racing spectacle can be dampened due to the increased difficultly of overtaking.
There is also the time difference issue. The normal early / mid-afternoon qualifying and race times do not work well for the rest of the world in the US. This is particularly the case on the West coast. This reduces TV audiences and revenues to F1, as sponsors will pay less for their advertising to be seen by fewer fans. Which locations are successful in gaining approval of their bid will (again) come down to how much money promotors are prepared to pay to host a race, or how much less money Liberty will take to grow the F1 brand in a particular location..
It seems unlikely that we will see a return to the Buddh International Grand Prix circuit near Delhi after the Indian authorities classified Formula One as entertainment rather than a sport, and in doing so, hugely increasing the tax liability should F1 return.
Similarly, a proposal for a race at a circuit near Hanoi in Vietnam was turned down earlier this year. Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone commented in April that one of his last significant acts in his former job was to reject a 10 year deal for Vietnam to host a Grand Prix weekend. The reason given for denying the right to host a GP was a “lack of motor racing history” and several other races in that part of the world. Whilst both points are true, Liberty F1 commented around the same time about the race in Baku being very profitable, but providing little in the way brand growth. The same could be said about Vietnam. The relatively poor population has little money to buy sponsor products. Compounded by little local motorsport interest, the benefit of hosting a race there seems limited.
All those proposals show that it is an exciting time for F1 at the moment, and that we have news to look forward to when the additional dates on the calendar are announced next year!