2007 calendar takes shape

Jacques Villeneuve, BMW, Bahrain, 2006The 2006 calendar saw only two major changes – Bahrain promoted to the first round of the season ahead of Melbourne, and Spa dropped for one year.

But Bernie Ecclestone looks to have a few more changes up his sleeve for 2007. Let’s take a look at them.

Juan-Pablo Montoya, Williams-BMW, Hockenheimring, 2003The promoters of the two German races at the Hockenheimring and Nurburgring (the latter as the ‘European Grand Prix’) are set to announce that they will share the German Grand Prix from next year.

That frees up one slot on the calendar.

Fernando Alonso, Renault, Spa-Francorchamps, 2005The Belgian Grand Prix is set to return, which is great news for all including the fans who ranked it the best track in F1 in last year’s FIA survey. Modifications to the Spa-Francorchamps circuit will include an extended run towards the La Source hairpin, making the longest track in F1 longer still.

Although Mexico has been lobbying hard for the return of Formula One – last seen in the South American country in 1992 – a 19th round may well be held in a country that already holds a Grand Prix.

Prime contenders are Spain, where the popularity of Fernando Alonso could easily bring in crowds for a second roun, and Japan, which has Honda, Toyota and Super Aguri to share.

Kimi Raikkonen, McLaren-Mercedes, Suzuka, 2005Valencia has been rumoured to be looking to hold the European or a ‘Meditteranean’ Grand Prix. The Japanese Grand Prix will move from Honda’s renowned Suzuka to Toyota’s less acclaimed Fuji Speedway. But Suzuka could still hold a round as the revived Pacific Grand Prix, which had two races at the dismal TI Aida track from 1994-5.

Michael Schumacher & Fernando Alonso, Imola, 2006Italy, too, could lose its second Grand Prix. Imola is fighting to save its place on the calendar with a raft of Hermann Tilke (who else?)-designed changes to increase the paddock size and promote overtaking by removing the Variante Bassa chicane before the pits.

The Monte-Carlo circuit is expected to feature revisions to the Tabac corner next year.

Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne, 2005Although Melbourne race promoter Ron Walker has been lobbying Bernie Ecclestone hard, Bahrain looks likely to keep the number one slot. More people watched the Bahrain Grand Prix season opener this year than Melbourne in 2005, because the Bahrain race start time is more favourable for European audiences.

Update: As Murray Walker said, “I don’t make mistakes – I make predictions that immediately turn out to be wrong.” Australia has been confirmed as the 2007 season opener. I think that’s good news – it’s a much more glamorous venue for the start to the season than the dusty desert.

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