2008 F1 calendar may have 20 races

Australian Grand Prix, Melbourne, Start, 2007, 2aBernie Ecclestone’s goal of having 20 races could be recognised as early as next year.

The F1 calendar is set for more upheaval as the series continues to look to new venues beyond its European heartland.

France is set to lose its race and there are question marks over the American and British rounds. Plus Suzuka and Imola are looking to get back on the calendar.

Races under threat

Three races on this year’s calendar are under threat for next year.

The future of the United States Grand Prix is under debate this weekend. Bernie Ecclestone has made his usual complaints to the press (this year it was about Tony George not promoting the Indianapolis race well enough) while doing deals behind the scenes.

If F1 does return to Indianapolis it could be on a revised circuit as the owners look to bag a Moto GP round. Ecclestone has long held ambitions for a race in Las Vegas – not on the circuit that Champ Car used this year, but using the famous, neon-lit strip. Wherever F1’s future lies, it simply has to have a race in America.

Ecclestone has already written off the prospect of further French Grands Prix at dull Magny-Cours. He mooted the idea of a Grand Prix at Disneyland Paris, which the owners rubbished. The first country to hold a Grand Prix race could be off the calendar for the first time next year.

Silverstone may cling on for the time being. Its contract is up for renewal in 2009, but the Lewis Hamilton effect could yet save the race.

New races for 2008

Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren-Mercedes, Hockenheimring, 2006Two new rounds have been confirmed for 2008 – both street races. The government of Singapore expects to hold a race in September or October, and has suggested it could be a night race.

The FIA did a preliminary evaluation of night running at Indianapolis and pronounced itself very happy with the results. Ecclestone wants the Australian and Malaysian rounds to be run at night as well as Singapore for the benefit of European television audiences.

Valencia has a seven year deal to run the European Grand Prix – one assumes it will be at the opposite end of the calendar to the Spanish Grand Prix, possibly at the end of the ‘European season’.

The owners of the two tracks that share the German round may have to sort out their dispute over the German Grand Prix title. The Hockenheimring refused to share it with the Nurburgring this year, hence this year’s German race being called the European Grand Prix.

Next year the German round will be at Hockenheim and will be called the German Grand Prix again. When it returns to the Nurburgring in 2009 they won’t be able to call it the European Grand Prix, so we could see a return to the preposterous Luxembourg Grand Prix title used from 1997-8.

Will Imola & Suzuka return?

Tiago Monteiro, Spyker, Suzuka, 2006, 2There are two further venues pushing hard for a race, both of which lost their Grands Prix last year.

Honda has put more money into its Suzuka circuit (that held the Japanese Grand Prix from 1987 until last year) and wants a race there in 2008. Fuji only has a deal to host the Japanese round this year – but expect its contract extension to be a formality. Suzuka might still hold a resurrected ‘Pacific Grand Prix’ earlier in the year, as there was at the TI Aida track from 1994-5.

And Imola – now with Hermann Tilke-designed modifications – wants its San Marino Grand Prix slot back too. Eighteen races looks like being the minimum.

Possible 2008 F1 calendar

1. Australian Grand Prix, Albert Park Melbourne
2. Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang International Circuit
3. Bahrain Grand Prix, Bahrain International Circuit
?. Pacific Grand Prix, Suzuka*
?. San Marino Grand Prix, Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari*

4. Spanish Grand Prix, Circuit de Catalunya, Barcelona
5. Monaco Grand Prix, Monte-Carlo (Street)
6. Canadian Grand Prix, Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal
7. United States Grand Prix, Indianapolis Motor Speedway*
8. British Grand Prix, Silverstone
9. German Grand Prix, Hockenheimring
10. Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring
11. Turkish Grand Prix, Istanbul Park
12. Italian Grand Prix, Autodromo Nazionale Monza
13. Belgian Grand Prix, Spa-Francorchamps
14. European Grand Prix, Valencia (Street)
15. Chinese Grand Prix, Shanghai International Circuit
16. Japanese Grand Prix, Fuji Speedway*
17. Singaporean Grand Prix, Singapore (Street)
18. Brazilian Grand Prix, Aut????dromo Jos??? Carlos Pace, Interlagos

Fernando Alonso, McLaren-Mercedes, Barcelona, 2007*currently no 2008 contract

Even if Suzuka and Imola don’t return to the series, a 20 race calendar still looks very likely in the near future. Abu Dhabi will join the calendar in 2009, possibly joined by India. And South Korea has a contract for a race from 2010.

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