Frank Williams joined the chorus of approval for last weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix:
It has a good chance of challenging Monaco for being the jewel in the crown of Formula One. That is the most accurate thing to say. They have great weather, a very good track, and the grandstands packed. I think there is a lot of enthusiasm out there.
With decades of experience in F1, Williams knows whereof he speaks. So could it be possible that Singapore might one day squeeze Monaco off the F1 calendar?
Too important to drop?
This may sound like thinking the unthinkable. Just as Ferrari is the iconic F1 team, Monte-Carlo is the iconic F1 circuit. It captures the world’s attention like no other Grand Prix, except those fortunate enough to hold championship-deciding races at the end of a season.
It is a vital link with the sport’s history: it has been on the calendar every year except for a few occasions in the 1950s.
But history alone is not enough to keep a race track on the F1 calendar. The circuit that held the first ever round of the F1 championship – Silverstone – is being dropped in 2010. As far as Bernie Ecclestone is concerned, heritage is bunk compared to the allure of the Almighty Dollar. And there is a powerful economic incentive for him and his CVC backers to drop Monte-Carlo.
Monaco is the only race on the calendar whose organisers – the Automobile Club de Monaco – retain the right to sell advertising hoardings around the track. At every other venue their contract with Ecclestone stipulates that Allsport (which is owned by Ecclestone’s Formula One Group) has the right to sell advertising space around the track over the Grand Prix weekend.
The thought of a few million dollars a year passing him by probably doesn’t sit too well with Ecclestone. So if he can’t persuade Monaco to give up the trackside advertising rights, why not arrange a new street race in an exotic country next to a large body of water? If Europe’s millionaires don’t want to sail their yachts all the way to Singapore they can always drop anchor in Valencia.
I liked the Singapore race but I don’t want one of F1’s classic venues to be squeezed out because of it. Still I can’t help but think, to F1 people, this kind of reasoning might make sense.