With so much attention focused on which teams might be racing in F1 in 2010, less is being said about what circuits might feature on the world championship calendar.
Many circuits are facing pressure from falling audiences and Bernie Ecclestone’s unrelentingly high prices. There is significant doubt over the planned races at Hockenheim, Fuji and Donington Park.
With this in mind, which tracks will still be on the 2010 F1 calendar, which new or returning events could arrive – and which ones will be squeezed out?
British Grand Prix
Significant doubt surrounds the British Grand Prix’s proposed move from Silverstone to Donington Park.
Construction work at the circuit has caused races to be cancelled or postponed, track owner Tom Wheatcroft is demanding millions in unpaid rent from race organiser Simon Gillett, and few details have emerged concerning how the circuit upgrade and race contract will be paid for.
Ecclestone has emphatically denied that, if Donington isn’t ready, F1 could return to Silverstone in 2010. But as well as suggesting the British Grand Prix could skip a year in 2010 while Donington gets ready, he has also indicated that a return to Silverstone could happen after all.
Silverstone, meanwhile, has bagged Donington’s Moto GP race for 2010 and is planning revisions to its layout to accommodate the bikes. But rumours suggest other F1-friendly developments are in the pipeline too. Among the most radical suggestions are that Ecclestone could buy the circuit.
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German Grand Prix
The German Grand Prix is supposed to rotate between the Nurburgring (this year’s host) and the Hockenheimring (next year’s).
However in December the Badem-W?â??rttemberg government said it would no longer provide financial support to the race which was believed to have lost ?óÔÇÜ?¼6m (?é?ú5.1m/$8.6m) last year.
The two circuits had begun sharing the event since the retirement of Michael Schumacher has seen a significant fall in race attendance – despite five of F1’s 20 drivers having German nationality. The Nurburgring round receives government support estimated at $15m per year in 2007.
Japanese Grand Prix
The Japanese Grand Prix is also operating a rotation system, between Honda-owned Suzuka and Toyota-owned Fuji.
However earlier this week it emerged that the organisers of the Fuji race are considering dropping the event after just two runnings at the modernised venue in 2007 and 2008.
South Korean Grand Prix
The South Korean Grand Prix is expected to be the major new addition to the 2010 F1 calendar.
The 5.4km Jeonnam Circuit was designed by (prepare to feign surprise) Hermann Tilke and is located in the south-west of the country.
The addition of a new round to the calendar doesn’t necessarily mean another event has to be dropped. This year’s calendar was cut from 18 to 17 rounds following the last-minute dropping of the French Grand Prix.
Recently dropped races
Several races that have fallen off the calendar in recent years have expressed a desire to return.
France’s Prime Minister Francois Fillon has stated a desire to return the French Grand Prix to the F1 calendar in 2010. It is absent from the world championship calendar this year for the first time since its cancellation in 1955 following the Le Mans disaster.
However there are several obstacles hindering the hopes for a race at the proposed Flins-Mureux track (which, unusually, has not been designed by Hermann Tilke). The President of the Conseil General of the Yvelines departement Pierre Bedier, a key supporter of the race, has had to stand down from his position after losing an appeal against a corruption charge. And residents near the proposed site of the Flins track have raised many objections.
Similarly the promoters of the Canadian Grand Prix, which was dropped at the end of 2008, have had a series of meetings with Bernie Ecclestone aimed at returning the circuit to the F1 calendar.
However there has been little talk of a potential return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the United States Grand Prix. There have recently been rumours that speedway boss Tony George, who arranged the 2000-2007 races with Bernie Ecclestone, was to be dismissed from the circuit, but this failed to materialise. He is likely preoccupied with the affect of the recession on his circuit and the Indy Racing League.
The 2011 and 2012 F1 calendars
The Indian Grand Prix, which was originally planned for 2010, is now aiming to be on the F1 calendar in 2011. Ecclestone told the BBC in January:
Of course we will deliver… otherwise we wouldn’t have entered into an agreement. [India is] a large, large country with a big population and it’s good for the sponsors, car manufacturers and everyone involved in Formula 1.
A Rome Grand Prix looks increasingly likely for 2012. The circuit layout has been planned (video lap here) and Ecclestone is believed to have registered the name ‘Formula 1 Gran Premio di Roma’. This would likely scupper any lingering hope Imola has of returning to the calendar, despite getting a facelift since being dropped by F1 in 2006.
The Hungarian national government, which puts around $14m per year into the Hungarian Grand Prix, is considering whether to continue that level of support after 2011.
The Turkish Grand Prix’s contract is up for renewal after the 2011 race. Many circuits are suffering poor attendance at F1 races at the moment but the Istanbul Park circuit’s shortage seemed particularly acute last year. Keep an eye on those stands this weekend.
Which events do you think will fall off the calendar in 2010? Will we continue to see European races fall by the wayside? And will the South Korean race happen? Leave a comment below.