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22 August 2006

Hockenheim hits financial trouble.

It was announced last week that 2007 Hockenheim GP was in doubt due to financial difficulties. A spokesman for the world famous “Home of DTM” stated that the track was over 3 Million Euros in debt at the end of the last financial year and would have great difficulty staging the German GP. It was suggested that there was a possibility of a joint venture with Nurburgring, with the German GP swapping annually from venue to venue.


Pressures on the current Grand Prix venues have grown massively over the last decade and like our own Silverstone, many of the original GP circuits have had to modernise to maintain their GP status. The reasons are many. Safety, image, access, global presentation but mainly ofcourse; TV compatablity and this has forced huge sums of money to be invested to keep up with the new purpose built venues.

Staging a modern GP does not come cheap. Around £12M, purely to stage the race, goes into the F1 coffers (50% of which then goes straight to Bernie’s hip pocket!) and this loading makes it almost impossible for the non-subsidised “originals” to compete. Add to this the over loaded GP calendar and you may begin to see how F1 (Bernie) wants to weed out the “historic” tracks to grow the global F1 franchise. Many waiting in the wings are currently building these new venues. Russia, China and India are currently in talks and room has to be made. The marketing opportunities are huge in these countries and the F1 PLC wants a piece of that action.

Previously (and still) threatened have been Imola (two Italian tracks in the calendar makes vulnerable) Spa-Francorchamps (poor weather and ageing infra-structure) and Silverstone (“an English country fete” – Bernie). They have only been saved by a huge uproar from the fans, but rest assured, it can’t last. Hockenheim, even after huge re-design and massively successful past, has to compete with Nurburgring for the german fans. Two German GP’s, the N’Ring masquerading as the “European GP”, attracts Bernie’s attention when cutting slots in the calendar so how long can it last.

It seems a great shame. The historic tracks are much more exciting and interesting than the modern ones (IMHO) and many jobs are at risk. I realise that the calendar can’t continue to grow as it has done, the teams just cannot afford to travel to and run so many races in one year. But surely the history must count for something. I watch the modern GPs, but they really aren’t as interesting as the “historics”. The crowds may be falling at Imola, but surely this is due to the excellent and easily accessible TV coverage. Ticket prices rise to generate the required income…and TV coverage is now free! The only upside of this German situation is the return of the Belgium GP at our own favourite Spa-Francorchamps. It’s return means that F1 really does listen to the Fans, and drivers, so there may still be hope.

Maybe if Bernie stopped scooping millions off the top and allowed the circuits to keep more of the “pot” the required investment could be made…but thats just bad business. After all, it’s not “his” problem.

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