Possible major upheaval of F1 sites in the cards?

F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali recently gave several interviews regarding the future of F1 circuits and was quick to say that the series’ priorities are A) money and B) global expansion.

Tradition and existing fan support don’t seem to be part of the equation.

With a tactic similar to American sports franchises, using offshoring threats to broker more lucrative deals, Domenicali warned longtime sports venues. In a recent interview with Martin Brundle he said “There are promoters who have expiring deals, and probably some of the current grand prix will no longer be part of the schedule.”

In a separate interview he added: “It’s no longer enough to have a pedigree. You also have to show that you are up to date.”

How serious is Domenicali? Consider this: four sites (France, Belgium, Mexico and Monaco), all of which have long F1 histories and are huge fan favourites, have no contracts beyond 2022.

While the aura surrounding Monaco’s iconic race might be too strong for even series owner Liberty Media to consider giving up, the same may not be true for Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit. Spa is considered both one of the most historic sites and one of the best racing circuits on the calendar, but it looks like F1 is looking for more.

After a rainy 2021 event that produced a ‘race’ that involved drivers spinning behind the safety car for three laps, F1 and the facility faced the ire of those who attended. Fans waited for hours in cold, wet weather (many sat on the grass) and faced parking lots made up of fields that had turned to mud, leading to stuck cars and hour-long traffic jams.

While you might expect those who survived the experience to receive refunds for their ticket purchases, this was not done by the owners of establishments who had already suffered losses due to the cancellation of the 2020 event due to the pandemic. Instead, fans were simply offered the chance to enter a raffle for 1 of 170 tickets for the 2022 race, take part in a non-race ‘special event’ and a free year of F1 TV. .

The Liberty series owner has to deal with that kind of headache – not when next year is expected to bring the return of racing to China, the resumption of the Qatar GP after a World Cup sabbatical and a very possible third race in the United States, likely to be held in Las Vegas. If Las Vegas happens in 2023, it would require eliminating at least one race in progress to avoid exceeding the current limit of 24 set by the Concorde agreement.

Among the events without a contract for the next year, all was calm on the Mexican front. While Mexico doesn’t have a dictator willing to throw millions of dollars Liberty’s way, it does have the location advantage, part of a now-traditional fall trip to the Americas, located between Texas and Brazil.

But the lack of discussion may not be a good sign for the country.

Liberty knows the best way to get more money from a place is to threaten to leave (just ask the city of Miami), but while some lament what they think is a probable departure from Spait would seem more likely that this is just a negotiation tactic.

France is still seen as an elimination target even more, but French President Emmanuel Macron has voiced his support for keeping the sport in his country. France has a history dating back to the early days of the sport and is the home country of F1 constructor Alpine as well as two drivers (not that similar factors could have saved the now defunct Germany).

If France and Belgium were to find enough euros to satisfy Liberty, it could very well be Mexico who is on the chopping block for next year. If that happens, expect the same game to be played two years from now with Silverstone, Monza, Japan and Brazil.

Bargain Notes:

In 2016, then-F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone expressed his contempt for expansion into the United States, perhaps due to a less-than-stellar personal view of North America in general. But the sale to the American company Liberty, followed by the success of the Netflix series Drive to survive brought enormous growth to the sport in America.

The latest barometer of success is TV viewership from last Sunday’s season opener in Bahrain, showing 1.5 million viewers were tuned in by the end of the run.

ESPN is looking to extend his contract, which currently runs until the end of the current season. However, the increase in viewership (averaging just 671,000 in 2019, before their previous three-year contract), could bring other players into the competition, including the former rights holder NBC or even Netflix. themselves.

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