Bernie Ecclestone would like the 2013 Formula One calendar to stay fixed at 20 races. For now, anyway.
There will be a few significant changes as the Grand Prix of America (Port Imperial, New Jersey street circuit) hits the itinerary–supposedly the week following the Canadian Grand Prix–and we begin to see more alternating venues hosting grands prix year in and year out. A sign of the global economic downturn? You bet.
While the 2013 calendar is anything but set in stone, Ecclestone has not guaranteed that the second grand prix to be held in the United States (New Jersey) will take place. Bernie’s response? ”It is supposed to be.” With the backdrop set to be the Manhattan skyline, there are many hurdles in the way of Port Imperial hosting a grand prix. Unlike Austin, Texas, there will be no purpose built facility in the middle of the vast, relatively uninhabited scrubland. A street race requires countless planning approvals, public meetings, funding, and promotion, especially when the venue is as close to Manhattan as this one. Expect opposition, and a lot of it. Despite its appeal to Bernie Ecclestone, this grand prix has a long way to go before it can be confirmed on the 2013 Formula One calendar.
Valencia and Barcelona will begin to alternate next year beginning with the Circuit de Catalunya, as well as the German Grand Prix continuing to alternate between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring. Unfortunately, however, the Nurburgring’s financial troubles may sideline it from the calendar next year unless it can sort these problems out rather quickly. Ecclestone has insisted that despite whether the Nurburgring hosts the German Grand Prix, the German Grand Prix must remain on the calendar (at Hockenheim).
It seems as though the Formula One calendar is more fluid and open to interpretation than the regulations these days. With several grands prix showing poor attendance figures–notably Valencia, Shanghai, Yeongam, Melbourne–the debate over which venue is best suited to host a grand prix changes constantly, and there is much more than fan attendance that goes into whether a grand prix is hosted (a side note: Shanghai and Melbourne have been extended to at least 2015 and 2017, respectively). Contracts are up for the Japanese and Singapore Grands Prix in 2012. But it would be very surprising if both contracts were not renewed as the Singapore Grand Prix has proven wildly popular with fans and drivers, and Japan is a heavy favorite among drivers. Sometimes, however, a driver-oriented circuit cannot save it from being scratched from the calendar: cue, Istanbul.
There are still many countries and circuits vying for the opportunity to slot into the Formula One calendar if (more like when) the 2013 calendar changes. The French Grand Prix has been discussed as a possible candidate to alternate with the German Grand Prix, if the schedule cannot grow so much to accomodate both. Although many would like to see a French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, its remoteness would probably cause the FIA to look at Paul Ricard, which, of course, Bernie Ecclestone owns. There are mutterings of Argentina and Mexico returning to the calendar, which both hosted grands prix for many years. With the popularity of Mexican driver, Sergio Perez, on the rise and visible Mexican sponsors, it would not be surprising at all if Mexico became an alternating venue (Grand Prix of “America”) in the near future. With the Winter Olympics heading to Sochi, Russia in 2014, there is already a circuit design in the works to be built around the Olympic Park.
Of course, do not count out the recent rumors of a London street circuit in the future. If Formula One can race in Weehawken, New Jersey across the river from Manhattan, why couldn’t it run through the streets of London under the watchful eye of Big Ben, theoretically? (somebody please shoot down both ideas!)
The 2013 Formula One calendar will be a look at the sport’s future. Hopefully, it will remain a sport where the demand for venues consistently outpaces supply. If this happens then maybe, just maybe, we will see more historic circuits upping their game (and FIA homologation) to draw the attention of Formula One.