A shrinking race calendar for 2013?

I wrote this last week (15/9/2012) , but am re-publishing today after provisional calendar revealed and other news)

I was contemplating on the way back from Spa Francorchamps, when the 2013 race calendar would be published. Then something I heard in Monza made me even more curious…but we’ll return to that later.

In 2011, the draft calendar for this year was published June 3rd. It included Istanbul as part of a 21 race schedule. This race was dropped in the final version confirmed in September leaving the 20 races we have now.

However, this year, we’ve not yet heard a whisper regarding a 2013 schedule and the FIA is due to meet next at the end of September. So it’s unlikely they’ll be any news before then.

We have heard confusing messages from Mr Ecclestone throughout this year over the future of a number of circuits. New Jersey is believed to come on stream in 2013, but Bernie has on more than one occasion when questioned as to the certainty of this responded in a variety of negative ways. That’s a count of +1 or +0.

(Since writing we heard yesterday that New Jersey is in jeopardy from the horses mouth himself – Mr. Bernie Ecclestone).

Barcelona and Valencia have stated categorically they cannot afford a race each every year and they wish to enter an arrangement similar to Germany, where they alternate the national event year on year. That’s -1.

Speaking of Germany, the Nurburgring is nearly 300m Euro’s in debt to the regional government and it has been reported the F1 race promoters have been served notice on their tenancy. The promoters have said there is no way they can hold the race and Hockenheim has stated they will only do so every other year. Possibly -1.

Singapore is out of contract this year, and following FOM’s assertion that a new deal had been done for 2013 onwards, the promoters immediately rebutted this saying no agreement has been reached. -1 or +0.

(Since writing Singapore Sovereign Fund bought a share in FOM so I guess that will smooth the deal)

France was a done deal according to the F1 commercial rights owner, then the French elected a new government and this according to them is now in no way a priority for public money in such times of austerity. (Update: Today 26/9/12 French government confirms no public money for a rench GP)

Korea is paid for by the regional local authority and they lose around $50m a year on the race, which no one appears to attend. A deal was done with China last year to reduce the fee paid and Korea is clearly angling for a similar arrangement.

Russia is fairly certain to come on stream, but only in 2014 and other possibilities mentioned by Mr. Ecclestone – Mexico, Argentina and South Africa are all a couple of years away at best.

(Update: Today 26/9/12 – Australia agitating for a fee reduction)

In Monza last week, I raised the matter of next year’s calendar with someone I know who is middle management for a top 5 team. They told me following the PR disaster that was Bahrain 2012; certain sponsors have threatened to withdraw should they race there in 2013. He intimated this would probably mean the sponsors would insist the car run without their logo during the Bahrain weekend next year should the team be forced to attend under the Concorde agreement.

This situation with sponsors is apparently not exclusive to one team and the ‘business as usual’ attitude F1 portrayed in Bahrain this year would be clearly fatuous if attempted again in 2013 – particularly were a number of cars be forced to run naked without the sponsor logo’s. Surely -1

This neatly brings us to the Concorde agreement. Not only do we have unprecedented uncertainty from the circuits in terms of their commitment for 2013, but the teams too are not yet signed up to the 8 year deal the commercial rights holder is demanding.

So, we are facing a scenario not seen for many years; a scenario Concorde was supposed to prevent; a scenario of high uncertainty as to which circuits will be in play in 2013 and as yet who will actually be participating.

No one doubts F1 will go racing next year, but a number of well informed individuals believe that 20 races per season will be the high watermark for now and unless some real sweetheart deals are done, and that 2013 will could well have fewer races than 2012.

Watch this space.

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