Germany has already lost one of its two alternating F1 venues, as the loss making Nurbrugring finally gave up the ghost in the face of Ecclestone’s exorbitant race hosting fees. Hockenheim refused to step in and host the 2015 German GP race claiming they could only afford to host the event every two years.
Circuit boss, Georg Seiler was in Barcelona for the 2016 Spanish GP attempting to whip up support for the German GP. “We have a contract for 2016 and 2018,” Seiler explained to DPA, though there had been talk of Hockenheim hosting the 2017 German race at a much reduced hosting fee.
Further, Seller was on record last year making it clear, “We need to have filled grandstands next year so that Formula 1 has a future. We have to say to fans: come to the race next year and secure Formula 1 for Hockenheim”.
TJ13 sources at the circuit say attendance was poor on Friday and Saturday and TV viewers could see the vast Rolex-daubed green sheets used to cover entire stands and thousands of seats.
Race day attendance though appeared much better with many of the previously closed off grandstands open and at least partially filled.
The final numbers from Hockenheim for race day attendance will be crucial for two reasons.
Firstly, if race day exceeded 75,000 in attendance, then Hockenheim may agree to host the 2017 German GP too. 60,000 tickets is believed to be break even given the current fees paid to host the race.
However, numbers similar to last time around in 2014 – which saw just 52,000 arrive for race day – will put pressure on Seller to reconsider any contract extension following F1’s next visit to the Rhineland in 2018.
Any contract extension will see Ecclestone hike the hosting fee and therefore either more fans are required to attend or the price of tickets must rise.
Sebastian Vettel made his position on ticket prices clear this weekend. “In my point of view they should be a lot cheaper, a lot more affordable, so a lot more people would be tempted to spontaneously say ‘Yes, let’s go, we want to be part of it and let’s not miss it’. So I think there are a couple of reasons.”
This is a strategy adopted by Silverstone, who have generated weekend crowds of around 350,000 for the last two British Grand Prix. Yet the Ecclestone hosting fee escalator applied each year, sees Silverstone 12 months behind in its hosting fee payments, and more fans will be required in 2017 to keep the game alive.
For now we await the Hockenheim attendance numbers and hope that another traditional race is not lost from the calendar at the expanse of ‘new Europe’ in Azerbaijan.