When Formula 1 arrived at the Circuit de Catalunya in 1991, the atmosphere on race day was similar to a test. Fans were scarce and there were no Spanish drivers of note to excite the audience.The arrival of Fernando Alonso changed the ‘bike mad nation’ and sowed the seeds for a Spanish F1 fan base.
Following his move to Ferrari, the following winter test in Jerez saw nigh on 40,000 spectators each day turn up to see their compatriot drive round and round, just shaking down the car.
Alonso is the father of F1 in Spain
Yet the recent future of the race in the Barcelona suburb of Montmelo was in doubt for a variety of reasons until a new contract was signed November 2021. The promotors now have a deal until 2026 but have fallen under the scrutiny of the F1 commercial rights holders after the fans experienced utter chaos this weekend.
Supporters told Ted Kravitz live on Sky Sports that trains had been repeatedly cancelled from the city and that they were “crushed” due to the number of people allowed on each service. Further, people travelling by car suffered queues of several hours to get to the circuit and the turnstiles were undermanned creating huge lines of people attempting to gain entry into the circuit.
F1 have issued a statement in recognition of these difficulties and instruct the promoters of the Spanish GP to get their act together.
“The huge number of fans at this event both inside and outside the circuit created the traffic issues for the fans.
“We have made the promoter aware that this is not acceptable and must be fixed for next season.”
Yet the real picture was worse than mere travel difficulties as some fans told Ted Kravitz they were unable to even access water from the concession stands whilst suffering the scorching heat.
As the demand for tickets grew, the promoters facilitated extra grandstands but clearly failed to provide the appropriate facilities required for such a crowd.
The record attendance is a vindication of the promoters new deal but they have been warned by F1 in a statement to get their act together.
The popularity of this years Spanish GP is testament to the new found interest in Formula 1 since Ecclestone retired and Liberty media shouldered the reigns for promoting the sport into a new dimension.
But given the line of new race promoters wanting to host Formula 1, the mañana attitude that is prevalent in Spanish society needs to change – and change quickly.