The 2022 Formula One Spanish Grand Prix turned into a horror experience for the fans. After two years of restricted attendance due to the pandemic, the Sunday event was a sell out with just over 120,000 spectators for the race.
Yet there were big logistical problems with public transport to and from the circuit which is 16 miles from the centre of Barcelona city.
Chaos at 2022 Spanish GP
Access in and out of the track was also traumatic as were the extreme queues for basic facilities such as water and toilet facilities.
This was despite the number of fans attending the weekend being significantly lower than circuits capacity which contains 120,000 permanent seats. In 2007 the Circuit de Catalunya hosted a record 140,000 fans on race day to see Kimi Räikkönen win the race on his march to claiming the drivers’ title that season.
It was simply the case that in 2022 the organisers had not ramped up their preparations quickly enough to cope with post pandemic crowds.
F1 demands circuit improvements
Santamaria, who is the circuit’s CEO, apologised for the problems, admitting the number of fans turning up to watch their Spanish heroes Fernando Alonso and Carlos Sainz in particular had been “well above normal”.
“Normally, on a Friday, 18,000 people come,” said Santamaria. “We thought it could be 25,000 this time but it was double that.
However F1’s CEO Stefano Domenicali was unimpressed: “We have made the promoter aware this is not acceptable and must be fixed for next season.”
In classic Bernie Ecclestone fashion since the 2022 organisational disaster for the fans, the Former Ferrari boss Domenicali has threatened the Barcelona F1 promoters by repeatedly suggesting that the race could be moved to Madrid when the current contract with Barcelona expires in 2025.
Madrid GP played down
The 2023 Spanish GP saw huge crowds attend over the weekend whilst to date no official numbers have been released. Yet the chaos experienced last year does not appear to have been repeated this year however the spectre of the race moving to Madrid remains ever present.
Yet GMM report “A top FIA official has played down ‘noise’ suggesting Madrid is in pole position to replace the current Spanish GP host at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya.”
“There’s a lot of noise but the circuit has not been approved and there is no firm proposal,” said Carmelo Sanz de Barros, the president of Spain’s automobile club Real Automovil Club de Espana.
However there is “political will” to put the race together agrees Barros and Domenicali has not reminded the threat to move the Spanish GP unless the facilities are improved.
No “war” between Barcelona and Madrid
The Madrid plans are at an early stage, “The first request would be to the Spanish federation and then to the FIA. Then the commercial proposal would go to FOM,” said de Barros.
“I can confirm that there is nothing for now and that due to the political situation, the situation will continue like this until September at least.”
Of course there is a significantly rivalry between the region of Catalunya which has called for independence from Spain and the Spanish capital Madrid which is recognised by Manuel Avino who also represents Spain at the FIA.
“We cannot afford a war between Barcelona and Madrid for the grand prix.
“What interests us is keeping it in Spain and if there can be two, even better. In Spain we had two, with Barcelona and Valencia, not so long ago,” he said.
FIA president sugests 2 Spain F1 races
Its is highly unlikely that Spain could host more than one F1 event despite recent comments from the FIA president Mohammed Ben Sulayem.
“I like this country and that there is interest in having more than one grand prix is good news,” he said.
“In fact, there could be two and even three,” the FIA president said whilst smiling, apparently referring to a meeting this weekend with a delegation from Jerez.
Interestingly the new deal agreed with the Barcelona promoters in 2021 provides for a contract until 2026 but with the inserted clause confirming “a minimum of two more events to be held between 2023 and 2026”.
Rotating arrangement for Madrid & Barcelona
This would suggest F1 is leaning towards a biannual deal for the two race venues – a rotating arrangement between the current host for the Spanish GP and a new street race in Madrid.
At a recent event in Madrid Stefano Domenicali was coded over the future location of the Spanish F1 event. He stated of the current host, “there is a need to renew many things, which is what they are doing.
“Our friends in Barcelona know it, I am always very transparent with everyone. The things I see happening now should have come sooner, but that’s okay.
“They are investing, they are working to improve the experience for the fans.
“We will see. But as I say, competition helps the system to grow.”
“Obsolete” F1 historic tracks of no use
When asked about the disappearance of historic tracks like the circuit of Catalunya F1’s CEO refused to be drawn.
“History is valuable, but what I am saying is that if you go from historical to old, obsolete, that is very different,” he said.
“So in the next, I don’t want to say months, but we will make the right decision for the good of the sport.”
Of course Spain will not be awarded two Grand Prix events each season but the idea of rotating between Madrid and Barcelona appears to be growing.
One thing appears to be certain as Domenicali reveals: “You have to understand how the two projects want to evolve. But what I can guarantee is that Spain will continue to be on the calendar.”
— Formula 1 (@F1) June 4, 2023