Bahrain Aside, F1 Show Has Woes in Oz & Spain

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/01/2011 12:30:00 AM
A few days ago, I had a brace of posts [1, 2] on the cancellation of the first race of the Formula One season due to the troubles in the miniature kingdom of Bahrain. Formula One is of particular IPE interest since it is one of if not the most watched sports in the world depending on which source you listen to and whose figures you take into consideration. Moreover, the highly international nature of this money-go-round makes it prime fodder for the global glitterati and its wannabes.

So we now understand that political unrest has resulted in the cancellation of the first F1 race in Bahrain. Aside from that one, it turns out that traditional fixtures on the F1 calendar are also facing the axe. Not due to political unrest, but budgetary pressures. Cue Australia (the second event on the calendar which has now become the first) and Catalunya, then. From Racers Republic:
While all the talk at the moment is of whether the Bahrain Grand Prix should go ahead due to the ongoing political situation in the Gulf, doubt has been cast over two more events on the F1 calendar with finances putting both the Australian race at Albert Park and the Spanish GP at Catalunya at risk. The future of the Australian event has been questioned for some time due to the rising costs involved with the mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle having said the race shouldn’t continue beyond its current contract, which expires in 2015.

Bernie Ecclestone has said he would be prepared to talk to Australian bosses about ending the contract if they wanted to get rid of the race, with Ecclestone no doubt aware about the growing number of nations that would jump at the chance to take the place of Australia on the F1 calendar.

Now, a member of the Australian parliament, Michael Danby, has also spoken out against the race and said the government should severe ties with the race and let it drop off the calendar. "The grand prix may have been a good deal in 1996, when it cost the government only $1.7 million,” he said, “but, with falling crowd numbers and taxpayers footing a $50 million-a-year bill, the government should cut its losses and walk away.”

Now however, the issue of the Spanish Grand Prix in Catalunya being at risk has also been raised and again because of the rising costs involved in being part of the F1 schedule. Barcelona has a contract to host the event through to 2016, but Catalunya president Artur Mas has been quoted in the Spanish newspaper El Pais as saying that even though the event is safe for the next two years, the long-term future of the race could be called into question due to the fact that the event makes a loss each year.

"The situation is what it is and I'm not trying to fool anyone," he said. "I said from day one that I would speak the truth and that I would speak clearly. I know the value of hosting an F1 race and I'm here to give all my support to the people at the circuit...I will do all I can to keep that F1 race, but we can't hide the truth. We have to reduce the budgets. The Generalitat must tighten its belt and that will affect all fields. We will see what happens this year and in 2012."
Bernie Ecclestone always has a stock counter that there's some country willing to put up the cash to host a race elsewhere, but you must think his location choices are will become more cautious after being burned in Bahrain. WikiLeaks suggests Myanmar's reclusive leadership tried to buy Machester United; what about the Yangon Grand Prix as a consolation prize? The possibilities boggle the mind. Still, if races really are this unprofitable to hold, there will come a point when the rights holder will have to charge less from existing and prospective hosts.