expand what projects itself as one of the
few truly global sports. After all, the
population of Europe is dwarfed by that
of China (first race: 2004) alone.
With the exception of Monaco, which
has a uniquely privileged status and does
not pay a dime, every race promoter
must pay a hosting fee. These collectively
account for around a third of F1’s income,
with the largest fees now not far south of
$100 million. Needless to say, the races in
Europe are paying far less than this, yet
are still struggling to break even.
A prime example is probably the most
historic race of all. The French GP was the
first national grand prix to take place,
back in 1906. It was, with the exception
of the year of the Le Mans disaster, an
ever-present on the F1 World
Championship calendar until 2008.
Magny-Cours, which hosted the race
from 1991 to its last running, could not
continue without financial help from the
government – at the very least in the
form of a public/private partnership. Such
help was not forthcoming, hence no race.
It’s a similar story all over Europe. The
German GP, scheduled to be held at
cash-strapped Nurburgring last year,
Hockenheim, which can only afford to
hold the race every other season, and
even then is constantly pushing for
greater government guarantees to make
up for any financial losses. The promoters
have already issued a warning that
anything less than a sellout for this year’s
GP could mean the end of future races.
The exorbitant race-hosting fees (which
are only part of the equation, because you
also need to operate the track), mean ticket
prices are high. So in Germany, despite a
home-grown superstar in Sebastian Vettel,
it’s a tough sell. The story is the same at
historic Spa, where crowds have declined.
Even when you have an exception like
Silverstone, where crowds have risen in
recent years to the point where the British
Grand Prix expanded capacity to 150,000
this year, it’s a struggle to make even a
slender profit. Last year, the venue’s owners,
the British Racing Drivers’ Club, paid $24
million for the race, and there’s an annual fee
escalator believed to be set at 5 percent.
To make matters worse, the fee is paid in
dollars, so it’s prone to currency fluctuations.
And this is arguably the strongest European
race economically. As Derek Warwick put it
last year in his capacity as president of the
BRDC, “there is no loyalty in F1.”
For proof of that, just look to Italy.
New addition Baku was the sixth
venue to host the “European
Grand Prix,” joining Brands
Hatch, the Nurburgring, Valencia,
Jerez and Donington Park.
F1 is making inroads
into places like
But Monza (LEFT) is
feeling the pinch,
despite a large and
passionate fan base.
“We want to continue at
Monza, but on the same
terms other people pay in
Europe. No concessions”
Monza, which has hosted more world
championship races than any other
venue and only dropped off the calendar
once, when circuit renovation work forced
a temporary move to Imola in 1980, is
endangered. Monza first hosted the
Italian GP way back in 1922, yet none of
that counts for anything when it comes to
contract negotiations. Ecclestone himself
confirmed that last year.
“We’re happy and we want to continue
at Monza, but we want to do so on the