For a while there weren’t that many F1 fans who expected the Valencia Street circuit to last long very in the grand prix calendar. The racing it has produced since arriving as host of the European Grand Prix in 2008 has been unspectacular, and the general opinion of the circuit has been lukewarm to say the least.
But in June of this year all that changed – Valencia had its contract renewed surprisingly renewed until 2021, and all eyes suddenly fell on its national rival – the circuit of Catalunya and the current host of the Spanish Grand Prix.
For Catalunya, it now seems that the honour of hosting that prestigious event, which it has enjoyed since 1991, could be jeopardised as early as 2013, if (as is rumoured) Bernie Ecclestone decides to let the axe fall on the circuit. The chief executive of Formula One apparently takes a very dim view of the fact that Spain currently hosts TWO Grand Prix of the F1 calendar, while other countries with much longer, richer racing traditions don’t even get a look in.
And with Ecclestone also looking to trim the season from 21 races to 20, and with the Paul Ricard circuit in France also making a strong claim for inclusion in the calendar, the future of the Catalan circuit at Montmeló isn’t looking too bright.
Money, unsurprisingly, is also playing an important role.
Because while no one in Catalunya is openly rejoicing at the thought of losing the worldwide publicity and attention that the Grand Prix brings to their region, local politicians have voiced concerns on more than one occasion about the huge costs involved with running it. And given the current crisis which has engulfed virtually all sectors of the Spanish economy, many now believe that saying ‘adios’ to a glamorous, but basically unprofitable event, may not be such a bad thing.
Of course, the average F1 fan may have a very different view. The Catalan circuit, though hardly the scene of any classic races itself in recent years, enjoys a prime location near the fashionable, cosmopolitan city of Barcelona, and the race is popular date in the calendar for visitors and TV viewers alike. A recent poll found it to be one of the most watched races of the season, lagging behind only the Grand Prix of Australia.
But Ecclestone is not a man renowned for his sentimentality and if the decision to axe Catalunya is confirmed, Spain will go back to hosting just one grand prix per season – the Spanish Grand Prix, meaning bye bye Barcelona and hola Valencia, and marking the end of one era in Spanish motorsport and the beginning of a new.
This is a guest post by Spanish F1 blogger Hector Diaz