Certainly when it comes to the privilege of hosting a Formula 1 race, money speaks louder than any other element in the equation. Sure, some compromise can be reached and haggling can ensue when determining the figure to be paid and factors such as history and fan attraction as well as the quality of the circuit and facilities all can play a role in the bartering process.
Silverstone, Spa Francorchamps, Monaco and Monza all resonate with F1 fans more deeply than most. That’s not to say that other circuit don’t, it’s just that these are patented must-have’s on most fans list.
To those ends, the talk of losing Monza after this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix is truly a sad story. Teams such as Ferrari get additional revenue for being what is known as a Historic team bonus from Formula One Management’s annual prize fund. Perhaps these four circuits feel they are due some deference for very similar reasons.
I would endorse that notion as I feel these are circuits that must stay on the calendar if F1 wants to continue in a healthy fashion and grow. FOM may feel completely different if the circuit is only willing to pay a stipend of what other circuits pay due to their history and brand being what they are—be it overrated or not.
Former F1 driver, Damon hill feels losing Monza would be a very bad move as well:
“When people want grands prix outside of new territories, let’s say, they want it because of what they’ve seen at the grass roots of the sport, and the history of the sport,” the former world champion told Sky Sports.
“Monza is a very famous name, it means grand prix racing. If you lose that, it’d be like losing Indianapolis.
“Indianapolis, Le Mans…all these places mean motorsport and I think that Formula 1 would be very, very unwise to lose a venue like Monza.”
It brings up a question about the name and history of the circuit. Indianapolis is a good example. I’ve been there many times and it still is an epic vision for an oval, of which I am not a huge fan of for any form of motorsport, and it does mean speed, history and grand scope in its impact on motorsport—in short, a large brand that transcends most others.
Equally Silverstone, Spa and Monza all cast a long shadow over other circuits that are on the current calendar. A long history steeped in racing, a strong brand, a quality facility and major fan appeal all make for a legacy in motorsport circuit lore.
For me, it is also relatively obvious that fans aren’t simply about the brand or history but the actual circuit layout and the kind of racing it produces. There is little doubt that the rash of Herman Tilke designed circuits since 2000 have left many fans cold in their homogenized layout and short length as well as the obligatory “mickey Mouse section” that they call the stadium section. I have not many fans that anxiously sit in the stadium section at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) rather they seek turns one through 11 as the proper place to see the cars really do their thing. My conversation with track boss Bobby Epstein revealed that he would re-profile that entire section and even wanted to do some banking at the double-apex turn that was supposed to mimic turn 8 in Turkey.
The imperfections of Spa make it universally perfect! The re-profiling of Silverstone has mixed reviews but the circuit still has some epic corners and terrific racing. Length, for me is also a key and while Monaco betrays that, Spa has it in spades. Fans like a sense of the drivers actually going somewhere when they race. Oddly Moncao may be short but the layout and elevation change gives a sense of going somewhere instead of the desperately dull Abu Dhabi circuit where money was no object and they could have profiled the land any way they wanted yet chose a skillet-flat track with neutered corners.
We also cannot forget the epic nature of Suzuka, which is right next to Spa as many of the driver’s favorite tracks to race on—even with the re-profiled 130R corner.
So what does garner a circuit as a must-have on the calendar? Of all the Tilke tracks, tragically Turkey was one of the best and it is now a used car lot. The theme here is that the old tracks are still the best and sure, perhaps some of that is nostalgia and history of the brand but in the end, even new F1 fans tell me that they love the old circuits the best.
Is Monza asking for too much concession on FOM’s part? Probably but they feel they have the brand and rank as a legend of the sport to do so. Australia, another terrific circuit, joins Canada in the incredible circuit category that could argue a historic participation discount from FOM too. Perhaps a commitment of contiguous years participating would see the normal escalator of 10% per year revers itself and work backwards to a determined level. Perhaps track-side advertising could be slowly given back to race promoters for their long-time support of hosting an F1 grand prix?
FOM isn’t in the business of giving their races away or making deep discounts for some and not others. Maximizing the profit for each unit sold is the business but perhaps the circuit owners association could participate in FOM’s prize money payout based on attendance and how aggressive they promoted the races. Just spit-balling here but you get the point.
Monza needs to stay and FOM need to find a way to allow it to stay. Period. While you’re at it, bring back Zolder and Kyalami too. And someone send Hockenheim back out into the woods (past Jim Clark’s memorial) and get the Ring sorted would you?
Hat Tip: Sky Sports