As we reported yesterday, F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has signed a deal to allow Russia to host a round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. The news has been met with excitement and wonderment over the prospects and the re-use of the Sochi Olympic Village as the backdrop for a street circuit that is rumored to be 5.5 miles long. I must admit, that kind of length does get my F1 receptors on end. A Russian website has even released their impression of the Tilke design here.
Join me in navigating back through 2010 to the release of the 2011 schedule for F1 and you will recall that Eccelstone said 20 races was about the maximum the series could sustain. With India, South Korea, United States and now Russian all coming online between 2010 and 2015, it prompts the usual question, â€œwhich circuit is getting the axe?â€
So Russia is in but who is out? This isnâ€™t all off-the-cuff as it seems. Ecclestone know who he is negotiating with and who he has little continuing interest in. He is a keen businessman and knows which tracks will most likely not see the light of day in 2012-2015. He know which circuits make money and which circuits are loss-leaders for the sport as well as which circuits hold no more tangible value for Formula One Management and the teams. He understand track economics and which circuits are doing well and which arenâ€™t. He understands which political issues are worth battling at each circuit and which arenâ€™t. He also know which organizers bring the most value to his operation. In short, he knows what the hell he is doing.
The only issue is that we donâ€™t know what the hell he is doing and what he will do to who to make room for the Russian Grand Prixâ€¦another street circuit by Tilke. So letâ€™s start a short list. Which circuits would we envision leaving F1? Attendance, track economics, viable markets, relevancy to FOM and teams, applicable to good TV times and viewership. All of these are elements to consider.
Whatâ€™s your list? Who do you see at risk of leaving the 1 calendar? One thing to keep in mind is that this is an organic process and not terminal for infinity. Ecclestone knows that a 2-4 year hiatus at Spa is not the end of the world but does give other venues a chance to leak cash into his system for 3-7 years at the same time building angst over the return of the missing Belgium circuit. After a 3-4 year absence, the organizers may pay more for the return and fans will be clamoring for its rightful place on the F1 calendar.
Itâ€™s all economics and it is motivated by demand and opportunity mixed with cash and politics in a grand junta where the royalty always avoids the beheading and the rising ire of the masses is usually quelled through sheer indifferenceâ€¦the mightiest of anti-revolutionary weapons.