Destination cities’ in sights

Red Bull Racing's Belgian driver Max Verstappen gives thumbs-up on the podium after finishing third in the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo in the outskirts of Barcelona on May 12, 2019. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

Red Bull Racing's Belgian driver Max Verstappen gives thumbs-up on the podium after finishing third in the Spanish Formula One Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya in Montmelo in the outskirts of Barcelona on May 12, 2019. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)

A return to South Africa is nothing new, but the financial implications are another story.

It’s that time again when F1 moves to southern Europe for the so-called “jewel in the crown”, the Monaco Grand Prix.

The 78 laps of the 3.337km circuit covers 260.260km with 19 corners per lap and is the shortest race on the F1 calendar.

But it is a tough one physically and mentally for the drivers and over the years has produced interesting results. The current lap record holder is Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who recorded a time of 1 min 14.260 seconds in 2018.

There is never a cut and dried method of predicting who will claim victory. The track is demanding and offers limited overtaking opportunities. The legendary race can prove processional but is also capable of providing some real wheel to wheel combat.

Monaco is a great leveller, a track that does not depend on power alone but rather a combination of chassis dynamics and pure driver skills. Monaco looks set to remain on the F1 calendar for many years to come. Actually, the way things are going at present, it could be the sole European round remaining if Liberty Media’s objectives continue in the current vein.

We have seen statements from FOM’s Chase Carey, Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn regarding the company’s mission to move to “destination cities” around the globe, apparently all for the good of the sport.

Hanoi in Vietnam is on the schedule for next season and is now joined by a Dutch Grand Prix to be hosted at the Zandvoort facility. It will be the first time in 35 years that F1 has graced the track and with Verstappen’s massive national popularity is sure to be a total sell-out. However, I find Formula One chairman Carey’s statement rather interesting regarding the Dutch leg.

He is reported as saying: “From the beginning of our tenure in Formula One, we said we wanted to race in new venues, while also respecting the sport’s historic roots in Europe.” Returning to Holland is a great move as the fan base is incredibly solid and motorsport has a long history in the Netherlands. However, I struggle to understand his “respecting the sport’s historic roots in Europe”.

With Spain, Britain and Germany yet to reach a new contractual agreement and Italy still to be finalised, one has to wonder just how much respect Carey genuinely has for the birthplace of F1. It is difficult to understand his statement as one watches the increase in the numbers of new races in the Far East and the latest news that F1 is looking to race on another continent – Africa.

A return to South Africa is nothing new, but the financial implications are another story. The insane cost of hosting a Formula One event is one of the primary reasons many of the older circuit owners are struggling to renew contracts and with the current exchange rates it must certainly deter many a possible sponsor.

Kyalami has stated that it will lend enthusiastic support to anyone who wishes to stage an F1 leg at the circuit. But, Kyalami will not foot the bill for such a venture. It is a superb racetrack and events venue, but that is all. You want to run a motor race there, you pay for it yourself, and rent the circuit. Speaking at the Sport Industry Breakfast Club in London recently, commercial chief of FOM, Bratches, apparently confirmed that talks are also ongoing with the Moroccan city of Marrakesh.

But it is not just Morocco that is apparently keen to join the world of F1, according to Yath Gangakumaran, director of Strategy and Business Development for FOM. He stated that Rwanda and Nigeria were enthusiastic to host “fan events”.

Next, of course, is who will be dropped from the calendar. Bratches confirmed that 21 races would be the schedule for the 2020 season. Right now we have a 21-race calendar but have added two more with the Netherlands and Vietnam so simple mathematics says “something’s got to give”.

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