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A look behind the Rome Grand Prix story
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A look behind the Rome Grand Prix story
Posted By: James Allen  |  17 Jan 2011   |  12:33 pm GMT  |  57 comments

Last week’s news that FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone has turned down Rome’s application to host a Grand Prix seems to have put and end to that story.

However looking through the Gazetta dello Sport at the weekend, I notice that they published in full Ecclestone’s letter to Gianni Alemanno, the mayor of Rome in which he says,


“However if Monza were taken away from the calendar or we could alternate Monza with Rome, this would be acceptable and this is something I will try to achieve.”

The last line is interesting. I asked around in Italy this morning about how serious a suggestion this is and the feeling is seems to be that this is a more polite way of saying “no” than just saying “no”, after quite a bit of work had gone on in Rome.

Monza has the contract for the Italian Grand Prix until 2016, does not have the financial problems other venues are facing and is considered highly unlikely to want to alternate with Rome. Sources in Italy suggest that the funding was there to do the Rome Grand Prix.

Ecclestone makes it clear in his letter that 20 races is the new maximum and he does not have the support from the teams for two races in one country, although intriguingly he does say FOM and the teams are looking to a future, “with more events in the USA, which being a large country is acceptable.”

This certainly suggests that he is not stopping at the US Grand Prix in Austin, Texas and wants another race Stateside.

Meanwhile Ferrari has not been in favour of the Rome Grand Prix all along. It is important to keep in mind, when considering this situation, the fact that Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo is building up his political presence in Italy and Alemanno is aligned with Silvio Berlusconi, very much on the other side of the political coin from Montezemolo.

Monzezemolo said this weekend, “The teams’ view is not to exceed a certain number of races per year: already the season goes on forever.

“The preference is to have Grands Prix in new countries in important markets, first off in the United States, rather than have two races in Germany, Spain, or eventually Italy.”

Photo: Darren Heath

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57 Comments
  1. The other Ian says:

    If they don’t want any country to have 2 GP’s, then I will look forward to the European GP being moved somewhere else.
    How about France, or maybe get rid of it, and use the slot for another country?
    I don’t know when the US GP is suppose to be running.

    1. Galapago555 says:

      Fully agree. They should move it from Dullencia street circuit. Why not to have it moving to a different circuit every one or two years? France, Austria, San Marino, Portugal…

      1. Andy says:

        I completely agree with this – the Euro GP should move around Europe, not just be tied to one place – it would give fans a chance to see some other circuits and add a bit of variety in the season.

      2. Andy W says:

        Sounds like a great idea to me, assuming that the tracks can make any money after the cost of making themselves F1 ready. The fees that need to be paid in order for a track to host a GP make it sadly unlikely that such a great idea would see the light of day :-(

        Europe has a huge number of great tracks so it completely stumps me why Bernie signed a 7 year deal to keep a track that has only given us 2 ‘great’ moments, one of which was an accident which I hope will never be repeated… F1 cars should fly on the track not in the air.

      3. D. says:

        I agree too. Valencia is also the most boring circuit. It should not be on the calendar.

      4. andyb says:

        I also agree.

        There’s a fistfull of “nearly F1 ready” tracks that could alternate through. Imola, A1 Ring, Nurburgring, Portugal (can’t remember name) and heaps more I’m sure.

        I know people (bernie) will say they are not up to standard but really are they any worse in terms of safety and space issues than say… Monaco?

        Rotating the different tracks would be quite interesting from a fan point of view. Don’t know what they’d do about money, maybe a bunch of tracks would have to work together on a proposal that works for them all.

  2. Andy W says:

    Any ideas why Bernie signed a 7 year extension with Valencia last season? Its a boring track with no added value (such as Monaco, Hungary and Singapore the other ‘boring’ tracks have)… its the one track that I think most fans would most like to see the back of.

    1. Rob says:

      I would be equally happy to drop Barcelona

    2. JamesF1 says:

      Money?

    3. Galapago555 says:

      Maybe the same loads of money as in Hungary?

  3. Bec says:

    The reason Monza doesn’t have the financial problems of other European circuits, is because it pays very little in the way of sanctioning fees.

    1. Bru72 says:

      It is also a very active circuit that hosts many races and events.

  4. unoc says:

    Pity. The route through the city that I saw for the track (don’t know if it was official or not) looked promising.

    While it is important to venture into new countries and new areas the new tracks need to cover there bases and can’t soley rely on being new to keep themselves (atleast in fans’ view) on the calender.

    I’m sure that while business wise it may be better to go with Bahrain over Rome. I’m sure the fans (and this is me, an Australian who watches most euro gp’s from 10pm till midnight sunday night going into monday morning every fortnight) would prefer to have some great racing at a great track with lots of culture and excitment rather than having a rather boring GP in the middle of nowhere just to appease these possible sponsers.

    Partly the tracks need to be designed differently now, we have seen Tilke and we should see a new designer. If Bernie E had got his act together and hadn’t just enjoyed his bro-love with tilke then a different track designer should have been used for each or for every 2 max. THe drivers know the corners, the audience knows the style and it becomes rather predictable. And arm chair experts and keyboard warriors soon learn the art of forum posting filled with explanations of how tilke can’t understand undulations or camber.

    Monza has culture and a motorsport history, it has f1 history. Replacing it would be very hard.

    Bahrain doesn’t have either. Abu Dhabi is atleast trying, and with great track owner willing to create the best spectacle. But they are held back by the track designer Tilke again.

    So it turns out that new tracks shouldn’t just be in the middle of nowhere, but to be a great part of the fixture and eventually truely loved by fans around the around, the tracks need to be new, different and exciting, their needs to be a greast build up of culture and and a want to embark on motorsport in more than just f1 and the odd other race. It needs to be something special.

    No one I know saw Bahrain here (and many did check it because Webber, and hence more people are prepared to stay up to watch f1) and thought WOOOWWWWW, I want to be tired on monday and watch this. The Aussie GP made some people change there mind though. Not saying the Australian GP is perfect, but it is way better as the racing and stuff happening around the place here is great.

    Maybe if we stopped putting out new tracks every year now that we have a few and insure that each track is going to be great. We can have a dozen horrible tracks that will hurt the overall viewership (yes we will turn it off, and it great numbers) and locally based international companies wont be excited to spend money on a boring event, or we have have a handful of really great new exciting tracks, that are all different and produce some great racing, with other motorsport build up and really creating and centering a base. GP’s that will excite companies and new people.

    Added to that, soon F1 is going to run out of people who want to watch F1 and just haven’t seen it yet, soon F1 will have to earn its viewers not just wave the meat that is f1 infront of hungry lions (that would be the viewers).

    And that is what I feel we are missing, a new track is poping out every year. Some hit, some miss. They are all for financial reasons, in hope of sponsor money, in making the track cheaply, but they are all mising what fans want in a track and that is truely what will damage the sport.

    1. kowalsky says:

      good point. I agree on the fact that most f1 fans don’t repeat nowadays. They go to a race, get dissapointed, and keep watching on tv. And sooner or later f1 it’s going to pay the price.

    2. Andy W says:

      I don’t agree with a lot of the criticism that Bahrain attracted last season, the massive regulation change regarding refuelling would have made the 1st race of the season boring no matter where the race was held… and the same is going to happen this season when the teams use the new Pireli tires for the first time in anger.

      As for Tilke, I think he has been grossly and actually unfairly overused by F1, he has produced some great tracks and some astounding corners… Silverstone’s remodelling is un-Tilke like in design and really enhanced an old track…. F1 needs to pay attention to this and give other designers the chance to give us their differing visions of what an F1 track should be… then we could actually appreciate the great bits Tilke has given us without being bored to death by his trade mark style.

    3. DonSimon says:

      Agree with most of that mate, very good points.

      1. unoc says:

        Thanks mate. Glad to hear other agree

    4. Ghost in the Ruins says:

      Hard to add to that, well done. Covered most bases there.

      Problem for almost every new track is the sheer lack of scenery. No trees makes it all look very open and bland, a situation not helped by the grey tarmac run off areas. Plant some trees so you can at least pretend there’s people there at Bahrain and Turkey…

      1. Andy W says:

        trees tend not to grow very well in deserts ;-) that aside I do think that part of the reason why Singapore has made such an impact is because the entire venue looks absolutely stunning!

      2. unoc says:

        Singapore has always had excitment (for better or for worse in some cases), and that is why we are more open towards it, because what it lacks in history it brings to us in excitment.

        Abu DHabi is in the middle of the desert, if say the suzuka track was in abu dhabi I’m sure we would all love it because of the quality of the action we are watching.

        Abu Dhabi are trying very hard, South Korea are also trying hard and hvae major car manafacturers there, so it makes sense given the history. If we can make an exciting event there then people will love it. People seemed much happier about Korea after the race given it’s excitment. THe last corner of the track, the conditions, that was what people really liked, it was good. Bahrain doesn’t have either track nor history, nor real ‘event’ status aas much as other countries.

        Anyway, enough from me, point is, I don’t think trees are the problem. (singapore and abu dhabi have kind of proved that) I think it’s just excitment

    5. Richard C says:

      Good post and I agree with the content.

      I imagine it is impossible due to contractual obligations, however, if they really wanted to create space in the calendar they could lose:

      1. Bahrain
      2. Malaysia
      3. Istanbul
      4. South Korea

      and have very few supporters of F1 batting an eyelid. As well as Roma we could then have perhaps a return to South Africa or Buenos Aires and two in the USA.

      1. Andy W says:

        I think there would be a fair amount of angst over loosing Malaysia and in particular the awesome turn 8 in Turkey. Its also a little harsh to write off a race track that we haven’t even seen a real race at yet….

        My list of races to loose are

        1) Valencia (easily the worst track/ uninspiring venue on the calendar)
        2) Barcelona
        3) China
        4) Bahrain

      2. NamedMyKidAyrton says:

        I’m with you there. My vote for worst venues goes to:

        1. Valencia
        2. Barcelona
        3. Bahrain

      3. Phil says:

        I’d get rid of…

        1) Valencia (Or, alternate Valencia & Barcelona.)

        2) Hungry (Why hasn’t this come up on anyone else’s comments. Sure it’s got a bit of history, but it isn’t a particularly exciting track. Turkey does get less in attendance, but Turn 8 makes up for it, and lifts it above Hungry in the staying list. Can someone explain why they think Hungry should stay?).

        3) Australia or Malaysia. (I’m an Aussie, so it’s would hurt to see the AGP go, but it is increasingly unpopular politically in Melbourne, and it’s probably one of the most financially unsecure, so losing it won’t hurt too much over all)

      4. unoc says:

        Interestingly Valencia don’t want it anymore, so Bernie E should just get rid of it. That would reduce it to 19 and also remove the horrible track.

        Looking at wiki, 3 tracks are having there last contracted race in 2011

        Suzuka – !!! Bernie will probably try to flog it for more money
        Turkey – Not many people going, could be interesting to see if it stays. Maybe it comes back as an every 2nd year with Hungary?
        China – Mixed opinions about this track.

  5. Abhijeet says:

    James, any more news on the Lotus/Renault mess? The official start of the 2011 season with start of testing is just two weeks away at this point.

  6. Robert McKay says:

    No more than 1 race per country, unless “it’s a big one”, well, that’s excellent logic, isn’t it.

    I dunno why Bernie just doesn’t come out and say his real reason – “no more new races in old fading Europe”.

    1. Andy W says:

      because thats where the majority of the existing fan base is and many of the sponsors main markets, as well as home to the teams and many of the drivers.

      The problem is that he wants to ‘develop’ new markets, or at least tap into the deep pockets of countries and cities eager to pay him and CVC lots of money for hosting races. European tracks and countries tend not to want to or able to pay the exorbitant fees and develop their circuits.

      1. Robert McKay says:

        I understand and don’t have any specific problem with that, it’s just the thinly-veiled subtext.

        Essentially you get the feeling that if any of these new and developing markets says “we’ve got the big money and want a second race” then any “only one race per country” philosophy will be abandoned pretty damn quick.

        I’d kind of prefer it if Bernie just said “we’re sticking to developing/new markets”.

        But I guess, as James says, it’s all about saying no but being nice about it.

        It’d be a travesty to lose Monza, even as an alternating Grand Prix. With the loss of old-Hockenheim, it is a unique track in its extreme-low-downforce, high speed nature. For a sport like Formula 1 I think that’d be ridiculous if it got lost. Indeed I think we should be looking at one of these new tracks to be a “new” Hockenheim or Monza, for variety’s sake.

      2. Andy W says:

        We would need to get a different circuit designer to Tilke in order to get such a ‘radical’ new track. I really do miss the old Hockenheim… the new track layout just seems about as pointless and exciting as sugar and caffine free coke.

  7. Jonathan Kelk says:

    How long before a ‘Vatican City GP’ starts up I wonder? (In the same way the San Marino GP used to be there to justify 2 GPs in Italy before). All it will take is a bit of bribery!

    1. DB says:

      Or perhaps a tenth? ¦¬)

  8. Richard M says:

    I would not mind if Valencia, Hungary, Bahrain, China or Malaysia were dropped to be honest. While I would love a return of the A1-Ring (or the Red Bull Ring as it is now called), Nordschleife (I know it is unlikely), Kyalami, Charade Circuit, Pescara, it would also be awesome if they switched the Barcelona GP from Catalunya to Montjuïc.

    1. Richard M says:

      Forgot to mention that it would also be amazing if they could race at the Potrero de los Funes Circuit in Argentina.

    2. Andy W says:

      Hungry maybe a boring track with no overtaking, but it has given us a large number of fantastic races… I also have a soft spot for Malaysia, its one of the races i would dearly love to see in person.

      What I think we need thou is fewer Tilke tracks because after a while they all look the same :-(

      1. Jonathan G says:

        i agree they all look the same

  9. jmv says:

    Interesting… I didn’t make the connection between Alemanno – Berlusconi vs. Montezemolo.

    I think it is fair that the GP in Rome does not take place. It would be in an area called EUR that is anything but spectacular.. it is just residential and nothing to see there. Having F1 cars pass the colloseum would be something, although I wonder if the ancient buildings could stand the vibrations from the noise of the cars.

    -
    Regarding the US options… a GP in NY would be so damn good! Just for the noise of F1 cars to be taking hold of the City! There is nothing like the noise of F1 cars. Truly amazing!

    1. jmv says:

      regarding the colloseum: I meant to say: having cars pass the colloseum “now that would be something”!!

    2. jmv says:

      And as alternative to NY GP, would be Paris!
      I’d think that in the absence of a French GP and with the FIA based in Paris, and F1 history with France, and the “understanding of F1 in France by the French” it must not be too hard to do a GP in Paris, no??

      1. Galapago555 says:

        My vote is for Paul Ricard!!

      2. Terry Shepherd says:

        The original Ricard, yes, with the big straight and the flat-out Signes. Of course, for the real test of the drivers and excitement for fans, Clermont-Ferrand. Run-offs? What are they?

        Lastly, as an outrageous pun, never say Nevers!

      3. Galapago555 says:

        @Terry Shepherd

        Yep, and the good old Ligne Droite du Mistral

  10. AP says:

    Dear James,

    something off-topic: why don’t you introduce a “Print” button to your blog, similar to the “Like” button? Sometimes ones is tired of looking at the screen and would love to print your articles to read in the train, on the way home, etc…

    best, AP

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for the idea.

    2. Graeme says:

      Why not save a tree and save it your phone to read rather please.

      G

      1. AP says:

        because i don’t have a smartphone?…

    3. Garp says:

      in the same vein as that what about an e-reader friendly format.

      This is basically a blog and services such as kindle by amazon have blog services so it wouldn’t take much to make it a deliverable blog to e-readers of all kinds.

      E-readers use an E-ink system which looks like paper so it doesnt hurt the eyes yet doesnt involve the cutting down of a tree everybody wins.

  11. Irish con says:

    I think the Italian gp should always be at monza. Some tracks should always be in f1 in my opinion- monza, spa, Canada, silverstone, monaco, brazil. All the rest I don’t really mind. I want to see tracks you can race on. Not the 2 Spanish tracks ( sorry galagapo555 lol) Hungary, Abu dhabi, last years Bahrain layout. Singapore is great to watch the cars spark and bounce over the bumps tho

    1. Galapago555 says:

      That’s ok, mate, I can’t worry if they drop Montmeló and Valencia. Maybe Cheste could make interesting races? :-)

  12. Bob says:

    Nordschleife!

  13. Mr Anderson says:

    I wonder if they considered making an application as the Grand Prix of Vatican City?! Technically a different country, and there has been a precedent set with Imola/San Marino. OK, so the track doesn’t go through the Vatican, but then Imola doesn’t go through San Marino either. An extremely long shot I know, but I reckon Mr Ecclestone likes a bit of lateral thinking!

  14. Gold Loaf says:

    I think it is fair to have 1 GP per country or at least the second race should not be held there every year. Im quite supportive to the idea of “moving” European GP. Estoril, Algarve, Hockenheim, Imola, Valencia(testing circuit, Ricardo something…), Donington, Brno, Imola or even Paul Ricard- all of them would be nice to see. But to alternate between Monza and Rome, no thanks.
    Monza already has everything, fast corners, hard braking for overtaking, one of the best chicanes in the calendar(Ascari); they are running low downforce there, reaching highest top speeds etc. It has great atmosphere and it looks like a circuit, not like a parking lot. Very unique these days.

    It is funny to see how much effort is wasted to events like Abu Dhabi, to make the place acceptable. It looks like a christmas tree, colourful lights blinking everywhere to compensate lack of “meat” that the whole complex has.

    PS. I can understand why people dislike Valnecia(street circuit). Corner names like “Dull”, “Yawn” and “Unhappy” should be used there. But Barcelona? It has some fantastic corners I think. It is not good for overtaking, but isnt it more like technical regulation related problem? To end up having hairpin- straight- hairpin configuration nearly everywhere is boring too.

  15. Alex Sharifi says:

    Bring back the Long Beach GP :D Perhaps the hilly terrain of Orange County or San Diego County can serve as starting point for a new race :D

    I just hope F1 makes it to California, as it will save me a lot of travel expenses :D

  16. Mario says:

    It makes no difference to me which country a race is in as long as it’s an interesting one. For the sake of diversity I’d like as many countries as possible, so I’d vote against 2 in 1.

  17. vfacundo says:

    If you support Formula 1 returning to the US, join “Friends of Formula 1 Austin Texas” on Facebook and Linkedin.com
    Great commentary, pictures and anything related to the new circuit in Austin Texas.

  18. Jon says:

    If Monza won’t “play nice” and share the Italian GP, perhaps Bernie can convince Valencia to share the European.

  19. Cody says:

    Valencia and Barca should have to split the Spanish GP and the European GP should be split between Hungaroring and Portimao.

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