The European F1 calendar has been steadily shrinking in recent years as wealthier countries pay for dates in the Middle and Far East, but today Red Bull struck a blow for the beleaguered old contingent announcing a return to the A1 Ring on July 6th next year.
The news is not a total surprise – there were rumours last winter that Red Bull and FOM had been negotiating, when a 20 date 2013 calendar was announced with a “TBA” date in late July. Turkey was the favoured candidate, but for a while it was rumoured that Austria might fill the gap.
Today it was confirmed that Red Bull principle Dietrich Mateschitz and Bernie Ecclestone have agreed terms for a race on the track where once the Osterreichring stood. Mateschitz has made it clear that he is personally contributing to the cost of hosting the race, as the ticket sales will cover only the organisation of the event, not the sanctioning fee (see below)
The date is interesting; it is more or less where the most recent iteration of the Austrian GP was; in early July. The race ran at the A1 Ring from 1997-2003.
It used to be paired with Germany, but it raises questions about the viability of the New Jersey Grand Prix which was expected to be paired with the Canadian race in June.
With the FIA mandating no clash with Le Mans 24 Hours (June 14/15) from now onwards, it’s likely that Silverstone will run in late June, with Austria, Germany and Hungary to fit in during July before the three week break.
With Russia coming onto the calendar this retains the possibility of a 21 race championship, if all the venues come through.
It also highlights the increasing influence of Red Bull on F1 racing. The details of the deal have not been revealed but the going rate for a sanctioning fee to host a Grand Prix is north of $20 million these days, and Red Bull would collect only the ticket money. Any title sponsorship, track advertising and hospitality would all go directly to FOM.
So it will be interesting to see what Red Bull’s model is for the event, beyond a massive branding and Austrian pride display.