Azerbaijan extends its Formula 1 contract as the future of the Mexican Grand Prix is cast into doubt. Elsewhere the Dutch Grand Prix won’t be funded by the government and teams have concerns about further expansions of the calendar. Here’s a round up of all of the F1 calendar news from February!
Baku to remain on calendar until 2023
The start of the month saw confirmation that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix will remain on the Formula 1 calendar for the next five seasons, after organisers signed a new deal. The Baku City Circuit, which joined the calendar in 2016, already had a contract to stay on the calendar until next year, but the new deal extends its tenure for an additional three years.
Chase Carey noted how the race had become “one of the most popular of the season” as a result of dramatic and unpredictable Sunday afternoons in each of the last two years. Attendance figures have grown significantly since the first event in 2016, with the crowd size tripling over the past three years, but the event remains one of the least attended of the season.
Mexico Grand Prix future in doubt
The future of the Mexican Grand Prix appears uncertain as the new Mexican government has pulled its funding of the event. 2019 is the last year of the current contract for Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez. El Financeiro reports that the annual $21 million funding sum will instead be spent on the country’s ‘Mayan Train’ railway project.
Mexican driver Sergio Perez conceded that the future of the event is “not looking good”, and said it could take decades for the event to return to the calendar should it lose its current place. The Mexican Grand Prix returned to the F1 calendar for a third time in 2015 following a 23-year absence.
Financial troubles at COTA?
The late submission of paperwork may have jeopardised the future of the U.S. Grand Prix in Texas. The paperwork in question was an anti-human trafficking plan, which had to be submitted 30 days prior to the 2018 event. The paperwork was submitted on 3rd October – just 16 days before the U.S. Grand Prix weekend. As a result, the organizers won’t be reimbursed at least $20 million from the state of Texas for the 2018 race.
Since 2012, the event has taken $150 million from Texas’ Major Events Reimbursement Program, relying on the funds to make the U.S. Grand Prix weekend happen. In 2015, organisers claimed that a $5 million reduction in the annual amount available threatened the future of the event. While the event survived that blow, finding a further $20 million in the coming year could be a difficult task, though the organisers are hopeful that a solution can be worked out.
Dutch Grand Prix won't be funded by government
Hopes of a future Dutch Grand Prix may have hit a setback as the country’s government will not provide financial support for the event. While Bruno Bruins, the minister for medical care and sports in the Netherlands, acknowledged the potential economic value of the race, he ultimately added that government funding would be “neither necessary nor justified”.
Both Zandvoort, which previously hosted a round of the F1 championship between 1952-85, and Assen, current host of the Dutch round of the MotoGP championship, are said to be interested in hosting the event. Speculation has risen over the return of a race in the Netherlands following the rise of local talent Max Verstappen, who has single-handedly raised attendance figures at races in the nearby countries.