F1 Calendar News: February 2019 Round-Up

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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 GP 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.

Other news in brief:

  • Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said that he hopes F1 will return to Malaysia. He acknowledged the Sepang International Circuit’s effect on the motorsport industry within the country during an acceptance speech for a Lifetime Achievement Award earlier in the month.

  • Chase Carey responded to last month’s criticism of Liberty Media by the Formula One Promoters’ Association, calling it “strange”. He added that their criticism will not change the owners’ approach to the running of the sport.

  • McLaren’s former Racing Director Eric Boullier has joined the organisation team at the French Grand Prix. He’ll be both the ‘strategic advisor (sport and operational)’ and ‘global ambassador’ for the Paul Ricard event.

  • Alfa Romeo Team Principal Frederic Vasseur has said that smaller teams will suffer financially should the F1 calendar expand. Vasseur told RaceFans that 25 3-day weekends per year would require employing a second team of extra staff, as its unreasonable to expect team members to spend such an amount of time away from home each season. Shortening the race weekend is one of the options available to F1 moving forward.

Do you think Mexico and Texas will keep their places on the F1 calendar? Would you welcome the return of the Dutch Grand Prix? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

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About the Author ()

Nicky Haldenby is a Formula One writer from Scarborough, England. Having grown up with F1 often on the TV on Sunday afternoons, Nicky has been following the sport avidly since 2006. After graduating from University in 2015 with a First Class degree in English Language and Literature, he founded his own F1 website and now regularly writes articles about both the sport's history and current affairs.

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