Following the announcement that the much anticipated race in New Jersey will not become a reality until at least 2014, Bernie Ecclestone maintained that it wouldn’t be replaced, leaving just nineteen races on the calendar. This week, however, plans have been revealed to move the German Grand Prix, originally scheduled for July 14th, to July 7th , in order to leave two possible dates on which the missing twentieth race could be held.
Replacement circuits mentioned have been: Turkey, France, Austria and now Valencia. Turkey seemed to be the immediate front runner. Last hosting a race in 2011, the circuit boasts the infamous Turn 8, a corner regarded by many as the best in Formula One. While Sebastian Vettel dominated with a charge from pole to chequered flag, the race in 2011 saw new records set regarding the number of pit stops undertaken, and the number of cars overtaken. The majority of the record breaking amount of overtaking was facilitated by DRS, while the number of pit stops were down to excessive degradation of the new Pirelli tyres. Both of these factors gave the race a rather synthetic feel and the circuit was scrapped for the 2012 season.
Bringing Formula One back to Austria is an idea heavily backed by Helmut Marko. Formally known as the A1 ring, it has been redeveloped after being bought by Red Bull in 2004 and has subsequently been renamed Red Bull Ring. Re opening last year, the circuit has hosted F2 and DTM races and is looking to extend this list to include Formula One. In 2002, Austria was the scene of the Ferrari shambles in which Rubens Barrichello sacrificed his own victory in favour of his team mate. The last race held at the A1 ring in 2003 provided an opportunity for Ferrari and Michael Schumacher to rectify their reputation and saw the German take the win despite suffering a fire during a pit stop which cost him about 20 seconds. As ever, finance could scupper the plans as Austria don’t need F1 to boost tourism. Similarly, the Turkish government will not be funding a race in their country.
So what options remain? Rumours of a French Grand Prix at the Paul Ricard circuit have been rumbling since early this year. Redeveloped by Bernie Ecclestone in 1999, it was announced in April that this circuit could alternate with Spa. Could the missing twentieth race give Bernie the chance to get his circuit on the calendar?
Valencia is another option. Although heavily criticised in the past, Valencia was the stage for an exciting race in 2012. Having led the race from pole for 34 laps, Vettel retired with alternator failure and Lewis Hamilton was bulldozed into the wall by Pastor Maldonado which left Fernando Alonso to take an emotional victory in his home race. Mark Webber carved his way through the field from eighteenth to take fourth and Michael Schumacher achieved the only podium of his comeback with third.
The need to scramble the 2013 calendar seems to be contagious, as the organisers of the event at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin have expressed a wish to change the date of the US Grand Prix, in order to avoid a clash with a college football game that is also due to be held in Texas on the same weekend. With the American race scheduled in the final flyaway part of the season on 17th November, finding it a new date could prove a difficult task. One option would be to bring it forward by one week but this would see the race being run a week after the race in Abu Dhabi, and would put incredible pressure on the teams regarding transportation between the two countries.
Due to the postponement of the race in New Jersey, a sizable gap has opened between the race in Canada on 9th June and the Grand Prix in Britain on the 30th. This gap could potentially accommodate the US grand Prix. Temperatures can reach 33 degrees centigrade at that time of the year but similar temperatures are seen at other tracks including: Malaysia, Singapore, Valencia and Hungary. Tyre wear caused by high track temperatures could make the racing even more exciting than we saw in the inaugural race.
The impact of the postponement of the race in New Jersey and resulting date change for the German Grand Prix has further reaching implications. The Goodwood Festival of Speed was due to be held on the 7th July but the date for this event will now have to be changed. For the fans who have bought tickets for any of the races affected, these changes are very inconsiderate and result from race organisers suffering from over optimism or bad organisation and preparation. Decisions need to be made quickly and kept to, because as usual it is the fans that pay the price.