Formula 1

F1 must avoid German Grand Prix demise

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The German Grand Prix is one of the most historical races on the F1 calendar.

From the years spent tackling the formidable Nurburgring Nordschleife to the screaming through the forest at the original Hockenheim, Germany and Formula 1 are as synonymous as Brazil and football or rugby and New Zealand.

Yet this year there stands an increasing chance the sport may not visit the country that has had two drivers claim nine of the 15 world championships since 2000.

A common problem

The issue is a common one for anybody involved in F1 these days, money. Both Hockenheim and the Nurburgring have undergone major changes to try and guarantee a long-term financial future and an alternation between the two venues, in place since 2007, seemed to have helped that, but things changed when the Nurburgring was sold to a Russian investor last year.

2015 should see this, the original home of the German Grand Prix, host the race again but as the circuit continues to restructure its finances, it is uncertain whether the new owner has the money to host the Grand Prix, particularly at the price Bernie Ecclestone wants.

The F1 chief himself had said the race would remain at what became the modern home of the sport in Germany, Hockenheim, but it too is seemingly unable to meet the costs of putting on the most expensive racing category in the world for a second consecutive season.

Poor attendance the prime reason

Indeed, Ecclestone has now admitted F1 may not visit Germany for the first time since 1955 but is reportedly making efforts to keep it on the calendar.

"It is just a case that as the attendance has been so low for the last few years that it is not commercially viable for the promoters in Germany," he was quoted by the Daily Mail.

Indeed despite Sebastian Vettel's four consecutive world championships between 2010-13 and Mercedes' dominance allied to Nico Rosberg in the team last year, only 45,000 were at Nurburgring in Vettel's last championship winning year with a small improvement to 52,000 last year at Hockenheim.

TV audiences have also dropped despite Germany's recent success and much of that is being put down to the retirement of the legend Michael Schumacher.

Efforts to save race continue

Ecclestone told the Press Association last week that efforts to host a race, most likely at Hockenheim were continuing though a possible weekend deadline has gone by with no news as of yet.

"We are trying to get something done, we are trying to help them. In the end, and God only knows why, the audience in Germany is lousy.

"They have not been selling enough tickets to make it work. It's purely commercial, so I'm trying to be a little bit helpful to them.

"We're trying to rescue it, but I can't guarantee we will. We are doing our best, and maybe by this weekend we'll have an answer. I hope so."

A familiar story

Should no deal be completed then it would mark the first major race to have simply been priced out of F1.

It has been a problem seen for many years now with concerns over the British Grand Prix's long-term future under threat for much of the last decade before major investment and upgrading of facilities took place in 2009-10 and also the Belgian Grand Prix which, despite a new contract until 2018, also had its future clouded in previous years.

It is something that continues to draw the wrath of those who have followed Formula 1 for years as, in their view, the sport is leaving its traditional roots and simply following the next pot of cash.

Of course races in the emerging markets like China, India, Russia and this year Mexico are important for generating new interest and fans, as was the return to the USA. But the main fanbase of F1 remains in Europe and key F1 markets have seen their races put at risk and some, like France, have seen their Grand Prix axed with little immediate hope for a return.

And it is when fans can see races like France and now Germany struggle for a place on the calendar because they can't compete financially with a place like Azerbaijan, which joins from 2016, or Qatar, which could become the third race in the Middle East in the next few years, that annoys them immensely.

Ecclestone the main culprit

On the more specific point of Germany's Grand Prix, Ecclestone may comment about how attendances are down and that is why the two venues can't afford to host a race annually, but much of that is upto him because of the amount he demands for a place on the F1 calendar.

Fans are paying hundreds of Euros to go to what is basically a few hours worth of action and in the current economic climate that is simply not viable.

Races can't keep running to a loss simply to have the privilege of hosting F1, there has to be much more value to it than that and they have to able to recoup what the spend to put on a three-day international sporting event.

Go now gone forever?

And what would the loss of Germany from the calendar mean? After all India was supposed to be taking a year out before returning and now no-one's hearing a beep from those in Delhi.

With competition for places on the schedule so fierce even if Hockenheim or Nurburgring could afford a race in 2016 would Ecclestone be interested?

And then what, Germany will likely continue producing world class racing drivers but without the pinnacle of motorsport coming to town would investment drop? Would Mercedes, despite having their F1 base in England, continue to fund their F1 project if the sport didn't make the trip to their homeland? And would the other major German car manufacturers ever consider returning to F1 if there was not a Grand Prix?

F1 needs Germany, right?

I do think there is little to be concerned about for the future of the race, even if there was not a race in 2015 there is still a plenty big enough market for F1 in Germany for a race there to be essential. Also while the effort has been made to go to the powerhouse nations of Asia and the Americas in recent years, there does still need to be a trip to the powerhouse of Europe for the sake of keeping F1 relevant to the car industry.

Then again though, this is common sense I'm writing about and have F1 bosses used much of that in recent time? I'll leave it up to you to answer that one.

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