FEB 09th 2015

Henry Hope‑Frost mourns Europe's loosening grip on F1 as German GP's future looks uncertain

Recent stories casting doubt on the presence of motorsporting powerhouse Germany on this year’s Formula 1 World Championship calendar are alarming – and all rather sad.

After all, the 2014 World Champion drove a German car to victory in 11 of last year’s 19 grands prix, with his German team-mate winning five races, and the German team that provided Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg with such dominant hardware also thrashed its closest rival in the constructors’ title fight, 701 points to 405.

“Great circuits, great drivers, great cars and great races or not, it seems there’s precious little room for sentimentality in F1 anymore”

Mercedes-Benz proved in 2014 that Germany does F1 properly, and for that reason there should be a German GP. Let’s also not forget the legacy left by Michael Schumacher and his 91 wins and seven titles. Or the four straight titles and, to date, 39 wins scored by Sebastian Vettel. 

Racing purists everywhere are decrying the weakening of Europe’s foothold in a sport it invented and dominated for decades. Don’t forget, there was a German GP on the calendar from the second year of the World Championship in 1951 and the country lies equal second with Monaco in the most-capped stakes, with 61 races. Only Britain and Italy, on 65, have hosted more. A Eurocentric tally, you’ll notice.

Germany’s fate is made all the more disheartening when you read about the precarious state that its two major circuits – Hockenheim and the Nürburgring – have found themselves in for some time, necessitating the alternating race-share deal that’s been in place for the past six years. 

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Great circuits, great drivers, great cars and great races or not, it seems there’s precious little room for sentimentality in F1 anymore. Hell, we’ve had to make do without a French GP since 2009, despite the French inventing motor racing. And there’s even a threat to the mighty Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, which has held a World-Championship Italian GP every year since 1950, bar one.

Sentimentality is now firmly at the mercy of eye-watering, government-funded deals that ensure the circus can set out its big top in far-flung locations with no F1 pedigree at all. For all their glitzy backdrops and lavish facilities, the modern-day super-venues of, say, Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi and Sakhir in Bahrain don’t stir the soul in quite the same way. I admire what endless cash and enthusiasm can achieve, but I’d rather it could be invested in preserving the sport’s heritage closer to home.   

Perhaps I’m too much of a purist, and off the pace when it comes to the powerful paymaster politicking that courses through the sport, but I miss the classic European races and the iconic tracks that held them. I’m sure places like Dijon, Estoril, Imola and Zandvoort, with their lack of run-off and absence of any glass-and-metal infrastructure, aren’t quite up to scratch these days, but they had – and undoubtedly still have – that all-important soul, an all-pervading aura that stirred the passion in generations of race fans.

Relish the presence on the calendar of Monaco, Monza, Silverstone and Spa while it lasts…

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