The impending implosion of the Korean Grand Prix as previously discussed on Racefans appears to have resulted from poor organisation and planning. But hasn’t Formula 1 already learned this lesson previously? How much longer can money determine the image of Formula 1 before it does irrepairable damage to the sport’s image.
Between 1991 and 2007 the French Grand Prix was held at the Circuit de Nevers in Magny-Cours located in Central France. When the track was constructed in the early 90s the idea was that the construction of the circuit would spark the creation of a new industrial centre for France that would bring with it a thriving industrial community. Fifteen years on and the track remains, but not much else, including the French Grand Prix. Tired of having to deal with a circuit so removed from appropriate infrastructure for the visiting teams and spectators (the drivers would stay at the local Holiday Inn), and with the possiblity of future development long gone, Formula 1 were prepared to have no French Grand Prix (the first hosts of a motor race in 1906) than to come back to Magny Cours.
Familiar story? Fast forward to 2010 and the creation of the Korean International Circuit in the town of Yeongam on the exact same concept. The question is obvious; When has the construction of a motor racing circuit drawn compelled businesses to locate next to it? I use the word ‘compelled’ because as has become increasingly apparent, there was no firm commitment from the Korean motor industry to rellocate their businesses around the new circuit. Still, this did not stop the Korean organisers constructing a 70 US million dollar facility in addition to a five year contract rumoured to cost at least 50 US million dollars a year to host the Formula 1 Grand Prix. The proposed landscape of the Yeongam circuit, as beautifully computer generated in Red Bull’s YouTube preview, is reminiscent of the literary imaginings of Lewis Carroll or the Qatar World Cup bidding team.
Apart from the design and construction of the race circuit surely weather plays a large part in determining where bussineses would look to invest? Because while it rained during both the 2010 and 2011 race weekends, the construction of the circuit was delayed largely due to rain that had persisted throughout the circuit’s contruction. Still, the delays and uncertainty surrounding the hosting of the event did not stop the circuit recieving the FIA award for the best organised event of 2010, an award that has as much credibility as the French legion d’honneur which was recently awarded to Salma Hayek.
Since the heady days of it’s first event, the Korean Grand Prix has descended into a Greek like realisation of its serious financial difficulties. The original organisers of the event were removed after the 2010 event and the new organisers have immediately requested for the terms of the contract entered into with Bernie Ecclestone to be altered, a task that the new organisers will soon find out is no mean feat. The lesson for Formula 1 is loud and clear, if it sounds too good to be true, and the proposal is being made by a nation with a popularly elected government, it usually is. But Formula 1 has made another bold decision to ignite the passion for Formula 1 in the United States with the Cirucit of the Americas development in Texas and even before its completion the event has been an organisational disaster with continual delays and speculation of the event’s cancellation. While I sincerly hope the venue is completed it is hard to understand why Formula 1 creates these headaches for itself as there aren’t too many countries in the world that rival the choice and quality of circuits on offer in the United States, circuits that if chosen, I have no doubt would bring the applause of many motor racing fans around the world.
Tracks in the United States such as Elkhart Lake, Laguna Seca, Monticello in up state New York, the Barber Motorpsports Park in Alabama, or for pure excitement alone, the streets of Long Beach or Belle Isle in Detroit have produced terriffic motor races over the years. Overseas, and the San Luis circuit in Argentina has been hailed as an instant classic at a time when Argentina have once again indicated there keen interest in hosting a Formula 1 race for the first time since 1998. Why does Formula 1 continually risk its image and the safety of it’s competitors by attending venues that have never hosted an event before and are barely completed?
I am very enthusiatic about the prospect of two races in the United States by 2013 but Formula 1 should go to proven venues. While the New Jersey street race appears to be a classic venue, if Austin fails to produce a decent circuit, it will remain as an expensive scar on the NASCAR obsessed landscape forever reminding locals of why Formula 1 is not worth following.
Formula 1 may be able to afford this in South Korea, but not in the States.