Monday, April 25, 2011

The Impact of Hosting F1 Grands Prix

John Marine | 4/25/2011 02:58:00 AM | | | | |
The impact of a nation hosting a Grand Prix race is immense. Formula One is the world's premier motorsport. Being able to host a race featuring the world's most sophisticated race cars with some of the world's greatest drivers speaks high volumes. I began to think about this topic somewhat and decided to blog about it. I am blogging about this topic to answer this question: what do YOU think it means for a nation or a certain city to host a Formula One Grand Prix race?

I don't consider myself an F1 fanatic, but I do welcome all racing fans including the F1 fanatics. Most of this blog post pertains to Formula 1 Grands Prix. However, this can also apply to MotoGP Grands Prix as well.

--- My Initial Thoughts ---
Formula 1 Grand Prix
^ from: - Hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix is ALWAYS a big deal considering the scope and appeal F1 racing provides internationally.

Hosting a Formula One Grand Prix race at a competitive venue means that you invite the best drivers and best race cars to an intense racing challenge. As long as the venue is a homologated FIA Grade 1 facility suitable enough for F1 racing (some tracks are FIA Grade 1 facilities, but for testing only), just being able to host a round of the Formula 1 World Championship in whatever country or city is always something to be pleased with. A number of tracks and venues make provisional or preliminary schedules, but never actually get raced. I blogged once about the Autopolis Circuit on the Japanese island of Kyushu. The track itself is very challenging (as are most Japanese courses). But... it just didn't get to be raced as part of the F1 World Championship.

Obviously, if you're going to bring some of the best race car drivers in the world with some of the most sophisticated racing machines in the world, it is best have a track long enough and challenging enough to test the limits of an F1 racer. I have always wondered what makes Formula 1 so challenging (and I mean this in a respectful light). I mean, is it the fact you have to have such incredible reaction times to handle an extremely fast circuit racing car? Is it the challenge of the tracks themselves? Is it about building the ultimate racing car... up against the ultimate racing cars as other teams see fit? The ultimate test of F1 drivers and teams is to take part in Grands Prix around the world as well as in addressing individual challenges F1 provides.

--- Hosting F1 Grands Prix ---
Let's take a look at some of the nations to host F1 Grands Prix this past decade (2001-2010). Here were some of the nations to host F1 races either for the first time or first time in a long time: Turkey (Istanbul Park), Singapore (Marina Bay Street Circuit), Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina Circuit), Bahrain (Bahrain International Circuit), China (Shanghai International Circuit), and the Korea Republic (Korean International Circuit). Let's not forget the return of F1 to the United States at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Before that, the United States had F1 Grand Prix action in a number of places- Sebring, the streets of Dallas, Las Vegas, Riverside International Raceway, the streets of Detroit, Watkins Glen International... all among other places. You can add India and Moscow (Russia) to the list of future F1 racing venues for when the Grand Prix races for these locations are run proper.

The impact is huge to host an F1 Grand Prix race. I sometimes like to think of F1 Grand Prix races to be like the World Cup. All the attention is usually paid to one place as the sport's or league's stars all converge to do battle on the track. In today's modern F1, most everything has to be modern or futuristic. At no point was this more apparent than when the streets of Singapore hosted Formula 1's first ever night race (or at least the first-ever F1 race run under artificial lighting. A lively and energetic city-state like Singapore provides an outstanding setting for which to host something exciting like the Singapore Grand Prix.

I am someone who believes that money talks. If you can throw money at something, you can do almost whatever you want. Evidence of this in racing is when tracks in the Middle East started coming up. Think about it- there were hardly any Middle Eastern racing venues until recent times. One of the first venues to come to mind in this subject matter is the Dubai Autodrome. The Dubai Autodrome is evidence of this. There is already lots of money with oil and tourism in the United Arab Emirates, so having a world-class racing facility like this is wonderful for racing fans in Dubai. Sadly for Dubai, the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi seems to mostly overshadow a great track like the Dubai Autodrome.

So I think if there is a good enough financial base and a fairly decent population, you could almost basically take Formula 1 anywhere. But ANYWHERE? I'll put that to the test in the next section!

--- What If... Future Nations/Cities to Host Grands Prix? ---
The previous section involved hosting F1 Grands Prix. This section, though, pertains to what if certain nations or cities had their own F1 Grand Prix venues. Some of the nations and cities you see mentioned here may have never had F1 race there or even had drivers from these nations compete in Formula 1.

What if nations and/or cities like the following hosted F1 Grand Prix events? You may see some surprising and interesting choices for F1 Grands Prix (hypothetical names used):

Grand Prix of Mexico?

The last F1 race in Mexico was back in 1992 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. The new Circuit of the Americas is sort of a de facto course for Mexico, even though this track is based south of Austin, Texas, USA. There was once a planned venue for Formula 1 to race in Mexico on the streets of Cancun. Whether or not this deal is on or not is beyond me.

Grand Prix of Venezuela?

Though there are racers from Venezuela, Autódromo Internacional Pancho Pepe Cróquer (or better known as Turagua) is about the only proper racing facility in Venezuela. Turagua is more like a club-level circuit from pictures I've seen. Surely not an FIA Category 1 course. However, it would be interesting to see Formula 1 in the country where the world's largest waterfall (Angel Falls) is located. I think the Caracas market would be the biggest market to potentially have any major racing facility and the biggest market to perhaps host such a major racing event.

Grand Prix of Iceland?

You want crazy? This would be it! This country does bear a touch of relevance because there was a planned race track to be constructed in Iceland called Iceland MotoPark. Haven't found anything to suggest this track was actually created or not. This would likely be a course that would have been home ground for the Iceland A1GP team. The only city I (or most other people) know of is Reykjavik, so that HAS to be a primary market in considering an F1 venue.

Grand Prix of Portugal?

The Formula 1 World Championship once considered Estoril home. A recently-built track in Portugal is the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão. This track is certainly long enough to host an F1 race at about 2.9 miles in length. However, I think F1 teams use Portimão as a test venue. It's a very nice track from what I've seen in pictures and video.

Grand Prix of Sweden?

Swedish folk have a lot of great race tracks. Mantorp Park is the one I know best of and love most. I am familiar with Anderstorp from playing the very first GTR. I know Sweden in racing for the wonderful Rally Sweden.

Grand Prix of Finland?

With so much racing on and off road, it's sad that Finland doesn't have its own F1 Grand Prix. You can name just about any Finnish racing talent. I get a lot of traffic from Finland, so I wonder how my Finland readers would feel about seeing today's F1 in Finland. Finland does have a good amount of proper racing facilities. To me, though, only the Helsinki Thunder street course from the mid-1990s comes to mind as far as the only tracks I can readily think of in Finland. I would have to imagine that a proper track capable of hosting a modern F1 race would probably be based in southern Finland or southwestern Finland in terms of a general market.

Grand Prix of Estonia?

A country I have recently grown to love is Estonia. Especially with cities like Tallinn and Tartu, Estonia is a very beautiful country from what I have seen in pictures and video. The only Estonian in racing I've heard of is Markko Martin. There is a permanent facility in Estonia called the Pärnu Ring, but it seems a lot like a club-level circuit.

Grand Prix of Switzerland?

There hasn't been much motor racing in Switzerland unless you go back in time. Many people will immediately think of Alain Menu as far as Swiss racing talent is concerned. I read of a former race track called Bremgarten in Swiss motor racing history. It was a 4+ mile race course mostly on public forested roads. Its danger made this course basically go defunct after a while.

Grand Prix of Austria?

A1 Ring last saw F1 action in 2003. Since 2004, A1 Ring has been mostly disused. I've heard two different reports on this track- either it's been completely deconstructed and gone for good, and another source says that this track has been reconfigured mostly to host touring car racing. The best thing about the A1 Ring was the beautiful view of the Austrian countryside provided. It was also a very tough track with lots of elevation changes and some very decisive sharp turns.

Grand Prix of Croatia?

The beautiful country of Croatia doesn't have any really major series racing on tracks in Croatia. Really, Croatia has the Automotodrom Grobnik in Rijeka, Croatia. I wonder if Croatia would be a good enough place to maybe host an F1 Grand Prix race.

Grand Prix of Azerbaijan?

Azerbaijan is Europe's southeasternmost nation. It is a country whose coastline makes up part of the northern half of the Caspian Sea. There is no motor racing of any kind that I'm aware of in Azerbaijan. However, its capital city of Baku (which is a Sister City of Houston) is a lovely place and is even an oil capital. This alone could be either possibility to host an F1 race on the streets of Baku or some modern F1 track near Baku.

Grand Prix of Egypt?

Back in the mid-2000s, there was a track to be called Ghazala Bay that would host Formula 3 racing. That track, for what I know, NEVER materialized. What if Formula 1 wanted to race in Egypt? The only three major cities I know of in Egypt are Cairo (the capital), Aswan, and Alexandria.

Grand Prix of Morocco?

The streets of Marrakech have been the recent home of racing in Morocco. Even well before this, Formula 1 used to race in Morocco decades ago. Would it be possible for Morocco to maybe have a permanent racing facility to host a round of today's F1 World Championship? Tell you what- the Marrakech street course was made for touring car racing. It would be too boring for F1 cars.

Grand Prix of Kenya?

Kenya is better known in racing as the home of the Safari Rally. I would not be sure if there would be enough financial backing or space to come up with a modern Formula 1 track in Kenya. It would be entertaining to see F1 race there considering the possibility of a heavy rain storm in Kenya for an F1 race.

Grand Prix of Israel?

I started a thread on regarding the Middle East's emergence into motorsport. One person posted something about an attempted Formula Two (not F1) once racing in Israel in 1970, but the race was canceled because of poor crowd control. The race was held during Sabbath, which probably made things worse trying to control crowds. A motorsports law was approved in Israel last year or some five years ago. Would Israel be a candidate to host an F1 Grand Prix? It would be yes if there was enough interest and a lot of financial backing to build a quality modern F1 circuit.

By the way, if you're interested in that thread I started regarding the emergence of motorsport in the Middle East, check out "Emergence of Racing in Middle East" on

Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia?

To begin the Middle Eastern swing of this blog post, I start with Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has a track called Reem International Circuit that is 2.36 miles in length. A number of racing series have some major races here for both cars and motorcycles. I'd imagine that Saudi Arabia would be a significant market for any such motorsport in the Middle East besides Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

Grand Prix of Qatar?

The Losail International Circuit is the only real contribution to motor racing unless Losail somehow isn't good enough for Formula 1. Now, this track was basically made for motorcycles. This track plays host to the Doha 8 Hour race as part of the FIM Endurance World Championship. Qatar will play host to the 2022 World Cup. If you think Qatar is on the rise, then you can say that Qatar would be a nice market for F1. The only exception is if F1 doesn't want to host three races in the Middle East.

Grand Prix of Kazakhstan?

The reason why I mention Kazakhstan is because Hermann Tilke had a planned racing venue for the Middle Eastern nation called Kazakhstan MotorCity. Not sure about the status of it, but it made me wonder if Kazakhstan would make for a future country for F1 to visit and hold a race at.

Grand Prix of Vietnam?

It would be most interesting if Vietnam had a Grand Prix. Remember how I said that if you throw money at something, you could make any kind of statement you want? Well, imagine this happening to Vietnam. I have created a number of fictional race tracks; four of which in Vietnam. The premier one I've envisioned was a racing facility not far away from downtown Hanoi (the capital of Vietnam). Again- would be interesting if there was a sparkling, modern, FIA Category 1 racing track in Vietnam. The chances of it actually materializing? Very unlikely.

Grand Prix of Thailand?

Staying in Southeast Asia, I've somewhat pondered if there was an F1 Grand Prix of Thailand. There was an arcade-only F1 racing game from Taito called "Ground Effects." In the 1992 arcade game "Ground Effects," one of the venues is a fantasy course based in Thailand. Thailand has two real tracks to my knowledge- Bira International Circuit and Thailand Circuit. So I have to wonder what if Formula One wanted to hold a Grand Prix race in Thailand. It would either have to be some really modern F1 racing facility or maybe a race around the streets of Bangkok. I think the key market has to be Bangkok.

Grand Prix of Indonesia?

The world's largest archipelago in area is Indonesia. The Republic of Indonesia has a great racing facility that has played host to A1GP racing at the Sentul Circuit. Indonesia even played host to a round of the World Rally Championship in the mid-1990s. The two biggest races in Southeast Asia are the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang and the street course around Marina Bay in Singapore. If there was a third F1 Grand Prix to be held in Southeast Asia, Indonesia would be a pretty nice candidate.

Grand Prix of Hong Kong?

Hong Kong is a lively city. If you have played Gran Turismo 4, you may have ran a number of laps around the Hong Kong circuit. Hong Kong at night would be insane to have an F1 race around. Hong Kong looks spectacular at night. This could be a race to maybe outdo (or try to) Singapore's F1 course. Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region, China would be interesting if it did materialize. I don't think it will, though.

Grand Prix of the Philippines?

There is racing that goes on in the Philippines. Perhaps the toughest Filipino race track is the Batangas Circuit. Only other racing track I've heard of in the Philippines is Subic Bay Raceway. Would there be enough to have a major racing circuit in the Philippines? Not likely, but it would be interesting to see one such course there to host F1 if it were ever to happen.

Grand Prix of New Zealand?

World Rally races in New Zealand. The Australian V8 Supercar Series has rounds in New Zealand at Hamilton and Pukekohe. One of the biggest off-road races is the Taupo 1000. There is a tough targa rally called Targa New Zealand. New Zealand was an A1GP country with races at the beautiful Taupo Motorsport Park. The Millen racing family is from New Zealand. So... what if there was an F1 Grand Prix of New Zealand? There used to be a Pacific Grand Prix in the 1990s in Japan as well as this being a non-championship race in the 1960s at Laguna Seca. Well, imagine if New Zealand joined the F1 circus. A Grand Prix race in New Zealand would be a great South Pacific F1 deal, perhaps even one that could possibly lure some New Zealanders into F1. From one website I visited, there have been eight drivers from New Zealand to compete in F1. One of the most famous was Bruce McLaren from Auckland. What if young Shane Van Gisbergen (who is also from Auckland, New Zealand) wanted to step up to Formula 1 and perhaps challenge Australia's Mark Webber for Australasian pride in F1? There is not much motor racing culture in the South Pacific besides in Australia and New Zealand. Either a modern circuit would have to be constructed, or perhaps Taupo Motorsport Park gets a whole lot of money to be renovated severely to host an F1 race. It is an FIA Grade 2 track at present.

There were some places I didn't mention. One of them was South Africa because there is a rumor that F1 may return to South Africa, but race on a street course rather than renovate Kyalami. Only street course I recall before this possible new F1 street course was in Durban with the A1 Grand Prix. So I didn't mention them. I also didn't mention a few other places because I wanted to be realistic in showcasing certain nations in motor racing.

Your comments are welcome involving the impact of Formula 1 Grands Prix for the nations that host these events. That even pertains to creating courses that would greatly compliment today's Formula 1 racing. Thank you for reading!

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John B. Marine said...

a thai grand prox would be fun.

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