As we close a chapter on the Korean Grand Prix and head directly to the heart of the inaugural Indian Grand Prix, there are lingering questions about the two new circuits this week. The Buddh International Circuit was unveiled last week and many fans are wondering what to expect from this Herman Tilke designed track. The current crop of Formula One circuits, also designed by Tilke, has left some fans cold as to the design and excitement they deliver.
For his part, India driver Narain Karthikeyan says we have little to worry about telling the Hindu:
"I have raced on all the major F1 tracks across the globe, and I rate this track as one of the best in the world,"
Jaypee's Buddh International Circuit, was formally opened with Manoj Gaur, the chairman of Jaypee Group, Vicky Chandhok, president of the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) and Narain Karthikeyan. The group signaled the importance of the event to India and their commitment to its long-term financial sustainability.
"Circuit needs to be utilized properly and definitely national racing events will be held on this track after the race. That is how budding Indian racers will come up. Around USD 400 million has been invested in this whole project," said Chandhok
As the lights shine brightly on the new Indian circuit, they could possibly dimming or going out altogether on the Korean Grand Prix race according to AUTOSPORT. It seems that Yeongam GP race promoter Won-Hwa Park is seeking the help of F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone in renegotiating the contract to lessen the financial burden the sanctioning fees represent.
If you've followed F1 for a while, you'll know those fees have been estimated at approximately $25M per year with an escalator of 10% over a period of time. In the case of the Yeongam circuit, the contract expires in 2016. The circuit is producing a loss and Park is keen to seek a lower financial obligation to keep the race on the calendar:
"We are trying hard, but we need the co-operation of Mr. Bernie Ecclestone. We certainly want to continue with this event because it is a big event, even though we have losses.
"We want to give this region momentum by holding this event to help boost its economy and to boost the image, and to change our farming background in this region."
A renegotiation would set a precedent for other circuits coming into the F1 fold. The returning US Grand Prix in Austin Texas is utilizing a Major Events Trust Fund to handle the $25M per year sanctioning fees and there is little doubt that most new host nations are facing similar fees.
To assuage Korea's fears and keep the race on the calendar, perhaps a restructured sanctioning fee would be helpful but I cannot imagine other promoters will be too keen on the idea unless their fees are lowered as well.
It is unclear just how desperate the situation is or if the government will prop up the race financially but AUTOSPORT suggested the race could be in danger of seeing the light of day on next year's calendar even though Park said it would be too early to determine its fate if Ecclestone doesn't acquiesce. This is an unfortunate turn of events for a race that just completed on y its second year in F1.
As emerging markets lay claim to new F1 events removing older venues near and dear to the hearts of loyal F1 fans, it could be a signal that even these emerging markets struggle to honor such large debt. F1 has had a propensity for following the money and Mr. Ecclestone has seen fit to remove legacy races with little resources in favor of Asian locations with seemingly unlimited funds. The question is how much is 'unlimited'? In Korea's case, not that much.