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GP Week : Issue 156
S ince 2010, each of the fourteen places listed above has stated its intention to play host to a Formula One World Championship race in the not-too-distant future. And, for a host of reasons, each has failed to do so. Yet. We’re at an inglorious moment in F1 history, one that sees the brand devalued as it is bandied around to attract positive publicity – usually to an unheard of region in a popular tourist destination – for those who have no serious intention of engaging with motorsport. But while that itself has long been the case, these days the chatter gains added credibility thanks to Bernie Ecclestone’s well-known desire to expand the F1 calendar on a seemingly exponential basis. Some races are announced with great fanfare even though it is clearly obvious to all and sundry that they’re never going to happen. Other races – Korea, Austin, Sochi, we’re looking at you – are dogged with accusations of failure even as the cars are lining up for the formation lap at the maiden grand prix. Still more races make perfect logistical sense, but fail at the final hurdle. Salut, France – we’ll miss you. This March, the big news was that Formula One would be heading off to Argentina, possibly as early as 2013, to take part in a race on Mar del Plata that would be twinned with the Brazilian Grand Prix at the end of the season, affording members of the F1 circus excellent holidaying opportunities in early December. Argentine president and Eva Peron wannabe Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner announced that contract negotiations were well under way, and that the grand prix was essentially a done deal. The announcement was originally derided by F1 insiders as a popularist move with no credibility, but on-going silence from FOM and the ever-turning paddock rumour mill gave the story legs. “I was brought the proposal to stage Formula One in Argentina and we’re reaching agreement,” Kirchner told Argentine newspaper La Nacion in March. “God willing, we’ll have Formula One in Argentina.” The president was later quoted as saying “we are closing [the deal]. For three years, in 2013, 2014 and 2015 in the city of Mar del Plata. For us it will be very important because after football, racing is the second favourite sport for Argentineans. Getting Formula One back to Argentina is something we deserve in order to be able to show the things we have.” But over the Monaco Grand Prix weekend, Bernie Ecclestone denied that talks were under way with Argentina, telling Argentine news site DPA: “I have not seen any contract. There is nothing signed. I have no idea.” Argentina is but one of a long list of countries that has shouted loud and delivered little. In May 2011, Evangelos Floratos, former mayor of the Greek town of Patras, announced plans to build an F1-spec circuit in the area, with a view to hosting grands prix. His timing was impeccable – Floratos made his announcement on the same day that Athens played host to violent demonstrations against austerity measures imposed by the government in an attempt to alleviate the financial crisis that has only worsened since. “It has taken many years to reach this point,” Floratos said at the time. “The project is estimated to cost 94 million euros and is to be partly subsidized by the Greek state. The completion date is estimated at three years.” Given Greece’s current financial predicament, it’s safe to say that the F1 circus is unlikely to be booking hotel rooms in Patra for at least a decade, if ever. Another great idea that burned brightly for a time was the prospect of a street race in Rome. The concept was appealing to the tabloids, but Gilles Villeneuve's Ferrari 126CK, retired from the 1981 Argentine Grand Prix with a broken drive-shaft. Attempts to return to the country for a GP haven't borne fruit. Graham Hill, Lotus Cosworth 49B, leads pole position man Jo Siffert in a similar Rob Walker Racing-entered car and Jackie Stewart (Matra Cosworth MS10 in the Mexican Grand Prix of 1968. Hill took victory and with it clinched his second World Championship title. 32 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: F1 >>> FEATURE