F1 calendar before Spa but Germany’s future up in the air

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HOCKENHEIM, Germany (Reuters) – Formula One will have a draft 2019 calendar by the end of August but there could be only 20 races, with Germany out of contract and a proposed round in Miami still in the embryonic stages.

F1 commercial manager Sean Bratches assured Reuters at Sunday’s German Grand Prix that next year’s schedule would be published before the Belgian race at Spa-Francorchamps on Aug. 26.

He would not be drawn on the number of races but Miami city authorities are not due to take any decision on what would be a second U.S. round until after their August recess.

Sources told Reuters Formula One had already accepted Miami would not feature on the calendar until 2020 at the earliest.

Bratches said Formula One wanted to keep Germany, home of champions Mercedes and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, on the calendar – hopefully from next year.

Whether that is Hockenheim or somewhere else remains to be seen, however.

“Our interest is in remaining in Germany,” said Bratches. “We have three countries out of 21 where the government doesn’t underpin the grand prix — Austria, Britain and Germany. So we’re trying to find an appropriate way around that.

“We’re not ready to wave the white flag yet on Germany for 2019,” he added.

“Everybody’s interested in making a deal. And there’s multiple circuits in this wonderful country.”

FINANCIAL CHALLENGE

Jorn Teske, the Hockenheim marketing director who has been actively engaged in negotiations, told Reuters that the choice really came down to his circuit or the Nuerburgring – which has also been unwilling to pay the hosting fees demanded.

He dismissed suggestions that a street race could be organized in Berlin, given that a fan festival scheduled for the week before the German Grand Prix never got off the ground.

“I don’t believe in this in Berlin, not at all,” he said. “For several reasons, not just money but also the political situation there. I try to imagine which other city in Germany it could be but no ideas.

“It doesn’t really make sense. It might be a good show but to build the whole infrastructure… to have this very difficult discussion in Germany about cars, all these diesel (emission) scandals, I cannot imagine it,” he said.

Hockenheim, owned by local city authorities accountable to taxpayers, wants a contract that takes away risk and reduces hosting fees to the point where they can break even.

Sunday’s estimated crowd of 71,000 was a boost but there are no guarantees of similar numbers in future and exchange rates are another concern with hosting contracts in dollars but costs and revenues in euros.

“Even with this number of spectators it’s still a financial challenge and we don’t know if it will be like this next year or 2020,” said Teske.

“When the numbers go down again there is an even higher risk. Either there is somebody else who is taking the risk, saying ‘OK, listen, we think Germany and the GP is so important that I take the risk’. Or we find another direct solution.”

Teske said talks remained ongoing but it depended on whether the focus was 2019 or 2020.

“When we are speaking about 2020 then we have enough time. If somebody is thinking about 2019 then again we have to hurry up because normally we would have started our pre-sales exactly one year before the next race,” he added.

“Now it’s more important to find a solution in general. This is our goal, sure. If we can reach this I have no idea at the moment.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Sudipto Ganguly

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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