Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2014

Tracks like Spa are F1’s “lifeblood” – Gastaldi

2015 Belgian Grand Prix

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Start, Spa-Francorchamps, 2014Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi believes Formula One should ensure heritage circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps remain on the calendar for years to come.

This year’s championship is the first in 55 years not to feature a round in Germany. Meanwhile the future of Italy’s race at Monza is in doubt.

However Gastaldi said it is “vital” to ensure such venues are not lost. “These tracks are the lifeblood of F1,” he said.

He pointed out that other sports also feature centrepiece events which are an essential part of their character.

“There wouldn’t be a tennis season without Wimbledon or a golf season without the Masters at Augusta,” he said. “These circuits need to be maintained in F1 because the fans identify with them so much and they nearly always create excitement.”

“I think we have a good balance of tracks in F1. Some traditional like Spa, Silverstone and Monza, some great street circuits like Monaco and Singapore and then newer F1 markets like Russia, the Middle East and the US. F1 should be about variety in every context while at the same time being relevant to partners, fans and teams alike.”

However other team principals believe Formula One should only race at venues which will pay enough to host races. Speaking during a press conference at the Hungarian Grand Prix last month Toro Rosso’s Franz Tost said: “We must go to countries which can afford Formula One, as simple as that.”

“If they can’t afford it, we don’t go there. I don’t care whether we race in Germany or in Italy or wherever. We have to race where the financial situation allows Formula One to go there.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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47 comments on “Tracks like Spa are F1’s “lifeblood” – Gastaldi”

  1. Formula One should be a sport first and a business second. The racetracks used should be used for sporting reasons, the quality of the track, the history, the challenge and for Formula One to to be able to genuinely claim it is the true pinnacle of WORLD motor racing.

    It shouldn’t prostitute itself for the highest bidder so those greedy few can cream off the proceeds.

    1. You stress how it should be the pinnacle of WORLD motor racing while at the same time saying we should race at quality, historical tracks rather than the highest bidder.

      The Middle East is part of the world. It’s a big part of the world. It fuels your cars and most of the world’s most expensive cars are there. I’m going to say right now, if you want a pinnacle of WORLD motor racing, you HAVE to go where cars are still important. And that includes the rich countries with gold plated limousines.

      1. Yes I agree, there should be 1 race in the middle east. Not 2 within 200 miles of each other, or 3 (with the supposed Qatar bid)
        Monza, Silverstone, Spa, Monaco, Montreal, Suzuka & Interlagos should be protected events. They should not even have to pay to hold an event. They are so integral to the history and the heritage of the sport.
        Franz Tosts’ opinion, along with Bernie and CVC, are what is wrong with the sport. The ‘greed’ from the team bosses, Bernie, and CVC are a parasite on the ‘sport’. If so much money wasn’t being sucked out of the sport, and that money was distributed more evenly, and invested back into the sport with a marketing team, then FOM wouldn’t need to demand such high fees from the racetracks, and then that cost wouldn’t be put on the heads of the punters who go to watch the race live.
        And if we didn’t have crazy rules put in place demanding everyone use the most expensive engines ever designed, then we would have more teams on the grid. And if the rules were changed so that ‘single car’ entries were allowed, we would have even more teams.
        F1 is not ‘green’, and never will be when the calendar is so back and forth across the planet, so trying to pretend with these ‘ahem’ power units is just ridiculous!
        My calendar would be
        Australia
        Singapore
        China
        Japan
        South Africa
        Bahrain
        Spain (not Barcelona)
        Monaco
        Austria
        Britain
        European (This should be a rotating GP, going between France, Germany, Portugal, Azerbijan, Russia et al)
        Hungary
        Belgium
        Italy
        Canada
        USA (this should also alternate between east & west coast and Austin)
        Mexico
        Argentina
        Brazil
        This way less money is spent on cargo, the European heartland (F1’s heartbeat) is protected, and every continent is represented

        1. So, despite all the history of France and Germany in grand prix racing, they don’t get races every year, but countries with no F1 history at all and a decidedly dodgy human rights record like as Bahrain do?

        2. The historic western European races (Monaco, Belgium, Italy, Britain, Germany, and France) should be protected, for sure, like Monaco is. GP’s should be in countries first and foremost that have a history or an interest with any kind of motor racing, like France and Argentina.

          Here’s my calendar:

          Argentina
          Brazil
          South Africa
          Mexico
          USA (Austin)
          Monaco
          Spain (Barcelona w/o the chicane)
          Turkey (Istanbul Park)
          France (Ricard)/Austria (RBR) (Alternating)
          Britain
          Germany
          Finland
          (break)
          Belgium
          Hungary
          Italy
          Canada
          USA (New York)
          Singapore
          Japan
          Emirates
          India
          Australia (Adelaide)

          23 GP’s is a lot, but hell, I think the teams could do it.

      2. @neiana – I’m sorry, but I find these horrible arguments for racing in the Middle East. The ME is part of the world, but by no measure should it merit F1 racing based on any of the reasons you’ve provided. In population, if the entire ME has 1 grand prix, Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, and Nigeria should have one, the US should have 1.5-2, and India and China should have 6 each.

        Based on oil production (why is this even a consideration?), The top 7 ME countries produce around 30% of world production, Russia, US, and China produce that same amount between them.

        And just because insanely rich oil barons in the ME buy cars by the dozen and put them in garages to rot, does not mean it is rich in car culture or racing interest. From what I’ve been able to find, no ME country cracks the top 10 in car sales and I doubt any are even close. THAT is where cars are important. That is where manufacturers want visibility.

        Reasons against a lot of ME races (note: I’m not saying that there should be none in the ME), the flat land isn’t conducive to a lot of interesting tracks when the person designing those tracks is Tilke. And the same reason to not put up lazy, boring tracks in any place (Korea, India, Russia) just because the money is there — you end up with a track used once or twice and then falling into disuse. It’s a waste of resources and a waste of a calendar slot that could have gone somewhere better. Some people may hate Imola, but who really wants to see another Russian GP or race on the Valencia circuit rather than one at Imola or Portugal or Fuji? We need to cut out the fat in F1, and at least use good venues/tracks. While not every race would be a thriller even then, at least they would have the ingredients necessary to be great.

      3. Two races in the Middle East and two in Malaysia is at least two too many.

        There should be races in Scandinavia and Africa.

        1. Don’t forget Antarctica!

      4. You’re making a strange connection between ‘highest bidder’ and ‘pinnacle’. He stated that the best races would take place on tracks that are chosen because of various sporting reasons, heritage being one of them. The alternative, as you seem to see it, is a country out-bidding everyone, and staging the race on a horrid track in front of very few spectators. Money in the hands of few doesn’t equal pinnacle. There’s your confusion. Unfortunately, this inability of business-minded people to understand the basic concept of ‘sport’ is (oh so predictably) starting to drive F1 into the ground. Let’s see if we can try. In sport, profit at all costs doesn’t necessarily equal sustainability, dignity or lasting respect. Woah, mind blown. What a revelation.

    2. As long as BE’s greed dictates where F1 will race, we will see new tracks in Corruptland. The big brands associated with F1 (Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, Renault, etc…) apparently buy into the notion of these places as emerging markets and give BE a pass to keep developing these asinine events.

      They run the risk of flaming itself out. Because people in the middle east, in eastern Europe and elsewhere want an F1 race because of F1’s tradition, because of the Monzas, Spa Francorchamps, Silverstones, etc…. If you kill the traditional races, the ones that give F1 a character, racing wherever the petro-monies pay for the obscene fees BE wants, you will have a soul-less series.

      1. Really smart, calling countries “Corruptland”. But I cannot be sure of which corruptland you mean. There are hundreds of countries to choose from.

      2. I think CVC is to blame; Ecclestone is just the man who does the dirty dealmaking.

    3. I personally find it incomprehensible that races in the UK, France, Germany, Monaco, and Italy are not scheduled every year. Bernie and his cronies do not need to make a billion bucks every race…. If they like the ME and Aisa so much why don’t they live there, not just drop in and take the money… Thanks, Norris

  2. So Gestaldi voted for F in the ‘top priorities for F1’ poll. But I absolutely agree with him, racing on these classic circuits is absolutely vital, just for the sheer variety they bring as and are household names for a lot of people.

    1. Gastaldi* Got his name wrong and yet, it’s in the title.

  3. I don’t fully agree with Gastaldi there. I agree that tracks such as “Spa, Silverstone and Monza” should be on the calendar, but why shouldn’t they be there in the first place? Because it’s not financially viable for these tracks to host a Grand Prix. The fee that organisers need to pay in order to host a Grand Prix is very high, but still low enough for at least twenty tracks/organisers to be willing to pay. So the most logical thing to do for FOM, which is of course a company, is to raise the price such that exactly the right number of tracks are willing to pay. It’s logical from FOM’s point of view, but illogical from a sport’s point of view. This debate is one of the many reasons why it’s stupid to give FOM so much influence on the sport itself.

    1. But the reason the tracks are willing to pay so much money is for the prestige of F1. The classic gp add to the prestige of f1. if all the classics disapear F1 will lose a lot of Prestige.

    2. Actually it is not economically logical at all @andae23. Its the same short term thinking that has a lot of businesses trapped with their quarterly reporting, and it leads companies towards a focus on short term profit that hurts their long term viability.

      1. @bascb Are you accusing FOM of being short-sighted here? :P

        But yeah, I agree that thinking about the short term more than the long term is not the greatest of signs for a company.

        1. I think they are proud of being just that already @andae23, or at least Bernie seems to be so.

  4. If new trakcs never get a chance how are we ever going to create new classics? Sure Spa, Monza and plenty of others belong on the calender but there’s plenty of other tracks, much newer, that deserve it too.

    Then again, whatever sport will always have a certain business model and needs make profit somehow, location of tracks is a big factor in that.

    1. @xtwl Isn’t there more to a ‘classic’ venue than mere longevity, though? The Hungaroring has held 30 races now, more than most tracks and more consecutively than anywhere bar Monza. Does that make it a classic venue whose place on the calendar must be safeguarded? I wouldn’t say so.

      1. @keithcollantine,

        Longevity is part of the equation. It shows a dedication to the series. However, at the end of the day F1 is a business. It is a commodity that is to be bought and sold just like a pair of sneakers or a car.

        As a capitalistic endeavor, where F1 goes is driven by demand. Monza and Hockenheim are pillars of F1, but if the demand of the locals for F1 changes, we have no choice but to move on where the sport is wanted.

        I can’t believe the snobbery here. The notion that we should cut off other countries like the ME because they don’t have the prestigious history is non sense. We should do everything we can to preserve classic tracks, but understand also that the marketing/promotion departments are exploiting their prestige to make huge profits. Sometimes they over reach and charge too high and suddenly no one wants to attend the race as happened in Hockenheim and Silverstone. Now they started lowering their prices to competitive rates and fans have responded in droves as seen at Silverstone this year. I’m positive the same will happen in Hockenheim next year now that they changed their pricing structure.

      2. @keithcollantine I agree, but if a track can’t be on the calender for let’s say a consecutive few years what chance does it have to become one? For me India and Turkey were brilliant tracks with all the right ingredients to become one but were never given the chance.

        Malaysia isn’t on the calender that long but for me it is a classic track. Next to that China has failed to become one in my opinion. Sure, Monaco is a classic but if I’m really honest and let my racing self speak they can catapult it off the calender.

  5. Well attended, packed capacity events should definitely be prioritised – Silverstone, Monza, Melbourne, Montreal amongst others. A high demand for tickets shows that there is an appetite in those countries for F1. Races with acres and acres of empty grandstands – oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. Why does F1 go to them? (That’s a rhetorical question).

  6. Formula One should ensure heritage circuits such as Spa-Francorchamps remain on the calendar for years to come.

    No it just needs its new tracks to be as good as Spa, or better.

    1. It’s ironic that the only new track that really had that quality isn’t on the calendar anymore. Because it lacked funds! The one time Tilke made a good track, he made it for one country that couldn’t keep up with Bernie’s fees.

      1. @brace I’d say COTA is more than decent too and still on the calendar.

      2. COTA?

  7. Franz Tost really is a berk of colossal proportions. Does anybody remember the appalling sycophantic statement he made in Bahrain a few years ago? There were riots outside the circuit and people being shot, and he made an extraordinarily inappropriate statement praising Ecclestone……….He really sums up how money can corrupt, he almost seems to have no soul. Very sad.

    1. There seems to be a collective myopia between the team bosses, where they waffle on about F1 being merely a sport and somehow divorced from politics, whilst turning a blind eye to Vladimir Putin cavorting with the drivers and the poison dwarf after a particularly dull inaugural Russian grand prix last year. If that’s not getting involved in politics, I don’t know what is. They also overlook F1 (eventually) boycotting South Africa in the dying days of apartheid. Do they have the power of independent thought, or do they have someone off-stage feeding them lines?

      I increasingly find myself thinking that being a sociopath is an essential qualification to being a team boss or a deputy. They are spectacularly clueless and out of touch. The only ones I have any time for are Frank Williams (mainly due to his attitude to racing for the love of it, not to sell street-going cars or fizzy drinks), Graeme Lowden and the Force India and Sauber pairing, both of whom proved in a recent press conference that at least part of their brains are still intact.

      They do like to praise Ecclestone. I read a quote from Horner recently where he claimed something to the effect that Ecclestone is the only person who can possibly run the sport. The man is 84 years old and can’t even use a revolving door. Is that really the best candidate you can come up with?

      1. @jules-winfield

        Well put. It is extraordinary how out of touch the sport is, and when folk such as Tost say it won’t matter at all if F1 does not race anymore at Monza, it is almost impossible to believe how far up their own backsides many of them are.

        I find it embarrassing when they race at dull, featureless ‘play mats’ in the desert, with very few spectators. To think it is in any was acceptable or desirable for the sport to carry on with those venues whilst possibly voluntarily losing the classics is rather depressing really.

        I am inclined to agree with your views on Frank Williams, but was surprised and disappointed in a recent interview in ‘Motorsport’ that he said Bernie ‘came from heaven’. It seems even someone as pure a racer as Frank can also be distracted by what a couple of hundred million in the bank can do…….

      2. I must admit your comment about Bernie and the revolving door made me laugh out loud. I think F1 needs a combination of circuits old and new. I think 20 races is the maximum and at least 8 of these should be in Europe. That could include Russia I suppose.

        If F1 thinks it can afford to reduce it’s European races and lose it’s European fans it is sorely mistaken. We would see where they end up without them. It’s already getting pretty soulless and desperate.

        1. its not it’s. Fool.

    2. Would that be the race where to hide the backdrop of smoke in the distance, TV coverage kept the cameras below the skyline?

      1. @budchekov

        That will be the one………..

        No problem for Tost though!

  8. Gastaldi makes a good point that it’s the tracks that matter, not their locations.
    One thing that everyone seems to miss when lamenting the loss of the German and French Grand Prix is that the new Nurburgring, new Hockenheim and (especially) Magny-Cours aren’t special enough to be guaranteed a place on the calendar.
    Montreal, Spa and Monza on the other hand…

  9. Turkey’s an interesting example. I bet lots of F1 fans and viewers miss that track for its hills, layout and memorable racing. Look how influential it’s been in the design of more recent circuits. And I bet the teams don’t miss it at all…

    I think today’s Nurburgring and Hockenheim gain a lot of false, reflected prestige from their names, and being built on the site of a distinctive, historic track. I guess I could say the same about Silverstone and the Red Bull Ring (I don’t think any of the original corners remain) but those are better, more flowing layouts and very well-attended races.

    1. @bullfrog
      Yes, I think it’s important that Germany has a grand prix, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be at the Nurburgring or Hockenheim, they’re both pretty bland tracks now. Maybe that’s one reason they can’t sell enough tickets to be viable?

  10. I agree with Gestaldi that tracks like Spa deserve some sort of protection, probably in the form of a reduced race fee. I think Tost’s position that F1 should simply go to those venues that can afford seems to imply that F1 is some sort short-term scheme for maximizing profit. Oh wait… ;-)

    Seriously, though, having classic tracks that produce exciting racing is good for the viewership, and ultimately that will also determine how much money Bernie can squeeze out of new venues trying to put their country on the map, or cover up whatever horrible politics they engage in.

    On another note, it’s a shame that all the new venues are so sterile. When was the last time a new addition was a fast flowing venue through forested hillsides?

  11. What a rubbish comment, mr. Tost. We all know that.

  12. I love historic tracks but, let’s not say, F1 please keep the historic tracks because we can’t appreciate change. I’m sure to do so would be in violation of the liberal and democratic world we live in. I think we must say, F1 keep the tracks that make F1 better. Thankfully Silverstone, Monza, SPA and Monaco are some of these tracks. F1 ought to make their best to keep these tracks and perhaps some of the future classics such as Malaysia and Bahrain as well on the calendar but in the end keep the calendar open to new entries and wealthy promoters.

  13. There is plenty enough space on the F1 calendar to host the classics and a selection of other quality tracks and some new challenges. 20 races is not a small number.

    There is something wrong with a pricing structure where a circuit’s income is strictly spectator-dependent and the expenditure is heavily biased against spectators. The tracks that can afford to pay the most tend to be the ones that least care about spectators because they are motivated by marketing and such. An individual track’s marketing is simplest if it spends lots of money on the marketing – which means little left over for spectators. Especially after Bernie’s demands on VIP facilities and the FIA’s demands on trackside furniture (plus profit-generating escalators in an attempt to compensate for falling TV audience) leave so little left in the wallet for circuits to make their races a good experience for the sort of people in a position to buy the (usually relatively expensive) tickets.

    F1 hasn’t been designed to be primarily funded by circuits since at least 1992, and possibly before that. The collapse of the TV audience and the concomitant difficulties in maintaining TV fees has exposed the flaws in the circuit funding model quite dramatically.

    A better policy would be to have a base rate (covering the costs of F1 turning up) and then a small extra fee per spectator, preferably separated by type (so that people using VIP facilities result in tracks paying a VIP premium, people in grandstands/terraces yield a “typical” fee and people in general admission, who get fewer facilities, pay a bit less). I think it could raise at least as much money as the current model and result in a better balance of circuits. The best races for F1 are not always the wealthiest, as demonstrated by the fact Monaco gets a fee waiver every year and is even allowed, uniquely, to sell its own trackside advertising to supplement its income.

  14. With the F1 season starting so early, the series should easily be able to accommodate 25 races and the US should have 3 races

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