APRIL 1, 2003
A Grand Prix for Liechtenstein?
The Principality of Liechtenstein is not on the major tourist routes of Europe. The tiny sovereign state that has existed since 1806, is located between Austria and Switzerland and is mainly mountainous. In recent years Liechtenstein has been best known as a tax haven and for its lax banking laws, which have attracted very large sums of money and resulted in the country enjoying impressive economic growth with 30% of the country's revenue coming from companies with nominal offices.
Since May 1995 however, Liechtenstein has been under pressure to integrate its economy with Europe and in 2001 anti-money-laundering legislation was enacted. This has meant that revenues have dropped and the local government has been looking at ways of boosting income. The semiconductor industry is booming and Liechtenstein is keen to promote the image of being a high technology hub and has hit on the idea of hosting a Grand Prix to boost its image, its industries and its income.
Although the country has a population of only 32,000 (there are bigger grandstands in the United States of America) Liechtenstein has very good road links with Austria, Switzerland and the German autobahn network which would make access for spectators very easy. It is also within just a few miles of Sauber's headquarters in Hinwil, Switzerland and so a big crowd is anticipated. The biggest advantage, of course, is that Liechtenstein is not a member of the European Union and so is not bound by the EU's tobacco laws, which makes it very attractive to the F1 teams and their sponsors.
The government argues that if Monaco can afford to host a Grand Prix, the picturesque Liechtenstein, ringed with Alpine peaks, can do exactly the same thing and with 62 sq miles available, compared to Monaco's 0.4 sq mile, there is plenty of room. The biggest problem, however, is finding land that is suitably flat as most of the country is mountainous. However the north of the country features the Liechtenstein Unterland, a flat area between the mountain ranges.
The commune of Eschen is looking at the possibility of building a full-scale F1 circuit. The government would like the event to be held on the Independence day weekend each year, which is the second weekend in July. The track could be completed by 2006, which would be the 200th anniversary of the country.
The only slight problem is that this is traditionally the British Grand Prix weekend.
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