NOVEMBER 11, 2006
A new Grand Prix in Europe?
While everyone is going on about new races in Asia, there is not doubt that there is one country in Europe where there are serious attempts going on to get a new race: Spain. The Spanish economy is doing well, Fernando Alonso is a double World Champion, and interest in F1 in Spain is at all-time high. There are ymoung Spanish drivers popping out of the woodwork all the time and even vague thoughts of a Spanish F1 team - although F1 franchises are a little thin on the ground at the moment.
One city that thinks that it has a future with F1 is Valencia. The city, 200 miles to the south-west of Barcelona on Spain's Mediterranean coast, is currently the home of the America's Cup. The city, which has a population of 750,000, has spent a great deal of money to transform its port area to include an area where the America's Cup teams are currently based. This features an inner and an outer harbour which have been developed to draw in people. There are restaurants, bars, shops and the 12 team bases, in addition there is an exhibition hall called the House of the America's Cup and an America's Cup Park plus the dramatic Veles e Vents building, which overlooks the area. The outer marina is to have 600 berths. The local authorities are currently considering what happens next as the America's Cup teams will leave after the event in July and the city wants to use the whole area for other big events, to keep the toursit trade coming. Having a Spanish version of the Monaco Grand Prix is a smart idea. The problem is that Barcelona has the Spanish GP several more years.
However, this is not an insurmountable problem as we saw in Germany at the height of Michael Schumacher's popularity when Hockenheim hosted the German GP and Nurburgring was the home of the European and Luxembourg GPs.
It is thus very convenient that the Barcelona circuit is located in Catalonia, a region which is becoming increasingly autonomous thanks to recent Spanish legislation. The local government would probably be very happy to have a Grand Prix of Catalonia but were not in a position to do that unless there was an alternative venue for the Spanish GP. The race in Barcelona is funded by the Generalitat de Catalunya, which is one of the members of the consortium which owns the track, along with the Real Automobil Club de Catalunya. A new government is being formed at the moment and, conveniently, the coalition includes the separatist party Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (ERC), which forced the resignation of the previous government because it did not think there was sufficient separatism going on!
A GP of Catalunya might thus be very useful for the new government.
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