Grand Prix Business Diary: Europe

The sun shone on Valencia as Formula One's most unloved event finally produced a cracker of a European Grand Prix.

Valencia has never quite clicked as a Formula One venue since it joined the schedule in 2008.

A circuit regarded as rather less than a challenge for drivers, some rather sniffy early comments from Formula One paddock luminaries that the location was more dockyard than port – comments that seem more ludicrous every year from the fabulous panoramic TV pictures of the circuit and city – and mounting financial problems have come to stifle the European Grand Prix ever since.

This year, finally, the circuit produced a thrilling encounter – how typical, then, that this is likely the final Valencia race until 2014. Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya will host Spain's only Formula One race next year, two having been judged unsustainable in the current economic climate.

Valencia recorded a three-day attendance figure of 105,419 this year – not as embarrassing as feared but certainly more evidence that two Spanish races in six weeks is simply not financially viable.

That London GP business

Friday morning's Daily Telegraph newspaper revealed that a company called Intelligent Transport Solutions Ltd has made the shortlist to be considered as a possible operator of London's Olympic Stadium once the Games are over this summer.

The company has reportedly approached Bernie Ecclestone about staging a London Grand Prix in and around the arena, which lies on the new Olympic Park in east London, with Ecclestone confirming on Saturday that talks are underway. Ambitious? Certainly. Possible? Absolutely.

Ecclestone has already signed a deal to run a Russian Grand Prix around Sochi's Olympic Park from either 2014 or 2015 and Sydney's Homebush Olympic Park is converted annually into a race track for the Australian V8 Supercar series.

And the idea of an annual Formula One race providing a long-term legacy for another sports event is nothing new either. Valencia's Grand Prix only came about after the city's successful staging of the 32nd America's Cup in 2007, which had resulted in a previously derelict area of a city being regenerated. Sound familiar? 

New Jersey? Not sure

Talking of the familiar, it was no surprise to long-time Bernie Ecclestone observers to see Formula One's chief executive cast doubt on New Jersey's chances of staging a Grand Prix next year, as previously announced.

Despite a major promotional event featuring Sebastian Vettel earlier in the month on the banks of the Hudson, Ecclestone suggested in Valencia that progress was not as far advanced as he'd like. This is a regular Ecclestone move: sign a deal, watch the early progress, cast doubt upon the project and watch progress increase. New Jersey officials have plenty of work to do to be ready for next June and now they know it.

Cast your eyes beyond the impressive gathering of mega-yachts in Valencia's harbour and you might have been able to catch a glimpse of Formula One's heavy-hitters – including Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, making a rare appearance at a race outside Italy – discussing cost-cutting in Spain.

Teams are negotiating with the FIA, with Bernie Ecclestone, for the moment at least, maintaining only a watching brief. Ecclestone, however, would like to see customer cars return to the sport, telling Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport: “I don't think it will happen. But I would like to see some of the smaller teams with a single car sold by a top team, which had been used the previous year. Perhaps it could be driven by a rookie.”

He added: “Some teams would certainly get better results compared to now and spend less, immediately.”

Hug it out

Luca di Montezemolo's arrival in the paddock on Saturday coincided with Ferrari's worst qualifying performance since the season-opener in Australia, although at least he was able to console himself with giving Bernie Ecclestone a huge hug – conveniently for everyone involved right in front of the world's TV cameras. Harmony at the top of Formula One? You'd better believe it.


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