The Spanish Grand Prix, one of the longest standing events on the Formula 1 calendar, looks set to be replaced by Zandvoort for the 2020 season, according to reports.
The race, whether it be at Jerez, Catalunya or any other track that’s hosted it, has consistently been part of the schedule since 1951, and will be absent from it for the first time since 1985.
Does it deserve its spot on the calendar? Or is it being rightfully removed? Let’s take a look at both sides…
The case for the Spanish Grand Prix
Many races, such as the Turkish Grand Prix, have been removed from the calendar due to empty grandstands and a general lack of interest. It’s fair to say the Spanish Grand Prix doesn’t have this problem.
It has consistently attracted crowds of over 150,000 people across the race weekend, and a 7.95% rise in 2017 shows that the appetite is still there. Granted, many of the spectators would have come to see national treasure Fernando Alonso, but with Carlos Sainz Jr performing well in a strong McLaren, the Spanish interest remains on the grid.
Formula 1 has always tried to go to the most exciting and iconic places in the world, and Barcelona, where the current race is held, certainly fits that category. The city alone has a global appeal and will make attending the race far more appealing to many. The same cannot be said for it’s supposed replacement, Zandvoort.
The venue itself is also one of the best on the calendar. It is well connected to the city centre and the grandstands, as well as surrounding hills and grass areas, provide various excellent views of the track.
This is undoubtedly the biggest argument in favour of the Spanish Grand Prix. It has been around since the birth of Formula 1 back in the ’50s and is one of the few Grand Prix’s that can say that. The current version, at Barcelona, alone has provided numerous iconic moments, such as Senna and Mansell’s battle in 1991 and Max Verstappen’s first ever win in 2016.
With Liberty wanting to make so many changes to bring the sport into the modern world, they must ensure that they don’t lose its history and heritage; losing the Spanish Grand Prix would be a step towards doing just that.
The case against the Spanish Grand Prix
With the race’s contract expiring at the end of this season, doubts began to grow regarding its future when the Spanish government withdrew their support for the event. This, along with the undoubted hit the ticket sales will take with the departure of Fernando Alonso, put the Grand Prix in a weak position financially and, sadly, in Formula 1, finances are rather important.
Granted there have been some great moments and races at the Catalunya circuit, but more often than not, the Sunday racing hasn’t been good.
Not only is it a relatively poor track for overtaking, but with it being the host of pre-season testing these days, the teams and drivers are extremely familiar with it. Too familiar, many people believe, as they feel the track is too easy for drivers, making things less entertaining.
Are these complaints warranted? Well, Pastor Maldonado managed to win a race here, that’s all I’ll say…
Finally, at this point, Zandvoort is quite simply a much more appealing prospect to Liberty, almost solely due to one man…
Since joining the grid in 2015, Max Verstappen has become a superstar in his home country and has single-handedly made Formula 1 hugely popular there. With a huge number of his fans going to the Austrian and Belgian races, Liberty will be licking their lips at the number of ticket sales a home Grand Prix for him would likely get.
While Carlos Sainz Jr is popular, he alone does not have this kind of drawing power, and with Alonso no longer around, it seems inevitable that a Dutch Grand Prix would attract more spectators.