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Auf Wiedersehen, Hockenheim

As the owners fight to keep Hockenheim on the F1 calendar, perhaps in rotation with the Nurburgring, is there no-one who sees the irony in the fact that they have just emasculated the circuit in true modern fashion? It was never the most exciting circuit in the world, but at least it had those long blasts into the atmospheric German forests; now they are gone in the interests of safety and we are left with the usual twiddly bits surrounded by grandstands.

Hockenheim

The Hockenheimring

Did I say “safety”? Hasn’t anyone noticed that accidents are not caused by going fast in a straight line? They happen in corners, exactly those things that we sprinkle in abundance into modern circuits. But it’s too late for Hockenheim to point this out; the deed is done and now the FIA comes with the axe. Never mind that the organizers were probably counting on the proceeds from future GPs to help pay for the “improvements”.

It was inevitable that one of the two German races would have to go, however (and Imola, of course). With countries lining up with wads of cash in their hands, desperate to have a GP, those countries with two GPs were always going to be the ones to lose. And no-one was ever fooled by talk of the “European” and “San Marino” GPs; we knew it was just a way of giving more than one to the favored nations.

And now it seems that European countries have dropped off the favored list. Whoever bids highest can have a race and, increasingly, that means the Far East. If we lose some of the most famous and best loved circuits in the world to be replaced by more sterile and “safe” chicane-fests, who cares as long as the FIA gets richer still?

Surely there has to be a limit somewhere. It’s all very well taking the money for new races in Asian countries but can it last? They may be huge markets but surely not for the stuff F1 is selling (especially with the ban on cigarette advertising). China still gets around on a bicycle and India walks. How many extra BMWs, Renaults and Toyotas are going to sell in those countries thanks to their having GPs? The races there are PR exercises only and, as such, can be guaranteed not to last for long.

I can only presume that the FIA doesn’t care. Now that they have the habit, they can shut down any GP and sell a new one as and when they please. And the sport becomes a mobile circus without tradition or soul, for sale to whoever bids the most.

Sometimes I think Montoya was right – that F1 will end up racing on ovals so we might as well go straight to NASCAR. The only bright spot on the horizon is the return of Spa next year. For how long, I wonder.

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