Yesterday news was broken that Bernie Ecclestone was prepared to drop the Italian Grand Prix from the F1 calendar after the 2016 season. Autosport quoted from Gazzetta dello Sport, the article can be found here.
Early in the article it mentions that talks will soon be under way to put in place a new deal for Monza. This immediately sounds like a classic ploy used often by Bernie in an attempt to get more money out of circuits. He states that the venue will be dropped, keeps everybody on tender hooks for a few months before eventually having a deal signed soon afterwards. I recall him doing the same to Silverstone when he wanted more investment put into the circuit, which eventually happened. So don’t be surprised if Bernie is hazy in future interviews about whether Monza will be on the calender after 2016 or not, also don’t be too surprised if eventually a deal is signed.
Having said that, Monza has had issues before, I recall the event being under threat due to noise pollution a few years ago. So assuming that Bernie isn’t bluffing and really will ditch Monza, what are the alternatives? In the Autosport article it mentions that Imola once held an Italian Grand Prix in 1980, the circuit has undergone refurbishment since F1 last raced there in 2006 so could be a prime candidate. There has in the past been talks of holding a street race in the likes of Rome, although this eventually fell through. There is also the possibility (As mentioned in the Autosport article) that the Italian Grand Prix could be held at Mugello. I personally wouldn’t mind this as MotoGP already race there and I can’t imagine that there would need to be too much work done to the venue in order to bring it up to F1 standard, if it isn’t already.
Obviously many hard core F1 fans will want the event to remain at Monza (As would I), but there are alternatives should Bernie really take the step to remove Monza from the calendar.
TV ratings and Social Media
One of the reasons stated in the article why Monza may ultimately be dropped is due to the poor television ratings in Italy. Bernie attributes this too Ferrari’s poor form in 2014 (Which probably has contributed to the low ratings). However he also mentions that ‘…young people are more distracted’ due to social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. This is slightly concerning as F1 has been criticised in the past for not embracing social media enough and I would have to agree since F1’s social media presence is poor when compared to the likes of IndyCar and MotoGP.
Only time will tell whether Monza remains on the F1 calendar, but at the heart of it are issues that can easily be applied to the whole of Formula One as it continues to suffer from decreasing television ratings and negative reaction to rule changes.