Image Courtesy: nuerburgring.de
6 months ago, the Formula 1 world was shook to its core as we awoke to news when Jörg Lindner circuit, director of the Nurburgring stated that the circuit was entering an extremely difficult period of time, unable to pay back upwards of £500 million that had been loaned to the circuit for the then redevelopment of firstly the first sector “arena section”, and later on in 2009, pit area complex, leading to the circuit being close to filing for bankruptcy.
It was back in July last year, just before the German Grand Prix weekend at the Hockenheimring that news of this situation hit the papers, sparking huge worry around the F1 world regarding the future of not only the Nurburgring, but also Germany within the sport due to nature of the path it is currently taking. So bearing all that in mind, what is the current situation surrounding the circuit, and is there a future after such struggles?
Well after this terrible situation developed, the following months directly afterwards became a skirmish between the circuit owners and the EU, the union refusing to sanction a bailout for the Nurburgring as it did not consider viable with the current economic conditions being experienced around the entire continent, with both Greece and Portugal in desperate situations. However towards the latter part of the year, a glimmer of hope was offered, as it was understood that the local government in the area – Rhineland-Palatinate had stepped in to reduce the threat of administration by offering the circuit a £254 million emergency loan, enabling the Nurburgring to service its existing debt, and therefore continue operating for the following 12 months. Now this was not without its controversy, the local opposing party voting against the move and claiming that it could be classed as “illegal” which has sparked the EU to further investigate their probe into the viability of this funding, claiming that the circuit could have already been in difficulty during 2008 when it last filed for funding to develop the pit complex area. The EU are doing this because the commission have stated that financial and emergency aid must only be given to a business once every 10 years who are experiencing financial difficulty when not being granted on market terms.
So what does this mean for the 2013 season?
Well last week it was reported that the circuit was extremely close to agreeing a deal with Bernie, which would see the Nurburgring available to stage the 2013 German GP. An incredible news given the past 6-7 months of controversy the venue has had to deal with. The exact terms of this deal are unclear at this time so we do not know if an “exception” was made for the circuit in order to appear on the Formula 1 calendar – Bernie and FOM reducing the fee. To some this may seem as “preferential treatment given the incredible Hosting Fees other European venues such as Silverstone have had to fight against in order to maintain their position within the sport, however it appears Bernie wants Germany to continue its stay in Formula 1 at any cost.
He has already stated that Germany “must” remain on the F1 calendar, and was even linked with the purchase of the Nurburgring last year when the circuit was filing for bankruptcy, something which he instantly put to bed stating he had not made any approach to the owners nor the circuit was indeed for sale. What this does signify is an extremely positive step in the right direction in terms of securing Germany’s future in Formula 1 however is that at one point it looked incredibly bleak with both circuits stating they simply could not afford to host a race each year if the other venue faltered as the Nurburgring did last year. The Hockenheimring has already clarified the current hosting fees for a Grand Prix in 2013 are far too expensive for them to even consider it commercially viable, leading the ball to be thrown directly back into Bernie’s court, something which has forced him to play a hand that he perhaps was not expecting. The two German GP venues rely on each other for the sustained presence in the sport in order to share a joint fee unlike other Grand Prix’s, who simply cannot enjoy that luxury, and for that reason alone the Nurburgring needs to remain in Formula 1 for Bernie’s best interests.
Let’s not forget how crucial this potential deal may be for the future of Germany in Formula 1 however, it is the lifeline the country needs, and it could not have come at a better time. The country is an intrinsic part of the sport and without it, Formula 1 would be missing something, much like if Silverstone or Monza were to disappear, and when the whole Spa crisis exploded in the mid 2000’s, the sport missed that essence of history and heritage, together with the Nurburgring they are the two of the oldest Motor Racing circuits in the world and provide the backbone, the passion, and spirit of any F1 calendar.
Germany is a country that has given a lot to the sport, they can lay claim to producing the most successful Formula 1 driver in history – Michael Schumacher, who incidentally looks set to have inspired his protégé Sebastian Vettel, to eclipsing those records, and when we think about the impact Schumacher had on the sport as a whole since his debut, you simply could not put a price on his contribution. Then when we look at the two iconic circuits embedded in the German countryside including the fearsome and intimidating Nordschleife, who, over the years have provided some of the most thrilling races in history, you start to realise just how important they are in order for Formula 1 to maintain that essence, there to remind everyone just how far the sport has become, each telling stories of past warriors fighting to tame it’s tarmac.
Over the next few days, it is highly probable that we will find out if a final deal can be reached with the Nurburging, the duration of that deal, and the impact it might have on the future of Germany in Formula 1. However one thing is for certain, in order for Formula 1 and Germany to continue a history together that few can match, it needs to succeed as without the Nurburgring, there is no Hockenheimring and if both are lost from the F1 calendar for good, unfortunately so is Germany, something which a lot of purist fans will not want to see.
by James Parker. Follow him on Twitter @F1Jp044