The Greek Grand Prix - Craziest story of the week?!
We wouldn't make any travel plans just yet...
I have been a Formula One fan for almost twenty years, but today I have read the most ludicrous and absurd news story I have ever seen.
It is the story that the Greek Government has released thirty million euros for construction of a circuit capable of hosting Grand Prix level motorsport.
With recent excursions to places like Abu Dhabi, China and Singapore, we have seen an increase in Grand Prix held in countries with no Grand Prix drivers or motorsport heritage, but the difference is all these countries have billions of dollars to spend on the circuits and show the world how rich they are. Greece does not have this.
They are a country that needs to make eleven billion euros of budget cuts this year in order to qualify for the next bailout totalling 130 billion euros from the International Monetary Fund.
In a time of global financial hardship, people are not visiting Grand Prix in the numbers they used to. Even historic tracks like Spa Francorchamps are losing money and there is a real danger that it will drop of the calendar.
The same applies to Germany, the country that is in financially in control of Europe. They too are also struggling to keep their own circuits open. It was not long ago that Germany hosted a Grand Prix at both Hockenheimring and Nurburgring every year, but now they cannot do that and as a result are currently alternating the race. Nurburgring in imminent financial danger, even though Germany has a solid stream of local talent to attract spectators, another thing Greece does not have.
Australia is another good example; they have a big name driver at a championship team in Mark Webber, a fantastic track in Melbourne but without increasing Government investment (as an example, it rose from 10.6m Australian Dollars in 2003 to 34.6m Australian Dollars in 2007) to counteract the rising fees imposed on them by Bernie Ecclestone and FOM, the races long term future is in serious doubt.
While planning this article, I was thinking of the Greek motor racing heritage, and all I could think of was the ill fated attempt at an A1GP team in 2006. They made their début in the Dutch race that year with Takis Kaitatzis and he finished eighteenth and fifteenth in the two races, Nikos Zachos did the feature race in the Czech Republic and was nineteenth before Zachos took the car back for a retirement in the sprint race. After that the team closed down.
That is the sum total of Greece’s involvement in international motorsport, they have no active circuits in the country so if a young Greek driver wanted to further his career he would have to do so in an alternative country. The fact that none have done that speaks volumes about interest in the country. Robert Kubica and Marko Asmer (Estonian former BMW Reserve driver) both come from a country that has no motorsport facilities and still make it to Formula One shows that if the interest and talent exist it can be done.
So basically a country that has no history in motorsport and no money to build a circuit is going to build a circuit of the off chance that they will be given a Grand Prix that long-standing countries are struggling to make a profit on.
Makes sense to me! As much as I love Formula One, if I was Greek I would be disguised with my Government spending this money on a frivolous attraction rather than where it is sorely needed.
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