May 11, 2018 / 2:58 PM / 2 months ago

Motor racing: Hockenheim says any new F1 contract must be risk-free

BARCELONA (Reuters) - German Grand Prix organisers say they cannot afford to host the Formula One race at Hockenheim on current terms after this year and any new contract has to be free of financial risk.

The circuit, near Mannheim in the Upper Rhine valley, ends in July a 10-year deal agreed with former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

The Briton’s business model was based on hefty hosting fees, increasing on an annual basis, but Ecclestone was replaced at the helm in January last year when Liberty Media took over.

Liberty have said they want to protect traditional venues and Hockenheim, as well as Britain’s Silverstone, could be a test of how much they are prepared to put their money where their mouth is.

“We would like to have it (the race) in the future but the key point is we cannot prolong under current conditions,” Hockenheim-Ring marketing director Jorn Teske told reporters at the Spanish Grand Prix on Friday.

“We would like to have a contract which will take the risk from us. This is the basic point...we cannot continue in the same way.

“We think we should restructure the business model. This could be track rental, but it could be also sharing of ticket income and sharing of costs.”

Hockenheim receives no state funding whereas other countries with little or no motorsport heritage — like Azerbaijan, Singapore and Abu Dhabi — pay tens of millions of dollars to host races.

With Miami likely to debut next year, and Vietnam in the pipeline as well as Danish backers proposing a race in Copenhagen, Liberty have plenty of options.

“It’s a financial decision they have to take,” said Teske. “Do they take the big money, let’s say? Then we are out. Or do they believe in the importance of the traditional racetracks and an important automotive country, Germany?

“Now it’s up to them to think about and find a solution together with us.”

In the recent past, Hockenheim alternated with the Nuerburgring — another historic circuit dating from before World War Two but one which has had financial problems and changed ownership.

Teske said a revived alternation would work well but Hockenheim, home for champions Mercedes and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, would be prepared to go it alone if the deal was right.

“We don’t know what they (Nuerburgring) have discussed with Liberty but what we know is they have the same objective as we have. They don’t want to lose money,” added Teske. “And they don’t want to take risks as well.

“One year them, one year us is clever. It’s good.”

Organisers said 60,000 tickets had been sold so far for July’s race, more than in 2016 and around break-even.

Some 10,000 of them were fans of Red Bull’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen coming over the border.

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Ian Chadband

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