For local lad Sebastian Vettel, Hockenheim is “always something really special.” Toto Wolff is excited about the “return home” for his Mercedes team. And the stands at Hockenheim this coming weekend are set to be fuller than in any year since 2006, Michael Schumacher’s last win on home turf in what would become the last season of his “first career” in F1.
So a degree of F1 euphoria is returning to Germany, along with the race. But it’s tainted, at best. Like last year, and in 2015, there will be no German GP in 2019 — and the prospects of returning to Hockenheim in 2020 look bleak to say the least.
“It’s frustrating to see that we have not found a solution for a country with such a great motor racing pedigree — and that apparently nobody is prepared to support the race track and to take the financial risk off their shoulders,” said Sean Bratches, Formula 1’s head of marketing, in an interview with specialist magazine Auto Bild Motorsport recently. Bratches said F1 was “of course” working on a solution, but that this would primarily require “flexibility” on the race track’s side.
Pay up front, recoup in ticket sales (only)
The reason is ultimately simple. Germany’s major circuits can’t pay the eight-figure fees to host a race — Germany is thought to pay in the region of $20 million (€17.2 million) in so-called “sanctioning fees,” which can stretch to as high as $50 million elsewhere. And unlike some countries with a clear desire for the positive PR of hosting an F1 race — say Bahrain, China, Russia, Abu Dhabi, or Malaysia — there’s no public-sector appetite to pick up the tab.
The idea is that tracks recoup the fees via ticket sales. Or in cases where money is not the issue, ticket sales are merely a way to earn something back for the backers. Pretty much all of a circuit’s other typical race-weekend revenue streams — like track-side advertising and revenues from the VIP guests, even proceeds from many of the merchandise stands — go directly to F1.