Friday, August 7, 2020

F1: Why is there no Nordic GP?

Northern Europe, one of the most beautiful regions in the world consisting of the three Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Denmark and Norway, as well as Finland and Iceland. A region that doesn’t currently have a Formula 1 Grand Prix despite producing some of the greatest drivers we’ve ever seen, alongside the fact that Rally, offroad, and sports car racing are all popular within the Nordic nations.

Kimi Raikkonen, Mika Hakkinen, Keke Rosberg to name a few, Northern Europe is a fantastic breeding ground for Formula 1 drivers and yet we don’t have a Nordic GP on the calendar and haven’t for a very long time. In fact, the last Grand Prix to be hosted in the region was the 1978 Swedish Grand Prix, it was the sixth and last F1 race at the Anderstorp raceway.

The reasoning behind the disappearance of the last Nordic GP from the calendar is actually very sad because in 1978, the two most recognisable Swedish Formula One drivers at the time, Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson, passed away. The deaths dented the popularity of the sport. Peterson died from the injuries sustained from a horrific crash at Monza, whilst Nilsson died just five weeks after, due to cancer.

Ronnie Peterson and Gunnar Nilsson meet Juan Manuel Fangio at a charity event before the USA Grand Prix at Long Beach, California. World Copyright: LAT Photographic.

Nilsson’s last season in F1 was 1977 for Lotus alongside Mario Andretti, he placed 8th in the driver’s championship despite retiring in each of the last 7 races. He signed to race for Arrows in their debut season in 1978 but wasn’t well enough to drive for the team, handing over his seat to Rolf Stommelen.

Peterson actually replaced his fellow countryman at Lotus in 78′ before he tragically passed away. He placed 2nd in that season’s driver’s championship. The loss of the two Swedish racing legends led to a lack of popularity in the sport, that saw the 1979 Grand Prix canceled due to a lack of funding.

The track is still around today but is no longer F1 suitable as it has an FIA Grade 2 license, an F1 track is required to be Grade 1. In fact, to this day, there are no Grade 1 tracks in the entire Northern Europe region that have hosted anything to do with F1.

The Anderstorp Raceway in 2017. Could it host a Nordic GP again?

So, what’s stopping us from having a Nordic GP?

Well, as I delve into earlier there’s actually no circuits in the entirety of Scandinavia or Northern Europe that currently has hosted a Formula 1 race. So essentially there’s not going to be a Nordic GP unless there’s a track renovation or a new circuit built or something else that we’ll get into later.

Both of those processes would cost an absolute fortune and something not many Governments want to get involved with. Currently, nearly all F1 events are sponsored by either government, giant corporations, or both.

On average, countries spend nearly a hundred million dollars annually to be able to host a Grand Prix. Not only must the track be approved by the FIA, but accommodation, entertainment, and amenities will need to also be built. A Grand Prix track also needs to have the structure in place to house hundreds of thousands of fans.

The cost of building a Formula One circuit from scratch averages at around $270 million. Add on to that the annual maintenance and event hosting fees at around $70 million, which builds up to a 10-year running cost of nearly $1 billion. It’s a huge struggle, even the organisers of Monza and Silverstone struggle to put an event on each year.

Where could a Formula 1 track be built?

If there were to be a Nordic GP, there are plenty of cities and nations that would make a perfect location for a Formula 1 race. Let’s start with Sweden the most populated of the bunch. Now there are a large number of companies in the country who we’d expect to back such an event.

Casumo, an online casino that supports many sporting events and sports teams over the whole of Europe would certainly be one of them. Currently, there isn’t any talk of Sweden being interested in a Grand Prix however, so we’ll rule them out.

One country that is extremely interested in hosting a Formula 1 Grand Prix, is Denmark. Helge Sander, the former Danish Minister of Science, Technology, and Development, and Lars Seier Christensen, the ex-owner of Saxo bank, put a group of support together to propose a circuit that would run through the city of Copenhagen, similar to the likes of Baku and Singapore. The proposed layout would pass landmarks such as the parliament building and would cross two of the city’s major bridges.

The Knippelsbro Bridge, part of the proposed Copenhagen Formula 1 track.

The proposed 2.79-mile track included a corner in front of the Parliament, a long straight over the Knippelsbro Bridge, and a fast stretch along the Slotsholmsgade Road, which leads to behind the Børsen Stock Exchange.

Some pretty big names helped design this proposed circuit, Track Architect Herman Tilke and former F1 driver Jan Magnussen, who’s son Kevin currently drives for Haas are two of them. On the prospect of this track, Jan described it as ‘Baku-like’ and said it could be “One of the most spectacular in F1”.

The idea of a Copenhagen GP had the backing of Chase Carey, the Chief Executive Officer of Formula One, and was in contention to be added to the 2020 schedule. Those plans didn’t come to fruition, however.

“Scandinavia has been a great part of our sport and having local drivers is always a plus,” Carey said in an interview at the time. He also added that the bridges and water in Copenhagen would provide great television pictures, just like in Singapore.

A couple of years back, the Singapore GP organisers revealed that it cost the city-state approximately $100million per year to stage and host the race. 60% of that was government-funded, with the remainder coming from promoters.

The estimated budget for a Nordic GP, in Copenhagen, would be 300-500 million Danish Krone ($46.5-77.5 million) per race while the expected income from the fans and ticket sales would be around 1-2 billion Danish Krone ($160-320 million), Christensen admitted.

Chase Carey, the Chief Executive Officer of the Formula One Group
Clive Mason | Getty Images

Despite the enthusiasm of Chase Carey, the project dissolved after it ran into problems over funding. That lied in the hands of Copenhagen’s local government, who dealt a blow to the event’s prospects in September 2018, when Mayor Frank Jensen stated it “Carried too much risk” for the residents of Copenhagen.

“The government is prepared to put some money into the hosting of Formula 1 in Denmark,” Finance Minister, Kristian Jensen told Politiken in June 2018. But he didn’t think it was reasonable that the city didn’t also contribute economically. So if there was a Nordic GP in Denmark, it would have to be somewhere else.

Denmark have one of the most underrated drivers on the grid currently, in K-Mag, but that’s not it. There’s talent waiting in the wings, Christian Lundgaard of the Renault Sport Academy and ART Grand Prix of F2 is a real rising star, currently sitting 3rd in the championship. Also, Frederik Vesti who currently drives for Prema in F3 already has his first win in his debut season at that level.

Personally I’d love a Copenhagen Grand Prix, in my opinion, it’s one of the most underrated cities in Europe and is easy to get to from mainland Europe for back to back race weekends, or maybe in triple headers.

In fact on top of that, even though Sweden doesn’t seem to be interested in hosting a Formula 1 race, Malmo would be a great option for another city circuit. In fact, Copenhagen and Malmo are only separated by the Øresund Bridge so would be perfect for the traveling circus that is F1.

Where else could be ideal for a Nordic GP? Could there be a loophole?

Well, the only other country that has shown a little bit of interest, is Finland, which is understandable given the amount of extremely talented drivers the nation has produced. Throw Valtteri Bottas and Heikki Kovalainen into the mix as a few more race winners, it really doesn’t make sense as to why we don’t have a Finnish GP on the current F1 calendar.

Finland is without a doubt one of the most successful countries in F1 history, Four World Championships and 50 Grand Prix victories have been won by Finnish drivers, and yet the country has never ever hosted a GP. The only other nation that has produced a World Champion but not held a race is New Zealand and Denny Hulme.

Finland does have a brand new FIA grade 1 track though, the Kymi Ring but one that’s built for Moto GP. So if anyone is in a position to host a Nordic GP, it’s the land of a thousand lakes. They have been looking into getting into F1, but that’s not looking likely to come for some time. As Autosport reported, Finland’s motorsport governing body, AKK, is looking to conduct a feasibility study on the possibility of bringing Grand Prix racing to the country in the future.

AKK CEO Tatu Lehmuskallio stated in 2019, “Finland has an excellent and unique legacy in motorsports,” before continuing with “Not only have Finnish Formula 1 and WRC rally drivers collected more world championship points in recent seasons than drivers from any other country, but we also have internationally recognised expertise on hosting modern, reliable, sustainable and – most of all – thrilling motorsport events for fans, partners and athletes.”

He finished with, “The study will provide us detailed knowledge on what motor racing competition at the highest level truly demands and that will help us tremendously when staging other racing events, too.”

Work would have to be done, for sure, but maybe this is the best way to get a Nordic GP on the Formula 1 calendar.

Where do you think could be ideal for a Nordic GP? Get in touch with us on social media.

For more like this, visit our dedicated F1 page here. Meanwhile, follow us on Facebook for more opinions and analysis right to your timeline.

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