This past Monday, April 26, the sixtieth automobile Grand Prix of Spain was presented. A round date that also coincides with the 50th edition since it is scored for the Formula 1 world championship and the 30th anniversary since its headquarters is the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. Paradoxically, when so much anniversary justifies something to celebrate, the future of this event is more on the wing than ever. To make matters worse, this year without an audience, while close and a few days before, the Count of Godó celebrated the tournament with an audience in the stands. Formula 1 in Barcelona without an audience, but tennis. Where is the criterion?
Ramón Tremosa, Minister of Industry of the Generalitat de Catalunya, recognized the danger posed by the event falling off the calendar: “We cannot lose this continuity,” said the president of the Circuit, “because if you leave the calendar it is very difficult to re-enter . We have the will to continue being a fixed place in the F1 calendar and not enter any rotation ”. Although the presentation ceremony was carried out with an exquisite cordiality and willingness to be in tune on the part of the local autonomic and state institutions, one does not have to be a lynx to realize the many gaps that exist between all the parties involved.
Traditionally, the Generalitat has always been much more proactive than the Barcelona city council regarding the battle to maintain the test, but although both parties have always had their tug of war on the investment to contribute to maintain the test, they always managed to work together in good harmony. But perhaps the absence of an audience in this edition will prove lethal in the future.
The accounts go out
For the Generalitat, the test has always been absolutely strategic, both because of the nationalist government’s ambitions to project the image of Catalonia in the world, and because of the impressive energizing effect that the presence of Formula! Has on the economy. With a return on investment that traditionally came to multiply by three the total money invested, the canon required by Formula 1 encrypted at just over 20 million euros, the accounts always came out. Although the organization of the grand prize has been hanged as a deficit, the accounts are made from the economic and image impact, there have always been reasons enough to maintain the test at all costs.
On the other side of the ship is the Barcelona city hall, traditionally of a political sign or different from that of the Government of the Generalitat. Until the arrival of the mayor Ada Colau, openly against not only making this type of investment, but everything that smells like a car. Traditionally, the city council has always collaborated to balance the annual accounts of the circuit and for this reason, for several years now, the official name of the circuit has been ‘Barcelona-Catalunya’. However, no more visible example of the Barcelona mayor’s disdain for this test than her absence in the presentation ceremony, the consistory represented by Jaume Collboni, partner of the municipal government coalition. The faction that Collboni represents is that of the socialists, always much more favorable to the motor industry than the common ones of Ada Colau, his statements surprised when he hinted that there was more solidarity than real interest for the city of Barcelona : “We will continue to contribute the brand,” Collboni stressed, “we will exercise our capital status and maintain solidarity with the metropolitan municipalities.”
The First Deputy Mayor of Barcelona forgets that, by far, the main beneficiary of the presence of Formula One in Spain is his city. The economic impact limited to the municipal area of the city exceeds the rest of the municipalities close to the circuit combined. Worldwide, the race is known fundamentally as the Barcelona race, all the drivers when they talk about the race they talk about Barcelona. In short, whether you want to accept it or not, the capital of Catalonia is by far the recipient of the greatest benefits of hosting this event.
The perfect Storm
As if all the problems related to financing were few, the COVID19 pandemic has caused the perfect storm, since the impossibility of hosting the races with the presence of the public will mean a very important hole in the accounts of the circuit. Last year the promoter Liberty Media, aware of the difficult situation, forgave the annual fee in exchange for the organizers taking charge of the costs of organizing the event and even extended the contract between the promoter for one more year. of formula one and the Circuit.
The current director of the circuit, José Luis Santamaría, although he owes his position to a political appointment, comes from the world of racing and was the one who most regretted the absence of an attending public: Without tickets, or hospitality services, the impact will be great, -explained Santamaría-. It is a shame, because they had worked very hard with the remodeling of turn ten and there was a plan in place, to be able to house around 30 percent of the possible capacity of the venue. We will therefore try to ensure that the fee to be paid to Liberty is the minimum possible or none at all. ”
A bubble system
Liberty Media holds the Circuit’s professional team in the highest esteem, as it has traditionally been one of the best organizations in the championship, but it seems that a considerable part of the fee will have to be paid, if not all of it. In this sense, it will not be of much help if the international tennis tournament ‘Conde de Godó’ was held a week in advance in the same area with public attendance, but not a week later in a larger venue and easier to apply. security and distance protocols. No matter how much the decision is made within the framework of current public health measures, as stressed by the Catalan Civil Protection entity, from the outside, such a notorious incoherence with another sport will not be understood in such a close period of time.
A tremendous paradox to have, on the one hand, a model professional organizational team in the world and, on the other, support a political class incapable of appreciating how much Formula 1 contributes. The ‘Circuit’ had developed an exemplary ticket sales protocol guaranteeing interpersonal distance through a system of five ‘bubbles’ distributed around the perimeter of the circuit. A system that would serve as a model to be followed by other organizations of other great prizes, but the plan will remain unpublished, striking a blow so that Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain continue to keep their date on the Formula 1 World Championship calendar. has announced that next year, with the entry of the Miami race, a race in the US will have to leave the calendar and the one with the most ballots for them is that of Spain. They are the dangers of having ‘the enemy at home’.