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German Grand Prix "is 100% going to happen" next year says Wolff

NEWS STORY
15/07/2015

Formula One is on track to return to return to Hockenheim in 2016 despite the German Grand Prix being dropped this year according to an article in the Independent by Christian Sylt and Katy Fairman.

The race was originally due to take place this weekend but was scrapped in March after it ran into financial difficulty and was left off the calendar for the first time since 1960. It appeared last week on a provisional F1 calendar for 2016 but doubts still surrounded whether the organisers could raise the estimated 14 million hosting fee. The uncertainty has now been put to rest by Mercedes' Toto Wolff.

"We will be in Germany next year. The race is 100% going to happen. The budget is there, it is a fact," says Wolff.

It will be music to the ears of F1 supporters the world over as the German GP is a fan favourite. However, it has fallen on hard times in recent years.

Since 2007 the location of the race has alternated between the Hockenheimring and Nurburgring. Around 45,000 fans came to watch the Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in 2013 and 52,000 fans were on hand last year in Hockenheim. In contrast, around 140,000 spectators visited the British Grand Prix at Silverstone two weeks ago which shows what the race organisers in Germany are up against.

In 2013 Bernie Ecclestone gave the Nurburgring an additional boost when he agreed to waive the hosting fee for the race and instead took the revenue from ticket sales. But even this couldn't put the brakes on the red ink.

The Nurburgring ran into difficulty after taking out a 240 million loan in 2009 which was used to fund construction of an on-site shopping centre, hotel and amusement park.

The new facilities were not as popular as hoped and the circuit struggled to make debt repayments. It was then handed additional public support but, in an unexpected twist, the European Commission launched an investigation claiming that the assistance was not granted on market terms.

To break the impasse the Nurburgring was put up for sale in May 2013 and control was eventually sold to Russian billionaire Viktor Kharitonin. However, he failed to get the race back on track and a rescue attempt by Ecclestone, Mercedes and Hockenheim also hit the buffers.

"Bernie, Mercedes and the organisers in Hockenheim tried to help but we couldn't come up with the budget," says Wolff. "There is an impact on the team from losing the German Grand Prix but, as much as it is a shame that we can't show and display our cars in front of our fans and Daimler colleagues, we will be there next year. Hockenheim was scheduled for next year and there is no doubt it is going to happen. It is sure."

He adds that the time out may ultimately be no bad thing. "I think there is maybe a little bit of a hangover in Germany about Formula One, sports in general and national heroes. Don't forget, we had Schumacher five times in a row, we had Vettel four times in a row, the German football team winning the world championship. I think they have had it all and where do you go from there? Maybe not going there for a year and coming back next year could be a good thing."

Time will tell.

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