Domenicali denies "selling the soul of F1"


F1 boss Stefano Domenicali has denied that he is selling the soul of F1 by dropping classic venues in favour of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Las Vegas.

While Drive to Survive continues to win over new fans, there is no doubt that many of the 'old guard' are losing their faith in Formula One.

The events of Abu Dhabi haven't helped, but generally there is a feeling that under the current management it's all about the money, that passion is now merely a buzzword.

As the teams reassemble at Spa Francorchamps to resume hostilities, there is every chance that this is the last time the classic track hosts a round of the world championship, certainly on a regular basis.

Meanwhile, as other favourite tracks face a similar fate or the possibility of being used on a rotational basis, the sport has gone into Saudi Arabia and Qatar, two countries with infamous records on Human Rights. Then there's Miami and Las Vegas, two events when the sport is actually the promoter.

Appointed to the role of CEO at the height of the pandemic, former Ferrari boss, Stefano Domenicali was a popular choice with the teams and fans due to his long experience in the sport, however just two years later there are increasing doubts about the direction the sport has taken under his leadership.

"I am not selling the soul of Formula 1," he tells Germany's Bild newspaper. "That is a natural change, we are opening up to the whole world.

"Money is important everywhere. For us too," he adds. "But we don't just look at it, the whole package has to be right. If we only looked at the bank account, the racing calendar would definitely look different."

Of course, one classic track brought back to the calendar during the pandemic has agreed a new deal keeping it on the calendar until 2025, but sceptics might argue that the fact that a certain CEO was born and raised there played a part.

With Ferrari during the golden era of Michael Schumacher's domination of the sport, Domenicali well remembers when F1's popularity in Germany meant there were two races there each year.

Subsequently, between 2008 and 2014 the German Grand Prix alternated between Hockenheim and the Nurburgring, but with the latter unable to meet the hosting fees between 2016 and 2019 just three Grands Prix were held all at Hockenheim, yet during the pandemic, when it was essentially 'all hands on deck', and even when Russia was dropped from this year's schedule, despite Mercedes eight-year domination of the sport, Germany wasn't considered.

"If I don't make a call myself, I see and hear little from Germany," says Domenicali. "They talk, talk, talk, but in the end, you need facts.

"It's a mystery to me how you can't build a business around a Grand Prix these days," he adds. "But if they get it right, we will have a race in Germany again."

Referring to the fact that the 2019 event, the most recent in Germany, only went ahead after Mercedes agreed to cover the costs - a decision it no doubt came to regret when one considers how badly the race went for the team, Domenicali insists: "The Grand Prix has to be worthwhile for all sides. We can't cover all the costs."

While he may have left the door slightly ajar for Germany, Domenicali is in no doubt about Russia's return to the schedule.

"I always say never say never," he says, "but in this case, I can promise. We will not have any more negotiations with them. There will be no more racing there."

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Published: 23/08/2022
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