Madrid a step closer to displacing Barcelona

The grid before the start of the race. 04.06.2023. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 8, Spanish Grand Prix, Barcelona, Spain, Race Day. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images
Esteban Ocon leads Alpine teammate Fernando Alonso in the 2022 Brazilian GP.

Reports from Spain suggest that an announcement on an inaugural Madrid Grand Prix is imminent, and could even come within the next week according to multiple local news sources including Spanish sports publication AS.

Just last month the FIA appeared to pour cold water on the initiative, suggesting that the project had yet to advance to its crucial initial phases.

If confirmed, the new venue would be another step away from traditional purpose-built circuits such as the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya which currently has the contract to stage the Spanish Grand Prix until 2026.

By contrast, Madrid is expected to stage the race on a newly developed semi-urban track set against a backdrop of some of the city’s most notable landmarks.

Although it doesn't automatically mean that Barcelona will drop off the schedule, the general consensus is that Spain could not justify two races in a single year given an already crowded schedule.

“I don’t think in the medium term - after 2026 - we will be in that situation of having two races in Europe in the same country unless something changes and it’s different," Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali told AS last year.

This year is expected to see a calendar consisting of a record 24 races, which has been viewed as the most events possible in a year with many teams already worried about the toll it takes on team staff travelling to each venue.

Former Spanish racer Carlos Sanz de Barros, who is currently president of the FIA Senate and also head of the Spanish Automobile Federation, backs a race in Madrid but is also hopeful that Barcelona might be able to keep its place.

“As a Spaniard, born in Madrid, I want F1 in Madrid again, it's clear,” he said. "The last one was in 1981 so having F1 in Madrid again is the wish of many people.

“Is it possible to have two races?" he added. "Yes, why not? There have been before. We have three in the United States and two in Italy."

The Barcelona circuit has been a staple of the F1 season since 1991 and for many years was the venue for pre-season testing, a role which has now been handed to Bahrain. Its current contract to host the Spanish GP expires after 2026.

Like many of the older traditional circuits hosting Grand Prix races in Europe, the facilities at Barcelona have been criticised for falling behind the times and not offering the sort of entertainment for fans of newer city venues.

20.05.2017 - Carlos Sainz (ESP) WRC Champion former
18-21.05.2017 FIA World Rally Championship 2017, Rd 4, Portugal, Matosinhos, Portugal
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More importantly, Spanish racing authorities are keen to ensure that the country doesn't drop off the calendar altogether if the plans for Madrid don't come to fruition.

“I think the presence of a Grand Prix in Spain is fundamental,” former world rally champion Carlos Sainz (father of the current Ferrari driver) told recently.

“I don’t know if in the end it will be one or two," he continued. "If it's confirmed, and it could be a reality that the Spanish Grand Prix comes to Madrid, then like any Madrileño I'd be happy.

"I know what a Grand Prix implies and the imprint it leaves on a city," he added. "Catalonia has had it for many years and enjoyed it. But there is no written rule that it has to be in one place for life.

Madrid's F1 street race would take around IFEMA, a major center for conferences and conventions.

"It was also in Jerez at one time," he pointed out, predicting that a move to Madrid would also be a success. "If it really happens, I would be very happy.

"I encourage anyone who has the ability to decide - and I think it’s a private initiative, so no one can point the finger at anyone and for the money to go somewhere - I think if it is done, it will be a success.”

The project is backed by IFEMA, Madrid's major center for conferences and conventions operated by public organisations, on the grounds it would be laid out a proper F1 street circuit.

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