John Floyd
Motorsport columnist
4 minute read
22 Nov 2018
8:40 am

Moves ahead as finale looms

John Floyd

F1 calendar is also set to expand from the current 21 races to 25.

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - MAY 28: Fernando Alonso of Spain, driver of the #29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda, in action during the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motorspeedway on May 28, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images/AFP

It always amazes me when the last F1 race of the year arrives.

Melbourne seems just a short while back and now, 21 races later, it is the finale in Abu Dhabi at the Yas Marina circuit.

The championship titles are settled with Mercedes and Lewis Hamilton deservedly sweeping the boards.

The end of the 2018 season also stands out as a memorable one for the number of driver moves, either joining another team or leaving the sport.

This weekend will probably be the last time we will witness the inspired driving of Fernando Alonso, at least in an F1 car.

He will certainly continue to race in series such as the World Endurance Championship or IndyCars, but whether we will see him return to the Grand Prix series is conjecture.

The current offering from McLaren has certainly not provided a platform for the Spaniard to demonstrate his skills properly, but he has driven the wheels off the lame duck on many an occasion.

Hopefully the MCL33 will prove reliable enough on Sunday to allow the double world champion to go out in style, or at least finish his 311th Grand Prix and end his 17th season in F1. His current team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne is also moving on. The Belgian is off to drive in Formula E for the HWA RACELAB team.

HWA has had an affiliation with Mercedes in the German Touring Car series since 1999, but along with the Stuttgart manufacturer, they will be leaving the series at the end of this season.

Vandoorne will be driving alongside the current DTM champion, Gary Pafett. Another driver bidding farewell at Yas Marina is Marcus Ericsson, who departs the Sauber team to join Schmidt Peterson Motorsports campaigning the IndyCar series as partner to James Hinchcliffe who commences his ninth IndyCar season.

It will also be the last race for Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull and Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari.

Ricciardo moves to a hopefully more rewarding drive with Renault and Raikkonen to Sauber, the team where he began his F1 career.

Pierre Gasly moves from Toro Rosso to Red Bull alongside Max Verstappen, which should be an exciting combination.

Carlos Sainz runs under the Renault banner for the last time before moving to McLaren and Frenchman Esteban Ocon looks as though he is possibly out of F1 as Williams driver Lance Stroll will take his seat at Force India.

Talking about Williams, there is still one seat remaining, whether it will be retained by Russian Sergei Sirotkin, Pole Robert Kubica or possibly even Ocon.

Meanwhile, the outcome of Liberty’s annual general meeting has got the wires abuzz.

It was certainly not encouraging for shareholders and not reassuring for the F1 fan base and circuit owners, particularly in Europe.

F1 chief Chase Carey, who is terribly excited about Vietnam’s entry on the calendar, is still pushing for Miami or at least a US city, in Liberty’s parlance a “destination city”, whatever that means.

For me it indicates the end of my journey – hopefully that is not prophetic for the sport. All this revelry, including the new, disputed logo and a theme tune that I cannot even remember, appears to be exciting Carey and marketing director Sean Bratches.

But, it certainly has not impressed those with capital invested in the organisation. Carey indicated that a move towards 25 races per season with new venues could well mean goodbye to many of the historic European circuits such as Silverstone and Monza, plus the South American round in Brazil.

He said: “We expect to expand our calendar beyond our current 21 race schedule. “The expansion will be modest but we have been excited by the number, quality and diversity of new locations interested in hosting a race. “We expect to replace a few existing races where we inherited unattractive agreements with new events or agreements that are better for racing and provide more value.”

Liberty also hopes to see a new Concorde agreement signed, an increase in prize money and more sponsors. Once again I cannot understand how sponsors can be attracted to a shrinking market place.

Attendance at tracks is generally down, as a result of the high ticket prices. Television viewership figures continue to drop, down yet another 5%.

They will take another knock as F1 sinks behind the glorious pay wall of television broadcasting.

Financial losses were reported at the annual general meeting, but management believes the situation will improve. Mexico’s manana springs to mind.

That TV viewership is even more interesting when you consider the actual figures, the top being 77.5 million and second 32 million.

That number one was Brazil and second Italy, before Sky Italia took over and viewership reportedly dropped. Both venues are possibly to be removed from the calendar.

Work that one out.

For more news your way, download The Citizen’s app for iOS and Android.