Bernie Ecclestone's letter to the Rhein-Zeitung newspaper claims that a German Formula One Grand Prix even at the back-up venue of Hockenheim won't be "commercially viable" because "attendance has been so low for the past few years." Ouch.
Last we heard, the contract for the German Grand Prix went to Hockenheim even though it was the Nürburgring's year to host it because the new owners of the Nürburgring didn't have a contract with F1. Now we're hearing that Hockenheim's recent low attendance figures may be catching up with the circuit in a bad way.
Ecclestone confirmed to Reuters that he'd sent a fax to the German Rhein-Zeitung newspaper, but denied that a final decision has been made on the German Grand Prix.
Hold up, first of all, he's using a fax in 2015. No wonder this man doesn't understand the Internet. Technologically, he might as well be sending smoke signals. Everyone in 2015 is waiting for the fax to finally die because faxing things sucks.
"Bernie Ecclestone is old" aside, the point he makes about low attendance is real. Despite German Sebastian Vettel winning four of the five previous world championships, attendance figures at Hockenheim and the Nürburgring haven't been good recently. When attendance figures are low, the circuit can't afford to raise the money needed to pay Formula One Management to host the race.
According to Reuters, only 52,000 people showed up on race day last year at Hockenheim, despite Sebastian Vettel being from nearby. Only 45,000 showed up on race day at the Nürburgring's last German Grand Prix in 2013.
The retirement of Michael Schumacher may have had something to do with 2013's number, but so could the Nürburgring's unfortunate focus on building the famous track into some kind of Euro Disney over, ahem, running the actual track.
In comparison, Silverstone pulled 120,000 fans last year, and Austria pulled 80,000. Bernie has a point here. Germany's numbers are surprisingly low for the grand prix the country has hosted since 1950 with only two exceptions (1955 and 2007).
Last month, Ecclestone told Reuters that no contract had been signed with either circuit in Germany.
"The chance that there will be a German Grand Prix this year is less than 50 per cent," Ecclestone told Auto Motor und Sport, as reported on Motorsport.com.
Naturally, Axis of Oversteer feels as if other factors may be at play here. Ecclestone has been known to pit struggling circuits up against questionable but rich regimes as a negotiating tactic. "Hey, this third world dictator just offered me a cash sandwich for lunch. What do you have?" It's a butthole move that places Bernie's pocketbook over the health of the sport, as it's costing us historic venues that fans actually want to watch. (Does anyone enjoy Abu Dhabi or Russia? Really?)
Let's not forget that Ecclestone's shown himself to be a petty little man and that Germany almost found him guilty of bribery (if he hadn't paid his way out of the proceedings). That, too.
While it seems as if this happens every year, given Ecclestone's and Formula One's recent history with ze Germans, all bets are off as to whether he's serious this time about not letting a German Grand Prix happen. Hockenheim and the Nürburgring may be heavily modified from their original forms, but they're still loads more interesting to watch than a lot of the newer circuits. Losing them from the schedule would be a crying shame.