Formula 1 Circuit de Catalunya hosts Spanish GP for last time in its own right

This weekend, Catalonia’s Formula 1 track, located in Montmeló, in Greater Barcelona, will once again organise the Spanish Grand Prix. As from next season however, the race will combine its venue between Catalonia and Valencia. In 2013 the race will be held in Montmeló, but in 2014 Catalonia will leave its place to Valencia. The decision to alternate venues was taken by racing mogul Bernie Ecclestone some weeks ago as a solution to both circuits’ financial problems. CNA investigates whether the local economy could suffer losses due to this decision.

Adrià Attardi

May 11, 2012 08:34 PM

Montmeló (CNA).- This weekend the Circuit de Catalunya, located in Greater Barcelona, will host the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix. After 21 consecutive years, this will probably be the last time the Catalan racetrack will organise this race in its own right, due to tycoon Bernie Ecclestone’s decision to hold the race alternately with the Valencia Street Circuit. However, next season Catalonia will not notice the impact since it has been scheduled that the 2013 race will be held in the Catalan circuit, while the 2014 championship will be organised in Valencia. Entrepreneurs from the Circuit de Catalunya’s surrounding area fear the economic losses that this new situation could bring about, but state that over the last five years they have already got used to a downward trend in local economical activity linked to the race.

The Director of the Circuit de Catalunya, Salvador Servià, assured in a recent interview that alternating the tracks of Montmeló –the municipality hosting the Catalan circuit, located in Greater Barcelona- and Valencia –which currently hosts the European Grand Prix– is not absolutely confirmed yet. However the decision seems irrevocable as the owner of Formula 1 championship, Bernie Ecclestone, considers it to be the best option to avoid both tracks’ financial problems.

On the other hand, the President of Montmeló’s Local Retail and Shopkeepers Association, Lluís Serra, recognised that the new calendar will harm the local economy, but it denied that this was wholly dependent on activity at the circuit. “Montmeló is a place of dynamic and active commerce throughout the whole year, so the town does not just depend on these days”, he told CNA.  Serra is not especially worried about the economic consequences of this rotation system. The area’s entrepreneurs are used to foreign competition on racing days and on a fall in consumption since the beginning of the economic crisis. However, he did show his opposition to the decision, arguing that the Catalan circuit is more experienced and better prepared than the Valencian one. “But our opinion is useless. They call the shots and their economic interests do so even more”, he added.

Montmeló hosts Formula 1 races since 1991

Catalonia has a long track record when it comes to organising Formula 1 races. The former street circuits of Pedralbes back in the Fifties and Montjuïc in the Seventies –both in Barcelona municipality– already held the F1 championship, which came to Spain for the first time in Pedralbes in 1951. Montmeló hosts Formula 1 races since 1991, when the construction of the Circuit de Catalunya was finished and when it became the main permanent track in Catalonia. Its attendance record was reached in 2007, with more than 140.000 people, but since then it has experienced a constant downtrend due to expensive ticket prices. Last year, about 90.000 people went to the circuit on race day. 

This track is also one preferred by F1 teams in order to carry out preseason training. It hosts national races and the Moto GP world championship, which could also rotate with Valencia’s Cheste Circuit because of their problems for paying the rights fees and tough competition from other venues, as Spain currently hosts no less than four of the eighteen races of the GP season.