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Formula 1 in Madrid: an impossible dream?

Madrid have announced their desire to host a Formula 1 World Championship race. The last one was 40 years ago. Several options exist but are they possible?

The last race of the world championship organized in the Spanish capital took place on June 21, 1981 and on this occasion, Frenchman Jacques Laffite narrowly lost the racearriving in 2nd position behind the Canadian Gilles Villeneuve.

Villeneuve won in one breath, after containing Laffite, Watson, Reutemann and de Angelis. Jarama Circuit, June 21, 1981

A race in Catalonia

Madrid would like to regain the status that other cities like Valencia or Barcelona have had in recent decades. The Circuit de Catalunya currently remains the only Formula 1 World Championship race held in Spain.

Isabel diaz ayuso dressed as a professional pilot
Isabel Diaz Ayuso wants to recover an F1 Grand Prix in Madrid / CM

Hosting a second F1 Grand Prix in Spain would require the return of one of the greatest sporting spectacles in the world in the capital and a great social, sporting and economic attraction for Madrid. However, the trail is strewn with pitfalls…

The obsolete Jarama circuit

First of all, Madrid doesn’t have an adequate circuit to do so. Of course, there is the famous Jarama circuit, where the last Formula 1 race took place. But it is far from being adapted to what the FIA ​​and Liberty Media, the company which manages the championship, require of a circuit to access the world championship. Located in San Sebastián de los Reyes and a capacity of 80,000 peoplethe Jarama circuit has seen legends such as Niki Lauda, ​​Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Jacques Laffite and Gilles Villeneuve pass on its tracks.

picture of the circuit of Jarama
The Jarama circuit should undergo a major restructuring /Jarama org

The circuit has undergone several renovations over the decadesbut its composition, with a bad asphalt, very bumpy and continuous bendsno longer seems to be suitable for the demanding single-seaters of Formula 1. Safety measures and a major restructuring of the track would lead to a terribly high cost. The grandstand and the stands also need to be renovated from top to bottom.

image of the tarama circuit with the bends
Jarama Circuit / Jarama org

And to make matters worse, the housing estates around the circuit have led to a noise restriction for vehicles on the track approaching Portago bend to Bugatti bend. Vehicles must avoid exceed a limit of 90 decibels, if these are generated by the mechanical characteristics of the vehicle. All in all, a lot of complications for such a big dream.

The Morata de Tajuña project

Another option Madrid could consider for its Formula 1 Grand Prix is ​​the Morata de Tajuña circuit. But the main obstacle, and not the least, is thatit is still only a project… which should start in 2023. The work is expected to last up to five years, as it will be carried out in several phases. This means that Madrid would not have not his track until at least 2028.

This project started in 2015 after having excluded several regions of Spain in order to better distribute the existing installations, such as the circuits of Jerez and Barcelona. Initial work has already been done, such as creating noise reduction plans, as there is a housing estate about a kilometer away.

Circuit project in Morata de Tajuna
Circuit project in Morata de Tajuna / Council of Morata de Tajuña

The initial investment is estimated at approximately 12 million euros. This would allow the circuit to start and organize its first races to start collecting income, but extensions and additional approvals would be required to be able to host Formula 1 races and obtain the famous 1 license.

Its construction should create a pleasant layout, conducive to overtaking, with combinations of fast and slow corners to encourage spectacle. The expected length will be approx. 4.5 km and a half, with a capacity of about 80,000 people on a transitional basis and with the objective of achieving a zero carbon footprint.

IFEMA enters the race

Once the first two options were discarded, at least in the short and medium term, Madrid considered the design of a semi-urban circuit in the area of ​​the IFEMA facilities. A year ago, representatives from Liberty Media visited the area and studied what this new circuit design would look like.

Facade of IFEMA
Madrid has considered the design of a dismountable circuit in the area of ​​the IFEMA / IFEMA facilities

The location of the new track would be between the exhibition center and the conference center, in the neighborhood of Barajas and Valdebebas. It would be a removable trackas is the case with other tours like Monaco, for example. The circuit would therefore imitate the traditional models of street circuits that have marked Formula 1 for years, even if they are now being questioned.

The reasons for the obstruction

But in addition to the handicap of the circuit, Madrid comes up against other obstacles! The first of them is economical and it is the famous entry fee required to be part of Formula 1. In order for the “Great Circus” to reach a city, you have to pay a kind of toll. This amount varies depending on the location, but an average of around 20 million euros could be established. However, this can go up to about 50 million. A sum often difficult to raise at the start, but profitable in the long term.

Monaco Grand Prix in 1932
Monaco Grand Prix in 1932 /Meurisse press agency – BNF/commons

Furthermore, Madrid, and therefore Spain, is facing the new policy imposed by the FIA, and especially by Liberty Mediato make the championship more global and global than ever. However, Having two F1 championships in the same country is not profitable for F1.

For the moment, Barcelona managed to renew until 2026, so Madrid would have to wait another four years to be in Formula 1. More or less what remains, if all goes well, for the project in Morata de Tajuña. It would then not be impossible to have two national races in the same season, as is already the case in Italy or France (if you count Monaco)but that doesn’t seem to be the direction Formula 1 wants to go. Consequently, Madrid, while enthusiastic, have a long and complicated road ahead.

Spain, one of the countries with the most supporters

However, Spain is a country with an established fan base that has followed Formula 1 regularly for at least 20 years, especially since Fernando Alonso began to excel in the Renault team. The arrival of Carlos Sainz, then Carlos Sainz Jr. (who has just won the British GP), further reinforced this attachment.

Graph of the most Formula 1 fan countries
Graph of landscapes with the most Formula 1 supporters / source Statista

In short, Spain is a territory already conquered and Liberty Media is looking for new horizons. This explains its massive arrival in the United States, where it is on the way to winning three Grands Prix, its entry into several Arab countries and its future plans to reach the Caribbean, Africa and India. As much exotic destinations that have nothing to do with Spain, but rather with the strengthening of activity in the new. So much so that legendary circuits like Monaco or Spa are seriously threatened because not all of them can adapt.

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