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Red Ink Puts Future of Germany's Grand Prix in Doubt

Despite selling 65,000 tickets for the 2008 race, the Hockenheimring, which hosts every other German Grand Prix, lost over 5 million euros ($6.3 million) in 2008, and it's not the only German race venue suffering.

A race at Hockehheim

Is Formula 1 about to drive out of Germany?

The Hockenheimring is asking for support from the regional government in 2010 to enable it to host the Formula One Grand Prix as currently scheduled. The track alternates hosting the German Grand Prix with the Nuerburgring, which will hold the 2009 race.

"We think we have a right to demand this as the Formula One yields a considerable profit for the region," Hockenheim circuit CEO Karl-Josef Schmidt told Deutsche Welle on Wednesday, Dec. 3. "We have an additional revenue of 40 million euros just on the Formula One weekend, and that is why we think the region of Baden-Wuerttemberg should have a remarkable interest in maintaining Formula One here."

After losing 5.3 million euros on the event this season, the town of Hockenheim, which owns most of the circuit, has said it cannot shoulder the burden by itself.

Fewer spectators

A race at the Nuerburgring

Fewer people are filling the stands in Germany

Ticket sales for the German Grand Prix have been steadily decreasing, and this is the only revenue the track generates on race weekend. Other sources of income, including merchandising, advertising and television revenues, go to the Formula One Association or its affiliates.

"The underlying reason is that the number of spectators has considerably declined in the past years," Schmidt said. "We had 95,000 spectators in 2002, and we had 65,000 this year."

The track needs to sell enough race tickets to offset the fee charged by the Formula One Association for hosting the event. Hockenheim is contractually forbidden from revealing the amount it pays to the F1 authorities, but the roughly 13 million euros estimated to flow in from the sale of 65,000 tickets sold at roughly 200 euros couldn't cover the track's costs.

Germany has five drivers on the F1 grid and carmakers like BMW and Mercedes are powerful forces in the sport. Both these companies have already said that they value the German Grand Prix and hope that it doesn’t fall off the calendar.

Shared burden, shared suffering

Hockenheim shares the German Grand Prix with Germany's other premier racetrack, the Nuerburgring. The two circuits came to this agreement out of a desire to share the financial burden of hosting a Formula One race.

"I guess every Grand Prix racetrack or promoter of a Grand Prix worldwide loses money with Formula One, unfortunately that's also true for the Nuerburgring," Nuerburgring managing director Walter Kafitz told Deutsche Welle.

"For us as a limited company it is not profitable, but for the region it is profitable, and as the regional government is the Nuerburgring's major shareholder it makes sense to host F1," he added.

The Nuerburgring has a contract to host the German Grand Prix in 2009 and 2011, and Kafitz said it will uphold this obligation. But he added that the Nuerburgring couldn't afford to take the 2010 race if Hockenheim drops out.

Germany has played host to at least one Formula One race every year since 1960.

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