Abandoned stands, but Spa-Francorchamps embraces its grand prix

A Formula 1 race without an audience. Zandvoort had no appetite for it, but in Belgium they made a dance of joy when the owners of Formula 1 gave them the chance to organise a race after all. The economic aspect turns out to be important.

The Zandvoort Grand Prix floats on business investments, while Spa-Francorchamps mainly relies on support from the Belgian government. Zandvoort therefore chose eggs for its money by postponing all agreements in the three-year contract until 2021.

“For Zandvoort it would have cost a lot of money if they had organised a race without an audience”, says commercial director Stijn De Boever of Spa Grand Prix.

He explains the difference between the Belgian and Dutch grand prix. “With us, the government says: we don’t mind if you lose 6 million euros, because we also charge 30 million euros in income for the region. Formula 1 is important to our region and the government has understood that well.”

According to De Boever, the Belgian Formula 1 race is still profitable, even without an audience. “In this situation we still have 20,000 overnight stays and 3,000 people involved in the race over a period of three weeks”, says the Belgian.

“Of course, with 100,000 spectators, everything looks very different. But we have to be satisfied with what we’ve got now.”

The age of the Spa-Francorchamps circuit also plays a role. Where Zandvoort has incurred a lot of costs for a major renovation of the circuit, hardly any adjustments need to be made for the Belgian grand prix.

New contract

The coronavirus tore up Spa-Francorchamps’ contract with Formula 1 owner Liberty Media. The two parties then agreed on a “totally different deal” until 2022.

In these new agreements it is stated, among other things, that Belgian grand prix does not have to pay its contribution of 20 million euros, which applies to each grand prix. On top of that, Formula 1 takes care of the organizational costs.

“This was the only reason it was possible to continue our grand prix, because our organizational costs are very low, precisely because the circuit has existed for so long”, explains De Boever.

‘Weather will be favorable’

De Boever closes in on Sunday Max Verstappen in his sixth performance in Spa a good chance that the Dutchman, who has a third place in 2018 as best result in Spa, will finally strike.

“It’s unbelievable that he’s never had a good result here before. I think the weather will be favorable for Max”, says De Boever. “It can rain on one side of the track, while it’s dry on the other side. And that’s where it looks like. Typical Spa weather.”