German Grand Prix will return in 2016, says Mercedes boss Toto Wolff

EXCLUSIVE: Fans’ favourite race to return  in 2016 despite huge debts

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The Independent Online

Formula One will return to Germany in 2016 after a hiatus this year, according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff.

The German Grand Prix was due to take place this weekend but was dropped in March after it ran into financial difficulty and was left off the calendar for the first time since 1960. It appeared last week on a provisional F1 calender for next year but doubts still surrounded whether the organisers could raise the estimated £14m hosting fee. The uncertainty has now been put to rest.

“We will be in Germany next year. The race is 100 per cent going to happen. The budget is there, it is a fact,” Wolff said. “Bernie [Ecclestone], Mercedes and the organisers in Hockenheim tried to help [fund it] but we couldn’t come up with the budget.

“There is an impact on [Mercedes] from losing the German Grand Prix but, as much as it is a shame that we can’t show and display our cars in front of our fans and Daimler colleagues, we will be there next year. Hockenheim was scheduled for next year and there is no doubt it is going to happen. It is sure.”

Wolff added that the time out may ultimately be no bad thing. “There is a little bit of a hangover in Germany about F1, sports in general and national heroes. We had Schumacher five times in a row, we had Sebastian Vettel four times in a row, the German football team winning the World Cup. I think they have had it all and where do you go from there? Maybe not going there for a year and coming back next year could be a good thing.” Wolff’s words will be music to the ears of F1 fans as the German GP is one of the favourites on the calendar. However, it has fallen on hard times in recent years.

Since 2007 the location of the race has alternated between two storied tracks – the Hockenheimring and Nürburgring. Around 45,000 fans came to see the event at the Nürburgring in 2013 and 52,000 fans were in attendance last year at Hockenheim.

In contrast, around 140,000 spectators visited the British Grand Prix at Silverstone two weeks ago which shows what the race organisers in Germany were up against.

In 2013, Ecclestone, the head of Formula One, gave the Nürburgring an additional boost when he agreed to waive the hosting fee for the race and instead took the revenue from ticket sales. But even this could not stop the event from going into debt.

The Nürburgring ran into difficulty after taking out a £240m loan in 2009 which was used to fund construction of an on-site shopping centre, hotel and amusement park. The new facilities were not as popular as hoped and the circuit struggled to make debt repayments.

The Nürburgring was put up for sale in May 2013 and control was eventually sold to a Russian billionaire, Viktor Kharitonin. However, he failed to get the race back on track and a rescue attempt by Ecclestone, Mercedes and Hockenheim also hit the  buffers.

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