By Alan Baldwin
ABU DHABI (Reuters) – The German Grand Prix is set to be dropped from next year’s Formula One calendar for financial reasons, despite Nico Rosberg being favorite to win the world title this weekend and the dominance of champions Mercedes.
Hockenheim boss Georg Seiler was quoted by German media as saying the economic risks of hosting the event in successive years were too great for his circuit, which hosted it this season and has a contract for 2018.
Next July would have been the turn of the Nuerburgring under an alternation agreement but that circuit’s owners have baulked at paying the hosting fees, with the race also absent from the calendar last season.
Germany was listed on a provisional 21-race 2017 schedule with an asterisk, along with Canada and Brazil. Those races are now expected to stay, with tickets going on sale in Canada on Thursday.
The official calendar is due to be approved by the governing FIA at the end of the month.
There was no immediate confirmation from the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, although he has sounded pessimistic about Germany’s prospects in recent days.
“We tried to keep them (Hockenheim) alive, but they’ve run out of tablets,” the 86-year-old had told motorsport.com at the this month’s Brazilian Grand Prix. “I’ll put my money on it not happening.”
Championship leader Rosberg, who was born in Wiesbaden, will become Germany’s third world champion after Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel if the Mercedes driver finishes on the podium in this weekend’s Abu Dhabi season-ender.
Rosberg is 12 points clear of British team mate Lewis Hamilton, who won at Hockenheim this year.
Mercedes have already won the constructors’ title for the third year in a row.
Germany currently has four Formula One drivers — more than any other country — with Vettel at Ferrari, Nico Hulkenberg racing for Force India and Pascal Wehrlein with Manor.
The country held two races a year during seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher’s heyday, with the Nuerburgring run as the European Grand Prix.
But attendances have dwindled and only 57,000 fans attended this year on race Sunday, below the levels required for the circuit to break even.
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)