With the latest proposals which could see an increase in the number of races from the current 20 to 23 I've decided to have a look at the possibilities, particularly given the fact that the historic racetracks are in serious difficulty.
Ideas are being thrown around of Barcelona teaming up with Valencia and Spa Francochamps with Circuit Paul Ricard; The Nurburgring's future hangs in the balance; Melbourne is fighting a rearguard action against its citizenry, and Turkey, well, turned out to be a turkey. There's also discussions about Montreal (again), this time on the back of COTA in Austin and the proposed New Jersey shore race in 2013/2014, with questions being raised as to whether North America has the fan base to support three GP's.
The return of Mexico's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is being mooted now that Perez is firmly ensconced on the grid and Brazil is under pressure to upgrade the track.
The shift from the old circuits to new locations is very apparent in the current F1 era with China, Korea, Bahrain, Singapore, Malaysia and Abu Dhabi. In light of this where will F1 be going in 2014 should the finances bite the old circuits in a terminal way?
Given Bernie's apparent lack of care as to the political and social turmoils which are going on in a country I put forward the following as monied locations which would support future GP's on a quid pro quo basis; Their quids, F1's quos (in the form of the application of a public relations thin veneer of respectability):
Kim Jong-Un is still relatively new to power and has yet to get his feet firmly under the table. A gridwalk with Bernie would surely give him kudos and provide him with the impetus required to ensure his longevity as leader. It would also help him internationally in that the exceptionally thin coating would raise expectations that he might come in from the cold.
Prediction: North Korean (possibly Kim Jong-Un himself) to qualify on Pole, win the GP, and take the Driver's and Constructor's Championships
If Mugabe's latest coup is anything to go by, being appointed a UN tourism Ambassador, he will only benefit further from holding an F1 race. I can see him now leading the driver's parade in front of "adoring" home support. The ban on the international press corp will allow F1 sports journalists to wax lyrical about the new figure of 8 track wending through and over old "abandoned" diamond mines and of course to report the news that the whole Zimbabwe thing is blown out of all proportion and is not reflective of what they are seeing on the ground.
Prediction: A la Jaguar in Monaco the cars will all carry a diamond in the nose. A la Indy, Vettel and Hamilton will attempt to draw, the result will be contested, and security will step in and evict all the teams from the pits, forcing them to flee the country.
Perhaps the race might be held in Darfur, I hear it's completely despoiled these days. Plenty of vacant accommodation available, good weather, etc. A strong security detail could ensure the safety of the F1 circus, I think there's a state backed militia in place there that could do the job, the Janjaweed. Of course the teams would have to bring their own food to the area given the scorched earth policy which applied, but there wouldn't be too many locals to worry about, most of them have already fled the country and those that remain are held in tightly controlled desert camps all of which would be miles away from the F1 camp. The only problem is money, I don't think that al-Bashir has been taking care of the country's finances too well, but there's lots of free labour available.
Prediction: Long shot for a race, just not enough cash to tempt the Bernster. Of course the recent marriage of dynastys between Sudan and Chad may bring in the necessaries should B be tempted.
While we're here in Uzbekistan we might go sightseeing in the East, perhaps Andijan where we could visit the historic Babur Square. No cameras allowed of course. The track could be located at the recently abandoned US K2 Military Base where the ex-military buildings could be renditioned, sorry, rendered useful for the teams tech HQ's throughout the race weekend. No doubt "friendly" media will be allowed to interview the teams on such positive and uplifting topics as their delight to visit the country of the beloved Karimov and their expressed wish that he be elected for the 4th time running as president with yet another massive majority.
Prediction: Plenty of cash, friendly with Putin so can't be all bad...However, given that he has total control of the state and has the ear of Moscow he probably isn't too bothered about Western PR. It would probably take a visit from Flavio the Schmooz to land this fish.
Now this is a real contender. Since Niyazov died in 2006 the country has been run by the unspellable and unpronounceable Berdimuhamedow who apparently has been making tentative overtures to the West in terms of opening the country up. Since we want access to their massive natural gas reserves this makes the country prime meat in the Bernie sandwich.
They want out and we want in (not politically of course) and how better to bring this about but through sport UniF1ed would make a great slogan don't you think, however, may my tongue shrivel if I slander the country, flag or president.
Prediction: Eager to make money from the National Gas Reserves there's no question but that Berdimuhamedow would be likely to fund a racetrack, [after all it's nothing to Niyazov's excesses which included building a palace of ice (in a desert country) so that everyone could learn the important life skill of ice skating, banning all dogs from the capital because he didn't like the smell, and closing down all hospitals and libraries outside the capital on the basis that, in the case of the former all sick people should go to the capital and the latter because his autobiography and the Koran were the only two books that anyone needed to read]. All it'll take is a little coaxing and a promise that all media reports will pass through the interior ministry prior to publication.
There you have it, 5 leaders that could use a non-political, non-judgemental sporting event to promote their country as a wonderful and caring place, a place where they make a difference, a place where there are few who are disaffected (and those that are are locked up tight), and a place with a "democratically elected" president/Benificent Leader/beatific dictator/ benign despot/King/Sheikh/Emperor/Saint (delete as appropriate) rules over a peaceful and pleasant society.
Just a few locations to think about.