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What will happen to racing in Barcelona?

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What will happen to racing in Barcelona?

Formula 1 returns to Madrid. As the organizers of the racing series announced on Tuesday, the Spanish Grand Prix will run from 2026 up to and including 2035 on a newly created course through the capital, which will in future host the Spanish Grand Prix instead of Barcelona. The last race took place in Madrid in 1981, on the Jarama track, a good 30 kilometers to the north.

Hans-Christian Rößler

Political correspondent for the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb based in Madrid; previously correspondent in Israel.

The new runway will now actually run, at least in part, over public streets in the metropolis, but not along Castellana Boulevard or past the Cibeles fountain. So that public road traffic is not disrupted too much, the chase is increasing in the outskirts around the Ifema exhibition center near Barajas Airport.

A mixture of road course and permanent race track is being created there over a length of 5.47 kilometers. There will be space for 110,000 spectators in the stands. “Madrid is an incredible city with an impressive sporting and cultural heritage,” said Formula 1 boss Stefano Domenicali. The location represents Formula 1’s “vision of creating a multi-day sports and entertainment spectacle that offers fans maximum added value.”

Future of Barcelona open

It remains unclear what will become of the traditional Formula 1 location in Barcelona. Since 1991, the Spanish Grand Prix had taken place every year at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya. The contract with the operators is valid until 2026. If there is no early termination, there will be at least two Grands Prix in Spain in 2026.

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Formula 1 rushed to spread the word on Tuesday that the tour through Madrid did not necessarily mean the end for Barcelona. Stefano Domenicali said there were “discussions about whether we can expand our collaboration with Barcelona for the future.” Because of its varied route, the Montmeló track is considered a benchmark for Formula 1 cars, an ideal test track on which winter test drives took place for years.

However, there has been frequent criticism, recently increased, of monotonous races with few overtaking maneuvers. The sometimes catastrophic traffic conditions with often kilometer-long traffic jams are also a horror for those responsible for Formula 1. Against this background, the race in Madrid can be seen as a counter-proposal. Formula 1 advertised on Tuesday that around 90 percent of visitors could get to the track using public transport.

Costs of more than a billion

The exhibition center is easy to reach by plane and metro, and many hotels are nearby. A NATO summit and the UN climate conference have taken place on the site in recent years. The conservative Madrid regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso expects the race to bring the city additional revenue of more than 450 million euros a year and create 8,200 jobs.

According to her, private investors will cover the estimated costs of more than one billion euros. Madrid will have the “best Grand Prix in the world,” promises Ayuso, who accuses the left-wing government of socialist Pedro Sánchez of not supporting the major event.

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Meanwhile, Formula 1 is continuing its course of having its races increasingly take place in cities instead of on racing grounds located outside of them. The most recent example of this is the Las Vegas Grand Prix, which took place on the world-famous “Strip” for the first time in November. The Hockenheim and Nürburgring’s chances of returning to the racing calendar have further decreased with the new race in Madrid. In 2026, Audi will also enter Formula 1 – most likely without a German Grand Prix.

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