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Formula 1

Will the iconic Grand Prix in Barcelona be lost to racing in Madrid?

Barcelona looks set to lose the Spanish Grand Prix to Madrid starting in 2026. So not only in football are the two cities at loggerheads, but also in Formula 1 there is a battle between the two. Yet there still seems to be hope for the track in Catalonia, partly because of its rich history.

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In MotoGP, the race at the Barcelona circuit goes by as the Grand Prix of Catalonia, and perhaps this is also an option for the Formula 1 race in 2026.

Indeed, Madrid seems to have secured the Spanish Grand Prix, but it is not entirely out of the question that Barcelona will still be on the calendar in 2026 as well.

Just look at Italy. There, the race at the Monza circuit goes through life as the Italian Grand Prix, and Imola goes by the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix - with a similar idea possible for Barcelona.

The organisers of the Barcelona GP still have an agreement with Formula 1 through 2026, but appear to be about to lose the Grand Prix.

Still, the F1 organization does not want to put the race aside just yet, in part because the circuit is ideal to use as a backup. The circuit has hosted F1 races since 1991, and also provided a home for pre-season testing.

With all the experience it has under its belt, Barcelona could fairly easily host a race on short notice. Something that could be needed in 2026.

In fact, at the moment it is not entirely clear whether Madrid will actually have the new circuit in place by 2026.

Given the speed at which street circuits are being built in recent years, one can assume that they will have the circuit ready by 2026, but if this is not the case, F1 could quickly move on to the Barcelona circuit.

There is renovation work at the Hungaroring and the Monza circuit in the coming years, for example, so should the renovations of these circuits be delayed, you could always use Barcelona as a backup venue.

Disagreement between Barcelona and Madrid

Barcelona itself does not want to lose the Grand Prix either. Jaume Collboni was appointed as the tourist city's new mayor in June 2023 and indicated his commitment to hosting a sporting event.

He indicated that he would like to keep the F1 race for the city, something that seems to be a difficult scenario with the announcement of the Madrid Grand Prix.

Still, the new mayor and the local government are unlikely to say no to a scenario where one can be used as a "reserve".

The facilities are in place and, in any case, the city will face a big boost when it can host an F1 race.

No doubt Collboni will do all it can to maintain a permanent place on the F1 calendar, but this seems an unlikely scenario in the long run.

F1 bosses have said many times that they prefer one race per country in Europe. Monza and Imola, races currently on the calendar together, are feeling the pressure to improve facilities. If that does not happen, it appears Italy, too, will go back to one race per year.

Barcelona will additionally be keeping a close eye on what will happen in Madrid in the short term.

F1 bosses seem confident that everything will be ready by 2026, but earlier the president of the Spanish Motorsport Federation revealed that the organization still needs to take several steps to actually host the GP.

Carmelo Sanz de Borres, in addition to being president of the Spanish motorsport federation and also FIA president of the Senate, revealed in late 2023 that Madrid has not followed the proper steps to host a GP.

For example, the Spaniard indicated that a circuit must initially apply to the FIA to have the circuit inspected and licensed to host an F1 race at all tomorrow.

So with that, there still seems to be some disagreement between different parties in Spain as well. After this announcement, there is at least a very good chance that racing will take place in the capital from 2026.

Alternate?

In addition to the above scenarios, another option is for Barcelona to enter a rotation system. The question then is with which circuits this will happen. Previously, Belgium and the Netherlands have been asked to look into a rotation system and perhaps Barcelona will be added to this.

Then three races with a great history would alternate each year. In doing so, Barcelona, Spa or Zandvoort would be visited only once every three years. The question, however, is whether this is financially interesting enough for the circuits.

The biggest chance for now seems to be that we will say goodbye to Barcelona and thus lose an iconic F1 circuit.

Despite being written off as a 'boring' circuit at times, we have also seen some great races there and triple world champion Max Verstappen won his first F1 race there.

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