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Belgian GP receives green light for F1 contract extension

The Belgian Grand Prix appears set to remain on the Formula One calendar beyond this year after Jean-Claude Marcourt, Economics Minister for the region of Walloon, gave his approval for a contract extension of the race at the famous Spa-Francorchamps circuit.

Spa-Francorchamps lies within the Walloon municipality of Stavelot. In August 2012, a new three-year contract was agreed for the Belgian GP to remain in place through the forthcoming 2015 F1 season.

Despite its status as one of the most popular rounds on the motor-racing series’ calendar, Spa-Francorchamps’ future has been in doubt in recent years. Its current deal for the 2013 to 2015 seasons was agreed shortly before the 2012 race and at a reduced rate for local organisers. The Belgian GP had previously been lined up as part of a race-sharing deal that would have seen France return to the F1 calendar. That proposal ultimately collapsed following the end of Nicolas Sarkozy’s French presidency.

Speaking in response to a question in the Walloon parliament, Marcourt said he has authorised local race organisers to finalise a contract extension. “There will be therefore a grand prix in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018,” he added.

Marcourt said that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) has not asked for fresh investment for the circuit, indicating that previous development work has brought Spa-Francorchamps up to the required standard.

In other news, the Korean Grand Prix has been formally dropped from the 2015 calendar following the publication of the final schedule for next season by the FIA. The Korean GP was listed as a surprise inclusion on a provisional calendar issued at the beginning of December.

Having hosted a grand prix since 2010, the event was dropped from last season’s schedule amid long-running speculation over its future. The race is held at the remote location of Yeongam with initial visions of the circuit being the centrepiece of a ‘sports city’ development. However, this development has not transpired and the event has continually suffered from poor attendances.

Nevertheless, the FIA listed Korea as the fifth round of the season on May 3, sandwiched between the Bahrain GP and the Spanish GP. F1 teams had stated their reluctance to expand the calendar beyond 20 races and the Korean GP had been listed as ‘to be confirmed’ by the FIA. SportBusiness International reported last week that the event had been removed altogether, but despite listing 20 races, an FIA statement said the 2015 season would remain at “21 competitions.”

The FIA’s final calendar, issued on Tuesday, confirmed the removal of Korea stating the event would not be replaced, leaving next season to be composed of 20 races. The 2015 Belgian GP will be staged over the weekend of August 21-23.