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Korea dropped but F1 calendar set to retain 21 races

The Korean Grand Prix has been dropped from the calendar for Formula One’s 2015 season, but intrigue remains around the campaign’s final make-up with motorsport’s global governing body, the FIA, stating that the calendar will retain a record 21 races.

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 have stated their reluctance to expand the calendar beyond 20 races and the Korean GP had been listed as ‘to be confirmed’ by the FIA. The event has now been removed altogether, but despite listing 20 races, an FIA statement said the 2015 season would remain at “21 competitions.”

Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone had earlier hinted that the Korean GP would not remain on the calendar, stating its initial inclusion was made for legal reasons. “They (local organisers) would rather it not happen,” Ecclestone said last month. “We have a contract with Korea… we have to put it on the calendar. If we hadn't they could have sued us. We let them off for a year on the understanding they would be back.”

In other news, speculation has renewed over the long-term future of the Lotus team after it was listed as “subject to confirmation” on the FIA’s revised entry list for the 2015 season. The British-based team has already retained drivers Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado for the new campaign, along with agreeing a deal to switch from Renault to Mercedes engines.

However, the team’s financial difficulties have been well documented and a poor 2014 season saw it drop from fourth to eighth in the constructors’ championship, losing out on valuable prize money. In August, Lotus reported widening losses for the year ending December 31, 2013. Lotus, owned by private equity firm Genii Capital, revealed a loss of £64.9m (€81.4m/$109m) for the 2013 financial year, compared to £55.3m for 2012. Revenues, mainly generated through prize money and sponsorship, remained stable at £92.7m.