Bernie Ecclestone thinks the Formula One calendar could increase the number of races even more, but European events are likely to dwindle away. For 2004, the calendar has 18 races and Ecclestone reckons that adding on another couple would not be a...
Bernie Ecclestone thinks the Formula One calendar could increase the number of races even more, but European events are likely to dwindle away. For 2004, the calendar has 18 races and Ecclestone reckons that adding on another couple would not be a problem, if there were a cut back on testing.
Already this year China and Bahrain have joined the schedule and Turkey is on track for 2005, with other countries vying for Grands Prix. "In the next 10 years, Europe will slide down to the level of the third world in economic terms," was Ecclestone's prediction. "It doesn't have the slightest chance of competing with China, South Korea, India."
San Marino is the latest GP on Ecclestone's hit list, the F1 ringmaster claiming 2004 will be the last race at Imola. The mayor of Imola is not convinced the event is off the calendar yet and said it was not the first time San Marino had come under threat.
Max Mosley was none too encouraging about Europe's future with F1 either. The FIA president said new EU directives, such as anti-tobacco laws and the threat of the European Arrest Warrant, could see the sport relocate to an alternative country.
"The EU is strangled by unnecessary and excessive regulations," said Mosley. "We have 120 countries in the FIA so there is plenty of choice. There are some very interesting countries that could prove attractive. It would not matter to us if an F1 team wanted to relocate. The whole industry could decamp the way things are going."
Mosley, however, does not agree with Ecclestone's predicitons of more races on the calendar: "In the longer term we would prefer to see 16 races," he said. "I think what we will end up with is hardly any testing but not 20 races. It is questionable whether you need 20 grands prix."
To add to Europe's other woes, team principal David Richards claims BAR could be forced out of Britain due to anti-tobacco laws that would prevent the team racing anywhere in the world with tobacco sponsor logos.
He warned that McLaren and Jordan could also face this problem, although McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh is not convinced. This week Jordan just renewed its long-term deal with Benson and Hedges at its title sponsor, the ninth consecutive season of the partnership.