|Sebastian Vettel, after winning the Indian GP, in 2013
New Delhi: Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone on Thursday asserted that the troubled Indian Grand Prix has run out of time for a 2015 return and its organisers must settle the contractual obligations for a possible comeback in 2016.
Ecclestone was hoping the race organisers, Jaypee Group, will sort out the five-year contract in time for a return next year but that has not happened yet, leaving the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) owners too little time to get the event back on track.
Usually, the FIA World Motor Sport Council ratifies the next season’s calendar in September and the final one in December.
“It is too late for 2015. We (Formula One Management and Jaypee) are looking at 2016 now and hopefully the tax issues in India will also be sorted out by then. The organisers also need to settle the existing contract before we get back. I am expecting to see them next week,” Ecclestone said from his London office.
After the event was dropped for 2014, the 83-year-old had revealed that the race promoters had not complied with the contract, mainly the financial side of it.
The tax and bureaucratic set-up in India have anyway made the teams and FOM uncomfortable, putting the high-profile event in further jeopardy.
As it is, accommodating India on the ever-crowded calendar will not be easy. Mexico’s return next year after a 23-year absence takes the calendar up to 20 races and Azerbaijan has also confirmed a deal to make its F1 debut in 2016. Russia makes its debut in October this year.
Ecclestone, however, reiterated his wish for a successful Indian Grand Prix. “As I have said in the past, we and the teams want to go back to India, irrespective of how busy the calendar is. I hope the environment for our return gets better. Until then, my message to all the F1 fans is that keep watching the sport on television,” said the British magnate, who recently paid $100 million to end his bribery trial in Germany.
No Jaypee official was available for a comment. Jaypee Sports International CEO Sameer Gaur had bet his life on the race’s return in 2015. Sebastian Vettel had completed a hat-trick of wins at BIC last year, besides securing his fourth world title.
The race saw dwindling spectator interest after making an impressive debut in 2011, when a whopping 95,000 flocked to the stands. The promoters claimed sixty thousand were present on Sunday last year, five thousand less than 2012.
Meanwhile, Russia’s new Sochi circuit has been cleared to host the country’s first Grand Prix in October after a rave review from the sport’s governing body.
The international automobile federation (FIA) technical head Charlie Whiting, who conducts a detailed inspection of all new circuits, visited the Black Sea resort on Tuesday and said he was impressed by what he had seen.
Meanwhile, German bank BayernLB on Thursday signalled it was open to a compromise to end a legal fight with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone relating to his involvement in the 2006 sale of its stake in the motor racing business.
BayernLB chief executive Johannes-Joerg Riegler indicated a deal was still possible after the lender rejected a 25 million euro ($33 million) settlement offer earlier this month.
“If the overall package is right, we wouldn’t be closed to it,” Riegler told a conference call with journalists after unveiling the lender’s results for the first half of the year.
State-backed BayernLB claims the 83-year-old British billionaire collected unjustified commissions and undervalued its stake in the motor racing business when private equity fund CVC became Formula One's largest shareholder eight years ago. (Agencies)
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