F1 chief casts doubt over future of Turkish Grand Prix

By Gareth Llewellyn
istanbul park formula 1

The Turkish Grand Prix is the least-attended race on the F1 calendar (Photo: Nikos Koutoulas)

Formula 1 chief Bernie Ecclestone has put the future of the Turkish Grand Prix in doubt after doubling the fee for a new contract.

The current contract for the Istanbul Park circuit, which expires in 2011, costs around £10 million per year but Ecclestone is now demanding a yearly fee of £18m to host the race.

The Turkish Grand Prix is the least-attended race on the F1 calendar despite recently hosting its sixth race and having capacity for 125,000 with temporary seating. With the dearest three-day ticket with a seat costing £230.73—roughly the same price as the cheapest equivalent at Silverstone—it is impossible for them to meet Ecclestone’s demands.

Ecclestone is understood to have spoken to Turkey’s Minister for Sports Faruk Nafiz Özak and Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek during the Turkish Grand Prix at the end of last month warning: “I leave it up to you. India and Arab countries are all ready to take your place.”

Turkey maintains that is it “fond of hosting” Formula 1, but feels it is restricted because the circuit is only used for F1, GP2, MotoGP, World Touring Car Championship, DTM and the Le Mans 1,000km Series leaving the circuit unused for the rest of the year.

It is clear that if Turkey wants to continue hosting races, it will have to open the circuit up to help raise the money to pay for it. It is difficult envisage Ecclestone relenting too much as the Turkish attempt to haggle with him over the price.

In fact, it would come as a surprise if he entertained any haggling at all knowing he has other countries ready and waiting to step in.

The Istanbul Park circuit has some nice corners—turn 8 and turn 13 being two—and it is also anti-clockwise, but while it might be a very well-designed circuit with great facilities, it is just another race on the calendar.

The design is a rehash of many traditional favourite circuits around the world including Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps, America’s Laguna Seca, Germany’s old Nürburgring, Japan’s Suzuka and Italy’s Monza.

The only drama we had at this year’s race was thanks to a couple of in-house battles, other than that it was another procession, perhaps more a statement amount Herman Tilke-designed circuits than Turkey itself.

The writing appears to be on the wall for Turkey. Many drivers, despite the facilities, have been unimpressed with the circuit itself. In 2007, however, Ecclestone called it “the best circuit in the world.”

“F1 needs to be in this part of the world – I am very proud of what has been built here in Turkey,” he added. His patience, however, appears to be wearing thin.

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