Bernie Ecclestone hints at Turkish Grand Prix axe
The Turkish Grand Prix could be dropped from the Formula 1 calendar in the coming years as Bernie Ecclestone makes plans to move the sport into new markets.
Ecclestone agreed a deal earlier this month to take F1 to Russia in 2014 and the sport will return to the United States in 2012 at the new circuit in Austin, Texas. And the 79-year-old is still keen to secure new venues in Rome and South Africa.
Last weekend saw the inaugural Korean Grand Prix at Yeongam, while next year will also feature the first Indian Grand Prix, expanding the calendar to 20 races between March and November.
Talking about the ever-expanding calendar, Ecclestone hinted that the relatively new Istanbul Park circuit in Turkey could be the favourite to lose out following poor attendances.
The inaugural race in 2005 attracted a reported 60,000 on race day, but that number plummeted to just 40,000 by 2009 forcing promoters to reduce the weekend ticket price in a bid to boost numbers.
“Maybe someone will decide they need a rest because it’s not working for them commercially. A good example is probably Turkey,” said Ecclestone.
“They’ve built an incredible circuit and it might even be the best, but there’s not much enthusiasm from the public. I don’t know why.
He added: “I am sure that in the years to come, we will lose a few races in Europe.”
The Turkish Grand Prix’s deal is due to expire next year, making it the perfect race to drop as the sport returns to the US after a four-year absence.
Other races also out of contract in 2012 include China’s Shanghai circuit. The event attracted 300,000 spectators on race day according to a government statement, however that figure was later disputed, with organisers and the government later strenuously denying the figures had been exaggerated.
Japan’s Suzuka -another older favourite of drivers and F1 fans -is also out of contract from 2011, but any talk of dropping these venues seems unlikely given China’s influence in the global market, and Japan’s standing in the automotive industry.
For Ecclestone -and many of the circuits -affordability is the key to extended contracts, and those circuits not making the numbers and which are unwilling to pay the increased sanction fees because they are not turning a profit, will be top of the list to miss out in future years.