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F1 does not need America, says Ecclestone

June 23, 2006 21:12 IST

Formula One does not need America and will not subsidise any race there despite last year's fiasco at Indianapolis, according to commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

Setting out his position ahead of contract negotiations over the future of the US Grand Prix, the 75-year-old made clear on Friday that local organisers could not expect a cut-price renewal.

"It does not matter to Formula One if there is no Grand Prix in the US," he told The Times newspaper.

"What do we get from America? Aggravation, that's about all. If you say 'Good Morning' over there and it's five past 12, you end up with a lawsuit.

"We have never got any sponsors out there. The television has never taken off, we have more viewers in Malta than over there," continued Ecclestone.

"If they want to continue having a round of the Formula One world championship over there, I'm happy to talk to them, which is what I will do when I get there. But I am not prepared to subsidise a race in America."

Only six cars took part in last year's race at Indianapolis after the Michelin-equipped teams withdrew for tyre safety reasons following accidents in free practice on the high-speed final banked corner of the circuit.

Furious fans, who were later offered refunds and free tickets for this year's race, booed and threw bottles and cans on the track.

Formula One returns to 'The Brickyard' next week, after Canada this weekend, but the race's future beyond that remains uncertain.

This year's championship has 18 races after the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa was cancelled but Ecclestone wants to expand the calendar to 20 and has several eager candidates.

There has been talk of a second race in Spain, home of Renault's world champion Fernando Alonso, as well as Russia, South Africa, Mexico and India expressing interest.

Toyota-owned Fuji will take over the Japanese Grand Prix from Suzuka next year but the Honda-owned circuit could remain on the calendar, possibly as a Pacific Grand Prix, as well to reflect increasing local involvement in the sport.

"Why do we need to worry so much about America?" said Ecclestone.

"America has never really taken to open-wheel racing. They talk about the big audiences for NASCAR, but we get as many viewers in Italy alone as they do for NASCAR in the States."

His words are unlikely to be echoed by the teams. America is a major market for manufacturers like BMW and Ferrari as well as the sport's big sponsors.

"Racing in North America is fundamental to Formula One's commercial health," said team boss Frank Williams after last year's race.

Despite his sharp comments, Ecclestone expected a warm welcome in Indianapolis.


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