Ecclestone says India has to decide on its F1 future
Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone expects the Indian Grand Prix to see through the five-year contract and if it has to go beyond that, the onus is on the Indian government whether it wants it or not.
Ecclestone, facing corruption charges in England, gave Sunday's race at Greater Noida's Buddh International Circuit (BIC) a miss. When he spoke to IANS from his London office, he was his usual confident self and minced no words.
"Next year looks tough, but we should return in 2015. We want to even go beyond the five-year contract and for that to happen, there are certain issues that need to be sorted out in your country. Plus, there is a contract extension clause in the deal," Ecclestone said in a clear tone.
He made it clear that F1 teams will be in India if the country wants them and the government should support the venture like all other governments do world over.
"We will be there as long us the people of the country want us to be there. Your government should be happy about F1 coming to India and support it like most governments do worldwide.
The benefits accruing from the race are enormous. It has already put India on the world motor sports map. F1 is as big as the Football World Cup and the Olympics. And unlike them, it happens through the year," he said.
The Indian government doesn't recognise F1 as a sport, and it taxes all stakeholders -- race promoters Jaypee Group, Formula One Management (FOM), teams and drivers -- and that for Ecclestone is bizarre.
"I would call this strange. Maybe the government needs to look at its tax structure. It is important the government backed the event, like the governments do elsewhere. F1 does a lot to the image of the country," said Ecclestone, who turned 83 Monday.
Teams complain about the amount of paper work they have to do to visit India, though they are all happy once they are there and they want to return.
Ecclestone saw the Sunday race from his home and was happy to see Sebastian Vettel at 26 making history by becoming the youngest world champion to win the title four years in a row. He made a special mention of the improvement in the way the BIC organised the race, showing improvement with each passing year.
"I followed the race and it was fantastic to see Vettel winning the title in India. The organisation of the event is getting better every year and as far as I know nobody had any compaint."
Besides the issues with the government, the modalities concerning the licensing fee and scheduling of the Indian Grand Prix also needs to be looked at.
Jaypee, which pays USD 40 million a year as licensing fee to Ecclestone's FOM, are feeling the heat of the current economic scenario and a substantial slide in the rupee value. Would the F1 czar be open to renegotiating the deal with Jaypee?
"It is unlikely. I understand the rupee has gone down. But even if it has to go up in the near future, we are not going to seek an increase in the fee. As it is, there are venues that are paying more than the Jaypee Group."
The provisional 2014 calendar minus India is packed with 22 races with the introduction of New Jersey and Russia and return of Mexico and Austria.
Asked where he would like to slot India in 2015 when more and more countries are keen to host F1, Ecclestone said: "As I had mentioned earlier, we always wanted to have the race early in the season.
But that could not happen as the circuit for the inaugural race in 2011 was not ready. Then we carried on with the October date." Jaypee on their part prefer October, though they have said they will be okay with FOM's date.
"We will see what happens. The scheduling is not really a big issue. We will sort that out with Jaypee. The most important is to secure the future of the race," summed up Ecclestone.