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Ecclestone not out to axe Spa
Bernie Ecclestone has played down reports he has already earmarked the popular Spa-Francorchamps venue as the most likely to be axed in Europe.
In a recent interview with the Guardian, he was quoted as saying the Belgian track could "absolutely" make way for new international hosts like the USA and Russia. And he reportedly confirmed "yes, Spa" when asked for confirmation that at least one European race will need to be taken off the calendar in the near future.
But he has now told Belgian television RTBF that the Guardian journalist "misinterpreted" his comments.
"The Guardian twisted my words," Ecclestone insisted. "I am sure that in the years to come, we will lose a few races in Europe. It is almost certain. Which ones, I have no idea. But from our side, we want to keep Spa. There are long discussions about the grand prix there, but if it does go, it will be because of the government, not me."
But with a self-imposed, 20-race limit per season, some races will have to make way if new venues are going to join the calendar. Sao Paulo mayor Gilberto Kassab is confident it won't be the Brazilian Grand Prix, which is the next round on this year's calendar.
Asked if he is worried that many in the F1 circus - including Ecclestone - believe Interlagos features arguably the worst facilities on the calendar, he told Agencia Estado: "I am not. The city of Sao Paulo has a great interest in staying on the schedule and has invested a lot for it. The organisers of F1 also have an interest in having the race here. After all, Sao Paulo is one of the major cities of the world, and there's no reason for Brazil to not be in the loop."
For the 2010 event, new 'softwall' barriers, anti-slip paint, synthetic grass and better drainage have been installed around the circuit. More comprehensive upgrades to the ageing facilities have not been completed, but the mayor said a 'Master Plan' will be drafted at the end of the year.
"There are some things missing, but I like what I see," he told Globo Esporte. "I am very calm. Every year we improve the autodromo, which is one of the best in the world. If not the largest, F1 is one of the major events of the world. It generates jobs and income for the city. That is why we invest so much in it."
On the other end of the scale is Abu Dhabi's impressive Yas Marina circuit, which is set to host the 2010 season finale one week after Brazil. Ecclestone told Gulf News: "If only all the venues were as superb as Abu Dhabi, I would be a happy man. How long is their arrangement to hold a grand prix? Forever, for as long as they want it."