• Travel chaos

Ecclestone - Spanish Grand Prix goes ahead

ESPNF1 Staff
April 19, 2010 « Safety car cost me podium - Kubica | »
The departure board at London's Heathrow airport tells the story © Press Association

Bernie Ecclestone dismissed claims that next month's Spanish Grand Prix could be cancelled because of the chaos over flight to many parts of Europe, while meantime various teams were left searching for ways to get back home after the Chinese Grand Prix.

It was confirmed today that this weekend's Japanese round of the MotoGP series has been called off due to the travel disruptions caused by the volcanic ash. But fortunately for F1 there is now a three-week break between the Chinese Grand Prix and the opening of the European season in Spain on May 9.

But with the hundreds of tonnes of freight, including the cars, stranded at Shanghai airport - while F1's six 747 jets are grounded in Europe - it is currently impossible to predict when the team factories will be reunited with their equipment.

"The main concern is getting the engines back because they have to be worked on," Ecclestone said. "But I am sure everything will be all right. We know there will be a Spanish Grand Prix, we just don't know where yet," he joked to a reporter in China, adding that his plan-B was "suicide".

"There is no question of cancelling the Spanish Grand Prix," he said. "Of course, it is causing everybody problems, but we will find a way to get everyone home."

The movement of F1's actual people is less problematic, albeit expensive: several teams - including Ferrari and McLaren - are organising private charters on Tuesday or Wednesday into Spain, where some major airports are still landing planes. The personnel will then return to their respective team headquarters by bus. Other F1 people have diverted to Dubai or even as far afield as the US, in the hope of finding another air route back to Europe.

HRT's Karun Chandhok said the "whole paddock" was in a mess. "Some people are flying around the world to USA just to get a connecting flight to anywhere in Europe. Luckily for me, India is unaffected so cancelled my flight to London, so I will go and wait at home. But Bruno [Senna]is not happy to be stuck here."

"If it's four days we can live with it.,' said McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh. "If it's a week it would become an issue. But we'll find a way even if it's the Trans-Siberian Railway."

As for the freight, the end of the air chaos could come sooner than expected after British Airways, Air France and KLM tested planes in European skies without problems, and Niki Lauda's airline conducted a test with an Airbus A320 from Vienna to Salzburg.

"The flight was the best ever, with blue skies," Lauda said. "I don't understand what all the fuss is about."