- 2012 season
Ecclestone denies Turkey is on standby for 2012
Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed talk of the Turkish Grand Prix returning to the F1 calendar in 2012 if Bahrain's race is cancelled due to the troubled political climate in the country.
Ecclestone said in Abu Dhabi at the weekend that he believes there will be "no problem" with next year's Bahrain Grand Prix, adding that "it's on the calendar and we are going to be there." Despite these reassurances, rumours have persisted that the race will not go ahead due to the continued political troubles in the country and that Turkey could be brought in to stop the number of races on the calendar reducing.
However, Ecclestone has poured cold water on the rumours that Turkey is standing by. He insists that he has no issue if the calendar loses a race and adds that "we haven't even got a deal with Turkey."
The Bahrain Grand Prix was postponed and eventually cancelled this season due to threats of violence from locals protesting against the country's political regime. The date of the 2012 race has already been pushed back from the season opener on March 18 until the middle of April, giving the promoters more time. This has led to concerns that the protests could flare up again near to the time of next year's race which could force it off the calendar again.
The teams have admitted that they are worried about the situation in Bahrain, with Red Bull team principal Christian Horner saying that "it's always concerning with the media reports that you hear. But we trust in the promoter and FIA to deal with it accordingly."
The status of the Bahrain GP was discussed last Thursday at a meeting of the F1 Commission, an F1 decision making body which includes the teams. Reports suggested that Turkey would be put on stand-by to replace Bahrain or the struggling Korean Grand Prix if either race pulled out.
Korea joined the F1 calendar as recently as 2010 but has suffered heavy losses. The promoter said last month that the future of the race rests on being able to negotiate better terms with Ecclestone although he added that "we wish to continue."
The F1 Commission decided to ratify the 2012 calendar, including Bahrain's position on 22 April and the Korean race on 14 October. However, this alone does not make it certain that either race will go ahead, as Bahrain was also ratified on the 2011 calendar before its cancellation.
Should either Bahrain or Korea drop out there should not be long-term problems for the F1 calendar as there is a surfeit of races beyond 2012. New Jersey is scheduled to join in 2013 with a track facing the Manhattan skyline and the first race in the Russian Winter Olympic city of Sochi will take place a year later. Ecclestone admits that "we don't know which circuits will get the boot to fit in Russia and New Jersey," but there are a number of solutions.
One option is for some races only to run in alternate years, as currently happens with the two German circuits, Nürburgring and Hockenheim. Ecclestone confirms "we will have a look at alternating some races. I haven't sorted out what we will do yet."