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Doubts remain over German Grand Prix

Caroline Reid and Christian Sylt
January 15, 2013 « Teams will struggle less in 2013 - Pirelli | 2013 'still unclear' for Senna »
The Nurburgring is supposed to hold this year's race after it was held at Hockenheim in 2012 © Sutton Images

Bernie Ecclestone says that a decision on the location of this year's German Grand Prix may not be made before the 2013 season starts in March due to protracted discussions with the Nurburgring circuit which is due to host the race.

"We have got a German Grand Prix but we don't know where it is going to be," Ecclestone said. "We have got the race pencilled in. It's on the calendar. We can decide it once the season has started."

When asked whether it looks like the race will take place at the Nurburgring Ecclestone replied: "No. The trouble is that the people that used to be there have gone. They haven't got enough money. So we will see."

The circuit, which is located in the Eifel mountain area of west Germany, previously held the Grand Prix in 2011. It alternates with the Hockenheimring and is due to host the race this year but was not confirmed as the location when the 2013 calendar was released in December. Instead the calendar stated that the location is to be announced and there is good reason for this.

In July last year the state government in Rhineland-Palatinate, which majority owns the Nurburgring, announced that the circuit was on the verge of bankruptcy. Its problems accelerated after it struggled to make repayments on a $370m loan it took out to fund a major redevelopment in 2009. The money was provided by the Bank Rhineland-Palatinate, the state's central economic development agency, and it was used to build projects such as a shopping mall, an amusement park and a hotel. They were part of a bid to generate revenue from outside motorsport but the new facilities have not been as popular as hoped.

So, despite not having to pay the estimated $29m F1 race fee every year, the circuit has still suffered severe cash-flow problems. To avoid insolvency it received additional public support, including a rescheduling of interest payments, but then faced a further setback as the European Commission launched an investigation claiming that the assistance was not granted on market terms.

Last week Ecclestone was quoted by Reuters saying that the location of the German Grand Prix "should be the Nurburgring and we are trying to make it happen." He added, "I'm talking with them today." Reuters claimed that a deal with the circuit could be agreed imminently but Ecclestone says that was optimistic.

"I said to Reuters that I was talking to them about trying to do something. I don't know what is going to happen with Nurburgring. That's what we are trying to sort out."

Ecclestone also confirms that there will be 19 races this year after the proposed Grand Prix of America in New Jersey missed payment deadlines. Austria and Turkey were mooted as possible replacements but Ecclestone reveals that "the race replacing New Jersey was going to be France. I think there is going to be 19 races this year".