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French have 'had enough opportunity' to sign contract - Ecclestone

Caroline Reid and Christian Sylt
May 23, 2012 « Brawn returns for Monaco GP | HRT to run Ma Qing Hua at Silverstone Young Driver Test »
Bernie Ecclestone wants to retain a number of the current races © Press Association

Bernie Ecclestone says organisers of the planned French Grand Prix have had enough chances to sign a contract for the race.

The race was last held at the Magny Cours circuit in central France in 2008 and, since then, there have been plans to host it at numerous other locations including on the streets of Paris, in Disneyland Paris and at the Paul Ricard track near Marseilles.

The most recent plans were focussed on bringing the race to Paul Ricard which last hosted the French Grand Prix in 1990 and would need significantly updating to do so again. These plans had stalled before the election earlier this month of new president Francois Hollande to replace the outgoing Nicolas Sarkozy.

"The French have had enough opportunity to make it happen and didn't," Ecclestone said. "They promised all these things like the streets of Paris and Disney. It's very political. I don't know if would have been different if Sarkozy had been re-elected. I have no idea. Whilst he was in power they could have signed. They have had a contract and all they had to do is sign. They never reached an agreement with Ricard anyway but it would need investment to build up grandstands and the Paddock Club isn't big enough."

There have been reports that Ecclestone has also asked the promoters of the Canadian Grand Prix to upgrade the track in Montreal in order to retain the race when its contract expires in 2014. However, Ecclestone says he is completely set on staying there.

"There's a little big of magic about Montreal. Everybody likes Montreal," he says. "The circuit in Montreal is nice and looks nice on TV, you can walk there from the centre of town if you wanted to. We used to be in Toronto and you could never do that there. They propose things to us but Montreal is ideal. The circuit layout is nice, it looks nice. It is near the city. Everybody is happy in the city. We will renew the deal there. We will be there."

Likewise, Ecclestone says that the contract to host the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, which expired last year, will also be renewed. The future of the race at the Nürburgring was thrown into doubt earlier this year when the local government terminated the race promoter's 30 year lease on the circuit. The explanation for this was given by Roger Lewentz, minister for the Interior, Sport and Infrastructure who said that "we want to continue with Formula One at the Nürburgring, but at a reasonable cost to the government." It looked like the government had thrown the gauntlet down to Ecclestone but it hasn't deterred him.

"At the Nürburgring there was an internal problem with the promoter. Their contract has run out so we will renew it when they know who to renew it with. I am happy to do it," he says. It is a surprise to hear Ecclestone talking about renewing multiple deals without the threats of going to rival venues which he has become famous for. Recent evidence suggested that he may be losing his touch as it was suggested that the Korean Grand Prix has managed to slash its estimated $50m hosting fee in half however, Ecclestone denies that this happened.

"We sold Korea the television rights and other rights but took them back so we effectively reduced what they had to pay us. We reduced the amount of money they pay us because we took back a lot of rights that we sold them. I think they are managing OK. They couldn't use what they bought."

Ecclestone is even completely happy with the Bahrain Grand Prix and says that "there was no damage to the F1 brand by going to Bahrain. Why would there be? The guy that was demonstrating didn't eat for a few months. I'm surprised that the journalists that were supporting it didn't do the same thing. Not going to the race would have been easier."

He says that despite the fear before the race, "the protesters weren't there to attack anybody. They weren't there to attack us. They were going to use the event to demonstrate and get their word out." In contrast, he adds "I wouldn't have wanted to go into those streets when we had the problems in London."

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.