A frank newspaper interview with the Guardian newspaper by soon-to-be octogenarian Bernie Ecclestone has effectively confirmed what we knew all along: this weekend’s inaugural Korean Grand Prix was on the verge of being cancelled.
Ecclestone also, however, expressed doubts as to the viability of some of Formula 1’s other venues, most notably Spa-Francorchamps and Istanbul.
The man at the top: Bernie Ecclestone
The F1 supremo had previously expressed doubt about the then-incomplete Yeongyam circuit, which has been passed fit to host a Grand Prix at the eleventh hour by the FIA’s technical delegate, Charlie Whiting.
A no-doubt relieved Ecclestone admitted: “It’s done now.
“Last month I didn’t think it would be finished. And it would have been cancelled then – for sure.”
Since rising to power as Formula 1’s supremo, Ecclestone has been instrumental in the growth of the sport, with the advent of more venues in the Middle East and Far East, with events shifting away from the sport’s more traditional European base.
Despite ongoing scepticism from many of the sport’s purists, venues such as the United States, Russia and India will soon join the F1 calendar.
“In the end common sense has prevailed and we’ve expanded. It’s just having the courage to do it,” he said.
The problem the sport faces by dint of this expansion – and in trying to cap the number of races per season at twenty – is that some of the sport’s more traditional (albeit less well-attended) events could face the chopping block, and Ecclestone made specific reference to the host circuits for the Belgian and Turkish Grands Prix.
When asked if the iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit – which has been cut from the calendar on previous occasions – could once again be removed from the venue list, Ecclestone replied: “Absolutely.
“If it wasn’t supported by the government over there it probably would go because they wouldn’t be able to afford it. It’s the same with the British Grand Prix.”
Another criticism that has been raised is that the old-guard circuits are now being replaced or updated by Hermann Tilke designs, with the German circuit designer frequently being accused of producing bland ‘Tilkedromes’.
“Our problem is that we’re trying to build race circuits that are super safe,” Ecclestone countered, while adding that the best circuits are ones with elevation changes.
“You don’t get so much up-and-down because you can’t just put a new circuit anywhere,” he said. “But one of the best circuits in the world is Turkey. It’s a great circuit — that’s up-and-down.”
Ecclestone also went so far as to say that the Turkish venue could also face the chop, on the grounds that it is poorly attended by fans.
“Maybe [events] will decide they need a rest because it’s not working for them commercially. A good example is probably Turkey,” he added.
“They’ve built an incredible circuit and it might even be the best – but there’s not much enthusiasm from the public. I don’t know why.”