Those media outlets and fans panicking about the latest rumours of Monza being dropped from the Formula 1 calendar need to take a reality check.
Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is continuing his recent trend of sprouting rather absurd ideas about the future of the sport. His latest effort has been to suggest that the historic Monza circuit will not remain on the F1 schedule when its current contract expires at the end of the 2016 season.
The high-speed Milan circuit has staged a Grand Prix every season – with the exception of 1980, when the Italian Grand Prix was held at Imola – and remains the last of the true low-downforce circuits on the schedule.
A number of motorsport outlets are suggesting that tradition might not be enough to keep it on the calendar. Ecclestone has blamed dwindling TV audience figures and poor commercial outcomes as factors for the event’s possible demise.
“I don’t think we’ll do another contract, the old one was a disaster for us from a commercial point of view. After 2016, bye bye,” he told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.
“TV ratings are lower in Italy than they are elsewhere,” he added, failing to acknowledge his part in that – since 2013, Italian viewers have only been able to watch races via the Sky Italia pay-TV network, which would automatically contribute to a drop in TV viewership.
Ecclestone also took a pot shot at Ferrari, whose tifosi fans traditionally flock to Monza in their tens of thousands every September for the race at Monza.
“How can Italian ratings be improved? If Ferrari started to finish first and second in qualifying and races… TV ratings would improve everywhere. Ferrari is a worldwide passion,” he added.
Quite how much should be read into Ecclestone’s threats remains to be seen. Ecclestone is well-known for making similar exit threats about other venues; it’s almost a tradition for him to do it ahead of the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, with the extra media frenzy triggering an inevitable boost in ticket sales. It could well be that he is trying to reignite ticket sales for the round in Monza, which could quite possibly be flagging given Ferrari’s poor form to-date in 2014.
The sports is bound by its statutes to retain a set number of ‘traditional’ venues on its calendar each year and the dropping of Monza would cause outrage in the paddock and among the sport’s broader fan base. It is also believed that Ferrari has a veto right in its commercial agreement with Formula One Management to ensure that the series has a Grand Prix in Italy.
Whether it remains at Monza or Imola – or indeed another circuit altogether – remains to be seen. Ferrari chief Luca di Montezemolo has been public in his suggestions that a Grand Prix be held at the Ferrari-owned Mugello circuit.
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