Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said that India is likely to lose its place on the 2014 F1 calendar as he intends to limit the number of races to 20.
“Is India going to happen next year? Probably not,” Ecclestone was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency in Budapest where the Hungarian Grand Prix concluded on Sunday.
Asked about the reason, the 82-year-old Ecclestone replied: “Very political.”
The fate of India hosting the 2014 F1 GP will now be decided in the World Motorsport Council meeting in September where Ecclestone is expected to present the provisional 2014 calendar to the governing International Automobile Federation.
India hosted its controversy-marred first Grand Prix in 2011 amidst raving reviews from the F1 community about the 5.14 kilometre-long Buddh International Circuit (BIC), clean paddock and facilities.
This year, the third edition of the race is scheduled for October 27 at Greater Noida as the 16th round of the 19-race championship.
But with Russia, New Jersey and Austria now shortliested as additions, there are 22 venues vying for a place on the F1 calendar with teams expressing a preference for a maximum of 20 races.
It is believed that tough taxation rules in India, event's financial viability and bureaucratic hurdles might have prompted Ecclestone to come up with such a statement.
Only Last month, race promoters Jaypee Sports International (JPSI) had issued a statement responding to rumours that the race could be axed from 2014.
“Some international news organisations are trying to spread rumours that JPSI may not host 2014 Indian GP. This is totally baseless and malicious. Our agreement with Formula One Management is to hold F1 races at Buddh International Circuit (BIC) till 2015, and we are fully committed to do that,” the JPSI statement read.
However, the current development has left the Indian race organisers in a spot of bother as they look to open a back-channel talk with the F1 supremo ahead of the World Motorsport Council meeting in September.
“We are looking to hold talks with Ecclestone as to what prompted him to make such a statement. There is a possibility that some amendments could be worked out in the current contract to keep our place in the F1 calendar,” a JPSI spokesperson told PTI.
“Everything depends on the September meeting where the provisional 2014 calendar will be drawn up. The drivers want a maximum of 20 races and with the likely addition of three new venues, everything rest in the hands of Ecclestone,” said the official.
The spokesperson also did not rule out the possibility of Ecclestone speaking with JPSI MD and CEO, Sameer Gaur over the issue ahead of the Hungarian GP.
“There is a possibility...look team bosses met with Ecclestone during the Hungarian GP this weekend and this could be one issue discussed over there,” the spokesperson said adding that they would soon come up with an official statement.
“We all need to wait and watch. We would be soon issuing a statement.”
Red Bull's triple world champion Sebastian Vettel had won both races to date in India.
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