The much-disputed idea of holding a grand prix around the streets of Rome has the backing of Formula 1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, it has been claimed – but not that of the boss of Italy's talisman team Ferrari.
There has been considerable debate about the viability of a race around the streets on the outskirts of the country's ancient capital, with many adamant that it should never be allowed to replace Monza, the grand prix's traditional home [see separate story – click here
] – but it has nonetheless gained momentum of late, with renowned circuit designer Hermann Tilke even taking a trip to the city to carry out an inspection.
What's more, the proposal has the support of Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno as well as an association of Italian investors and racing enthusiasts, the FG Group, which was formally set up at the end of January.
The man behind the idea is former Formula Two front-runner and World Superbike Championship promoter Maurizio Flammini, who has spoken of a budget in the region of €150 million for a debut outing in either 2011 or 2012, in addition to the usual Italian Grand Prix at Monza, and intends to lodge final plans with city and regional authorities by the end of next month.
“We have the approval of the city council, the regional government, the provincial government and of Ecclestone too,” the Italian told La Gazzetta dello Sport
There has been fervent opposition to the initiative, however, from Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo, who insists that Rome has other priorities other than welcoming F1, and does not need to play host to the world's most glamorous sport merely in order to boost its image.
“If attention is going to be paid to the city then I think it should focus on investment in infrastructures, security and lighting,” the Italian is quoted by ANSA
as having said during a talk at the LUISS school of economics. “[A grand prix in Rome] could only be a one-off, showcase event. If this can be done at zero cost and can produce turnover, then fine.”
FIA President Max Mosley is also believed to be somewhat less-than-enthusiastic about the suggestion, given that Italy already has two F1-standard venues in Monza and Imola.