A grand prix around the historic streets of Rome is a viable idea, provided it is strictly a 'one-off' – that is the argument of two of Formula 1's leading team principals, Flavio Briatore and Luca di Montezemolo.
The initiative – the brainchild of former Formula Two ace and now World Superbike Championship promoter Maurizio Flammini – has the support of both the FG Group, composed of Italian investors and racing enthusiasts, and local officials, with mayor Gianni Alemanno having revealed that 'we are having serious talks'. Legendary team founder Enzo Ferrari initially raised the prospect of a race in Rome back in the mid-1980s.
Flammini's vision is for a venue to be ready in time to welcome the top flight as of 2012, and he would want the event to be run for 'at least four years, Italian news agency ANSA
reports, with 'a format different from all the other events' and a layout designed to encourage overtaking, a rarity at most street circuits.
Whilst it has been suggested that the proposal could create thousands of jobs in the city – an undeniable selling point in a time of such economic difficulty – the technical hurdles to overcome would not be insignificant, with Signor Alemanno acknowledging that 'the negotiations are complicated...almost as complicated as organising an Olympic Games'.
The FG Group has already met with renowned F1 circuit designer Hermann Tilke to discuss the possibility of a new track in the Mussolini-era Roman district of EUR, but whilst the plans have the backing of the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone, they have received a more lukewarm reaction from FIA President Max Mosley.
Renault F1 managing director Briatore has added his support to the venture – on the understanding that a race in Rome is held once and once only, as he insists Italy cannot afford to host two grands prix. The traditional Italian Grand Prix has been held at Monza on all-but one occasion since the official inception of the world championship back in 1950, and first took place in 1921 in Brescia, making it one of the oldest events on the sport's calendar.
“The idea of a Rome Grand Prix is fantastic,” enthused the 58-year-old, speaking on Italian radio. “From the television standpoint, it would be really spectacular, but it would mean sacrificing Monza. If it does happen, I think it can only be a one-off.
“If it were up to me, I'd vote for two grands prix in Italy – but two races in Italy would be very difficult to support.”
Ferrari and Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) President Luca di Montezemolo, meanwhile, argued that a permanent race in Rome would be 'unthinkable' and that the country's capital has 'other priorities' before that of welcoming the world's most glamorous and expensive sport, suggesting that the city does not need a grand prix to boost its international image.
“It could only be a one-off, showcase event,” the 61-year-old underlined. “If this can be done at zero cost and can produce turnover, then fine.”