The future of the Turkish Grand Prix is again looking precarious – after F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone reportedly told organisers that the race promotion fee will be nigh-on doubled for the 2011 edition.
The Istanbul Park Circuit's present contract with Formula One Management (FOM) expires at the end of 2010, and the race has been beset by criticism, not only for the exorbitant $214 million cost of the track – somewhat higher than the predicted $25 million – but also for poor attendances, with a scant 30,000 tickets sold for race day in 2009, the nadir of a spectacular fall from 200,000 for the inaugural grand prix four years earlier. The spectator capacity is as high as half a million.
Such disappointing figures – allied to Ecclestone's demands for $26 million a year rather than the current $13.5 million to retain a spot on the annual calendar from 2011 onwards – have led to fears the Turkish Grand Prix will soon be no more, and Ecclestone has given the country's government until the end of the year to respond.
The British billionaire's argument is that countries like India are willing and able to afford as much as $30 million for the honour and prestige of welcoming the world's most glamorous and high-octane sport – but countering that, Turkish officials have insisted that other nations get away with paying far, far less.
“In countries such as France and Germany, the Formula 1 CEO is requesting something between $1.5 million and $4 million,” an official told the Hurriyet Daily News
Turkish Sports Minister Faruk Nafiz Özak is due to present a dossier to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan before a final decision is made, whilst former World Supersport Champion Kenan Sofuoðlu and the Turkish Motorcycle Federation (TMF) have been pushing for Istanbul Park to be allowed to hold MotoGP and World Superbike Championship meetings – with the TMP reasoning that not only is motorcycling more popular in the country, but it would also be considerably cheaper to stage.
The only sticking point with that is the fact that the circuit was rented to Ecclestone in 2007 for 14 years, after just 80,000 tickets were sold for that year's grand prix.
Red Bull Racing star Mark Webber lamented that there was 'no atmosphere' to the 2009 Turkish Grand Prix, whilst Ferrari rival Felipe Massa opined that the lack of spectators was down to overly-expensive entrance prices – a direct knock-on effect of Ecclestone's race fees.