Bernie Ecclestone's desire to take Formula One to Moscow has led to the unlikely suggestion that Monaco could be sacrificed to continue the sport's global expansion.
While inconceivable that the jewel in F1's crown could drop off the schedule after an unbroken run dating back to 1955, Ecclestone has suggested that, along with some other European venues, the Principality would need to raise its game financially to be able to compete with the countries eager to join the fray. Monaco is rumoured not to pay an annual fee to host its race, while other venues are struggling to raise the money to meet Ecclestone's demands.
"The Europeans are going to have to pay more money or we will have to go somewhere else," he told Britain's Independent
newspaper, "We can do without Monaco [if] they don't pay enough."
Having expressed an interest in expanding the F1 schedule to 20 races, Ecclestone has been inundated with candidates, and India and the United States look set to continue the additions over the next couple of seasons. However, with a cap expected to be set at 20 races, expansion will not be unlimited, creating a squeeze somewhere. Although the British GP is now thought to be safe following the 17-year deal that has convinced Silverstone to begin work on revamping its facility, other European races, notably Turkey, Germany, Hungary and Valencia's European GP, are rumoured to be in danger of joining France on the sidelines if they do not measure up.
Despite the number of potential hosts queuing up to join the F1 calendar, Ecclestone appears keen to add Russia to the fold, although suggestions that capital Moscow may be the preferred venue after last week's third annual City Racing festival may be wide of the mark. He revealed earlier this year that as many as three venues were under consideration, but that one was now emerging as favourite.
Reigning world champion Jenson Button raved about Moscow after demonstrating a McLaren on streets around the Kremlin, and event organisers made a play for Moscow to be given a grand prix, but Ecclestone remained on course to take F1 elsewhere in the country.
"This is not a day of work, it's a day of enjoyment," Button told Reuters
reporters after one of his runs, "I've always wanted to visit Moscow, [although] I haven't seen much of the city as we only arrived two days ago. However, it would be a good idea [to have a grand prix here], as I definitely want to come back."
Derk Sauer, general director of Bavaria Moscow City Racing, revealed that 'we're aiming to have the race here as early as 2012 - the contract is not done yet, but we're getting very close', but his claims appear to contradict Ecclestone's plans to take F1 to the country's next Olympic city.
"[Russia] has got to go on the calendar," he told the Independent
, "We will do it the year after next - in Sochi."