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Bernie: Korea was nearly canned – and Spa, Silverstone are under threat

F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone - the man who pulls the strings regarding the sport's annual calendar - admits Korea this weekend very nearly didn't happen, and casts doubt over the future of Spa-Francorchamps, Silverstone and Istanbul, too...
F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone – the man who rules the sport with an iron fist – has conceded that the inaugural Korean Grand Prix came perilously close to not happening at all, that both Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone are considerably at risk and that Russia will be a welcome addition indeed to the annual schedule from 2013.

With months of inclement weather and political disputes having led to setback-after-setback regarding the construction of the Korea International Circuit in Yeongam County – around 250km to the south-west of Seoul – there was scepticism right up until the final approval was given by FIA safety delegate Charlie Whiting early last week as to whether the Asian nation's first-ever F1 race would be able to take place, and even now, drivers have severe misgivings about the durability of the freshly-laid final layer of asphalt on the track [see separate story – click here].

Ecclestone – who not uncharacteristically oscillated between supporting the event and publicly doubting its viability – has now admitted that the persistent delays had very nearly resulted in an altogether different outcome.

“It's done now,” the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive told British newspaper The Guardian. “It's alright. Last month I didn't think it would be finished, and it would have been cancelled then, for sure – but the track has been inspected and passed. Everything's okay.”

F1's venture into Korea is symptomatic of Ecclestone's almost mercenary push in recent years to take the sport to new and hitherto uncharted countries and break down traditional boundaries, with Asia and the Middle East – neither of which have any great racing pedigree or, in many cases, fan base – enjoying a far stronger presence on what is now a far more international calendar than before thanks to the additions of Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Turkey, Singapore and Abu Dhabi over the past decade or so, all designed by not universally-loved German architect Hermann Tilke.

Next season, India is similarly due to join the fray, with the USA set to return in 2012 and Russia on the cards for 2014, with the British billionaire describing the latter as a 'super circuit' and 'all the things we need and wanted', explaining that 'they are trying to build absolutely first-class facilities both for the [Winter] Olympics and F1' and that he 'sincerely hopes F1 is going to play a big part in what I can see happening in [the Black Sea resort of] Sochi'.

“We're a world championship and so, by definition, we need to be in different parts of the world,” he reasons. “In the end, common sense has prevailed and we've expanded. It's just having the courage to do it.”

“Our problem is that we're trying to build race circuits that are super-safe,” he adds, in Tilke's defence. “You don't get so much up-and-down because you can't just put a new circuit anywhere, but one of the best circuits in the world is Turkey. It's a great circuit – and that's up-and-down.”

That is all well-and-good, only F1's increasing globalisation does come at a cost, with purists lamenting the departure from the sport's historic European heartland and the consequent loss of some of its most well-loved, charismatic and soulful if rather more outdated circuits that are by common consensus a world away from the bland, uninspiring, overtaking-averse so-called 'Tilkedromes'.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
Felipe Massa (BRA) Ferrari F2008, Belgian F1 Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, 5-7th, September, 2008
Fernando Alonso (ESP) Renault R28, Belgian F1 Grand Prix, Spa Francorchamps, 5-7th, September, 2008
21.09.2006 Silverstone, England, Lewis Hamilton (GBR), Mclaren Mercedes, MP4-21
Aerial image of new Korea International Circuit
Aerial image of new Korea International Circuit
Karun Chandhok, Red Bull Racing demonstration run, Korea, 2010
Korea International Circuit. Buildings [Pic credit: KIC]
Saturday Practice, Bernie Ecclestone (GBR), President and CEO of Formula One Management
Friday Practice 1, Bernie Ecclestone (GBR), President and CEO of Formula One Management  and Christian Horner (GBR), Red Bull Racing, Sporting Director
Friday Practice 2, Bernie Ecclestone (GBR), President and CEO of Formula One Management
Saturday, Bernie Ecclestone (GBR), President and CEO of Formula One Management
29.03.2015- Race, Fans
29.03.2015- Race, Start of the race
29.03.2015- Race, Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren Honda MP4-30
29.03.2015- Race, Press conference, Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W06
29.03.2015- Race, Christian Horner (GBR), Red Bull Racing, Sporting Director
29.03.2015- Race, Press conference, Sebastian Vettel (GER) Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T
29.03.2015- Race, Start of the race

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Msport mad - Unregistered

October 20, 2010 9:31 PM

This man is a clown. The asian races are processional and boring and he keeps them but the classic tracks which make the sport he is getting rid of. The older this man gets the madder his decisions are.

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