F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has seemingly withdrawn his support for a race around the streets of Rome.
According to reports in Italian newspaper La Repubblica
, Ecclestone has written to the mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, telling him that Italy already has Monza, which is 'untouchable' and would always take precedence.
The Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive added that no-one wants another race in Italy, especially as the sport is currently expanding into new regions, with events in the USA and Russia set to take place in 2012 and 2014 respectively. Although Spain currently welcomes F1 in both Barcelona and Valencia, the latter is expected to rotate the European Grand Prix with circuits in other countries in future.
Maurizio Flammini, the man behind the Rome GP bid in the city's EUR district, has been planning the event for the last few years and recently revealed that a date had been pencilled in for 2013, despite local opposition and opposition from both Monza – which has vowed to do everything in its power to protect its tenure of the grand prix – the sport's traditionalists and Ferrari, whose team principal Stefano Domenicali has stressed that 20 races this year is the 'right number', and that there should be just one spot on the F1 schedule per country.
Flammini, a former Formula Two front-runner and World Superbike Championship promoter, had been planning to officially announce plans for the Rome GP next Friday, 21 January. It is unclear now what will happen, although without Ecclestone's backing – if the reports are true – his hopes for the street race would appear to be over.
The only remaining chance for organisers appears to be to try to convince Ecclestone to alternate the Italian Grand Prix between Rome and Monza – a compromise that Flammini claims the British billionaire has proposed – but Alemanno appears ready to hoist the white flag, confessing that 'if there must be a choice between the two races, we will take a step back'.
Rome is also bidding to host the 2020 Olympics.