Cash-strapped Greece has raised more than a couple of eyebrows among its creditors by confirming that it intends to proceed with plans to invest in a motorsport venue capable of hosting a round of the F1 world championship.
Despite the latest F1 schedule exhibiting a trend away from European circuits - the 2013 haul of seven races on the continent being the lowest since the calendar expanded from its modest roots - the Greek government has confirmed that it was willing to release €30m towards the cost of construction of an F1-spec circuit at Xalandritsa, near Patras. The total cost of the build is expected to reach €95m, with the bulk of the finance coming from private sources.
The announcement comes, not only with F1 showing signs of heading to the fresh fields of Asia and, less so, the USA, but as official figures show Greece heading for a sixth year of recession, and having to be bailed out by its partners in the European Union. Indeed, according to Britain's Daily Telegraph
, newspaper, the Greek finance ministry expects GDP to contract by a further 3.8 per cent in 2013, having shrunk by 6.5 per cent this year.
propping up the Greek economy - namely the European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund - are campaigning for the country, which most famously stages the Acropolis Rally as part of the World Rally Championship, to make further cuts to its minimum wage and pension structure as premier Antonis Samaras continues to work on an 'austerity package' totalling €13.5bn. Samaras is already targeting pensions, benefits and civil service pay in a bid to qualify for the next €31bn bail-out promised by the EU, but has called on Brussels to ease the terms under which the country is operating. Reports at the weekend suggested that Greece will need financial help from Europe for the next eight years.
Neighbour - and national rival - Turkey failed to make F1 work, despite creating one of the better modern circuits at Istanbul Park. Although the layout was loved by the teams and drivers, the race failed to attract big enough crowds to make it financially viable and, after just seven grands prix, was dropped from the schedule for 2012. Despite being tipped to return for next year, Turkey remains in the F1 wilderness as the schedule embraces new events in the USA, India, Singapore and, in future, possibly Thailand.