The prospects of a 20th Grand Prix outing in 2013 appeared to be significantly dimmed this week, after Turkish media reaffirmed that the government was not willing to back the necessary financial deal to enable a race to be held in Istanbul.
The 2013 F1 calendar has a vacant spot after Bernie Ecclestone decided that there was no prospect of New Jersey being ready for their inaugural street race this year. Ecclestone has been hoping to fill the gap with a late addition to the F1 schedule, with Istanbul Park and the revamped Red Bull
Ring in Austria emerging as the leading candidates to host the event.
However, on Wednesday the local Hurriyet Daily News
reported that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has this week vetoed a deal that would have released the necessary state funding required to make a return to Turkey possible. The sports minister, Suat Kilic, had previously insisted in December that state funding would not be made available and that private funding was the only option.
“The project, set to cost Turkey around $20 million in total, was supposed to receive $13 million of state funding" which is now no longer forthcoming, reported Hurriyet Daily News
Chinese English language press agency Xinhua
reported F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone as saying that the lack of agreement on the annual cost meant that a return to Istanbul was now off the cards. F1 previously raced in Turkey from 2005 until 2011 but failed to attract big enough crowds to keep it financially stable and on the schedule.
Earlier in the week, Ecclestone had indicated that there had been no discussions with any venue in Austria or elsewhere to hold a Grand Prix in 2013 and that Turkey appeared to be the only viable prospect for a 20th race.
"As of today, I've spoken to no-one [about Austria],” he was reported as saying by the local Kleine Zeitung
newspaper, "At the moment, I'm thinking more on Turkey and a return to Istanbul."
He had added: "Right now, though, I'm thinking that, next year, we will go with only 19 races. That wouldn't be a big problem." The race is one of only ten events scheduled to be covered live on terrestrial TV in the UK on the BBC
Earlier this week, Sir Jackie Stewart had suggested France as a possible candidate for a late-notice race, pointing out that "It was the French who started it all - the first grand prix was held at Le Mans in 1906 - so I would like to see that back on the calendar."
Although the Ecclestone-owned Circuit Paul Ricard was said to be an early front-runner for the vacant spot on the calendar, it's now thought unlikely that any of the tracks in France could be prepared and made ready in time for the weekend of 12-14 July.
In a recent Crash.net
poll, readers voted Austria's Red Bull
Ring as their preferred choice for the 20th race, with Magny-Cours beating Istanbul Park for the runners-up spot. (See full results