5 February 2013
Ecclestone: 2013 schedule to stick at 19 races
Hopes for a 20th race on the 2013 F1 schedule appear to have been fallen foul of a ticking clock, according to comments from Bernie Ecclestone.
Bernie Ecclestone has scotched talk of adding a 20th race back onto the 2013 F1 calendar, effectively ending the ambitions of France, Portugal, Turkey and Austria to join the fray in place of the cancelled New Jersey event.
Speaking at a press conference to announce a five-year partnership deal between F1 and the Emirates airline, Ecclestone insisted that it was now beyond the point where an extra race could be effectively organised and slotted into what would be a mid-summer date.
After a mini reshuffle of the agenda to cover the gap left by the postponement of a second race in America – which would have formed a double-header with Canada in June – the schedule currently boasts a vacant slot on 21 July, between Germany and Hungary, but, despite a number of candidates talking up their ambitions of filling in, Ecclestone insists that it is time to focus on what will be a 19-round championship.
"The calendar has been formed already, so it's too late," he told Dubai's The National, "[I'm] disappointed that [a replacement race] didn't happen before, [but] we can't suddenly slot it in."
The calendar will kick off, as usual with the trip to Melbourne on the third weekend of March, followed by Malaysia a week later, before the opening 'flyaway' portion is completed by the traditional trips to China and Bahrain. Spain kicks off the European leg of the tour which, with the apparent confirmation that a race will take place in Germany – albeit at a venue yet to be decided – no longer features a yawning chasm in the height of summer.
There is, however, a three-week gap between Germany and Hungary, and another four-week break before Belgium, so it remains to be seen whether any further amendments will be made following Ecclestone's latest pronouncement.
The calendar is expected to return to 20 races with the addition of Russia next season, although the future of the New Jersey event – which is supposed to appear after an extra year to prepare - remains clouded. Ecclestone was also asked about other potential additions to the schedule in coming years, and confirmed that he had held discussions with potential organisers in Qatar, although there was no indication that a deal could be struck.
"We support races that we think are good for F1, wherever they may be," he explained, "We have a restriction for 20 races and we already have two in [the Middle East] area, so it would be difficult to pop another one in."
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