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Whitmarsh unconcerned over prospect of more races

29 July 2013

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh has said he's not concerned about rumours that the 2014 season might consist of 21 or even 22 races, adding that he trusts Bernie Ecclestone's stewardship of the sport.

"We used to think that going beyond 16 was going to be tough," said Whitmarsh when asked about the prospect of the current 20-race season being expanded further. "It is tough, and of course a lot more of them are outside Europe now.

"I don't know if the calendar would grow to 22, but 22 would certainly be incredibly tough on the teams. But that's the business we're in."

Whitmarsh pointed to the late-notice postponement of new Jersey and now question marks over next year's race in India as reasons for why it was necessary to have a big pool of races to draw from.

"There's always some question marks over some of the venues we have, so I think you've just got to to keep the conveyor belt coming," he said. "There's always - in this climate - locations that maybe in doubt and therefore having some back ups isn't a bad idea.

Whitmarsh said that he was confident that Ecclestone would not put increased revenue from more races above the overall good of the sport and its participants.

"I'm sure money talks for Bernie, but in fairness to Bernie he's been pretty good at finding new venues," he said. "I think you need to support Bernie - F1 needs some of these new venues, Russia is an interesting market. He's been pretty good at orchestrating it so far, hasn't he?"

With legal storm clouds hanging over him after his formal indictment by German prosecutors over allegations of payment of bribes in connection with the 2006 sale of F1 to private equity group, there are growing doubts about how long Ecclestone - already 83 - will be able to continue in his role as F1's ring master.

Whitmarsh wouldn't be drawn on what would happen when Ecclestone finally had to step down from the sport he's single-handedly transformed over the last three decades, and instead hailed Ecclestone's achievements.

"F1 as a product is good, over half a billion people watched F1 live last year," he said. "It is - after soccer - the only other world sport. So the fundamental product that we have is really great and I think it's certainly better than the 24 years I've been in it.

"It's more exciting, more difficult to predict and I think that's good," he continued. "Clearly there's a whole range of financial challenges, there's a whole range of other issues buzzing around - I can't think in the 24 years when I've been in the paddock that there hasn't been some controversy or intrigue.

"Some people like that, maybe it's one of the attractions," he suggested. "But I think that's important is that we are that world sport, we have a great viewership, we've got the most technically advanced vehicles in the world, we've got the best drivers in the world in this sport and we put on a great show.

"I think if we keep focusing on all of that the other stuff will sort itself out," he insisted.


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