Bernie Ecclestone surprised F1 team bosses on the opening day of the Italian Grand Prix by insisting that there was no calendar for the 2014 season – despite each of them having had an outline of the schedule less than 24 hours earlier.
The Briton's claim came as the teams were digesting a draft 21-race season
, including new stops in Austria, Russia and Mexico, the rescheduling of Korea to the start of the campaign and no second US trip, following the apparent dismissal of New Jersey as an F1 venue.
Ecclestone, however, denied knowledge of the calendar, despite it having originated from his FOM offices, and insisted that there had been no decision on the number of races for 2014, or whether the New Jersey race was officially dead. He appeared to call time on the US event just over a week ago, only to admit that, if it could get its finances in order, it could still go ahead, and the latest outburst suggests that the draft calendar could yet be another elaborate means of giving the organisers a 'hurry up'.
“I'm saying there is no draft calendar," Ecclestone told Reuters
as the Italian Grand Prix weekend got underway at Monza, "The calendar hasn't been produced yet - I don't know who's had one.”
Without the schedule – real or not – being approved by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council, it remains a draft and organisers of the New Jersey race remain confident that they can force their way onto the list. The current outline calendar contains a free week either side of the Canadian Grand Prix, which the Port Imperial event is expected to pair with, but with Monaco and Austria on the other side of those gaps, it is likely that New Jersey's inclusion would require some reshuffling of the schedule.
"The calendar that is being circulated to the teams in Monza is a draft calendar," Nick Craw, Automobile Competition Committee for the United States president, told Reuters
, “It contains more events than can be accommodated, it doesn't contain some events that might be accommodated," he added.
Despite the number of races already slated, and a desire to keep the calendar at a maximum of 20 races, McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh admitted that a second US race would be popular with the teams and their sponsors.
"Will those 21 all happen? There's lots of rumours and speculation in the paddock about whether they'll all make it,” he noted, “Ultimately, I think Bernie's job is to go out there and put the calendar together.
"I think he sometimes has to speculate as to the viability or how realistic some of them are. New Jersey, of course, would be fantastic [and] great for the sport."
The WMSC is due to meet in Croatia on 27 September and is expected to approve a provisional calendar, but the final schedule is not usually produced until after the end of the current season.