Doubts over the future of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza appear to be receding after claims that the race was close to signing a seven-year extension to its current F1 deal.
One of the oldest and most anticipated rounds on the F1 schedule, the Italian Grand Prix was thrown into question during the summer as organisers and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone struggled to agree the terms of a new contract, with the former having declared that it could not afford to meet the hosting fees set by the commercial rights holders.
Although there was hope of a resolution ahead of the 2015 race, negotiations – and fears - rumbled on behind the scenes through to the end of the year, but now appear to be receding, with various sources on the event side claiming that they are close to a breakthrough in discussions.
Angelo Sticchi Damiani, the head Automobile Club of Italy (ACI) spoke of his optimism following a recent law change that will allow the governing body to take on responsibility for the bulk of the event's funding, previously handled by the more local Automobile Club of Milan (ACM).
A reworking of Article 183 will allow the ACI to use its own profits - including those raised through the likes of public vehicle registration - to help meet the fees required to secure Monza's place on the schedule, with as much as two-thirds of the total – rumoured to be €12.5m - being met by the national body. The ACM, now led by former Ferrari driver Ivan Capelli, will be expected to provide the remaining sum.
"The Autodromo di Monza has had difficult times, but the worst is now over," Damiani told Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta
, “We are close to signing a deal with Mr Ecclestone that will ensure we have the grand prix [at Monza] for another seven years.”
"There is one last shot to the kidneys needed in order to make the oldest race track safe [on the schedule] and we're going to win a battle that has led the ACI making tremendous sacrifices."
Capelli spoke of his own optimism towards the end of 2015, with the ACM confident of being able to provide the remaining €6.5m required to secure the race through the likes of ticket sales and sponsorships. Both the ACI and ACM are confident that a deal will now be signed before the end of the month.
That will come as good news for the majority of the drivers currently competing in the top flight, with the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa having already made their thoughts known about the possibility of losing the race. The German was particularly candid having added a second place finish on his first Ferrari appearance at Monza to the historic 2009 victory for Toro Rosso that launched his F1 career.
“It is the best second place I have ever had,” Vettel insisted, “The emotions on the podium are incredible. If we take this away from the calendar for any sh*tty money reasons, I think you are basically ripping out hearts out.
“You stand on the grid, you look to the left, you look to the right, people are just happy to be part of it and it makes our day. It is as simple as that, it is incredible.”