Formula One: Indian Grand Prix faces axe next year, says Ecclestone

The Indian Grand Prix is likely to be dropped from next year's Formula One calendar as Russia prepares for its debut, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone (above) has told Reuters. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP
The Indian Grand Prix is likely to be dropped from next year's Formula One calendar as Russia prepares for its debut, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone (above) has told Reuters. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

BUDAPEST (REUTERS) - The Indian Grand Prix is likely to be dropped from next year's Formula One calendar as Russia prepares for its debut, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has told Reuters.

"Is India going to happen next year? Probably not," he said at the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Asked what the problem was with the race at Greater Noida, near New Delhi, the 82-year-old British billionaire replied: "Very political."

Ecclestone, who has run F1 for decades, draws up the calendar and usually presents it to the governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) to be rubber-stamped in September.

He currently has a possible 22 races jostling for space on the calendar, with teams expressing a strong preference for a maximum of 20.

A grand prix in New Jersey and Russia's race in Sochi are the two novelties planned for 2014. Austria is also due to make a comeback after an 11-year absence.

India first hosted a grand prix in 2011 to positive reviews from the F1 community and this year's is scheduled for Oct 27 as the 16th round of the 19-race championship.

The two races to date in India have both been won by Red Bull's triple world champion Sebastian Vettel.

There have been bureaucratic hurdles to overcome, however, as well as concern about finances and the sport's exposure to high local taxation.

Race promoter Jaypee Sports International issued a statement last month attacking "totally baseless and malicious" media speculation about next year's race.

"Our agreement with Formula One Management is to hold F1 races at Buddh International Circuit (BIC) till 2015 and we are fully committed to do that," said Jaypee spokesman Askari Zaidi in that statement. "There is no reason for us to give up hosting F1 races."

Next year's Indian Grand Prix was the subject of much discussion in Hungary, with teams recognising it faced problems but hoping they could be resolved.

"It would be a pity if, for these (tax) reasons, we don't go there," Sauber's India-born principal Monisha Kaltenborn told Reuters.

"India is an important market for partners who are already in Formula One or who could get into Formula One because of that market, so it really would be a pity if we could not manage to sort out these problems."