Confusion surrounds Formula 1’s 2014 calendar after commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone denied issuing a draft version to teams while officials in North America said that New Jersey’s bid for a race was still alive.
“The calendar hasn’t been produced yet. I don’t know who’s had one. I’m saying there is no draft calendar,” Ecclestone told Reuters in the Monza paddock after practice for the Italian Grand Prix.
Team principals told Reuters, however, that they had received just such a calendar, listing a record 21 races that included Mexico – back for the first time since 1992 – but without New Jersey on it.
The Port Imperial street circuit, with a backdrop of New York’s Manhattan skyline, had been supposed to make its debut this season but that was postponed to 2014 due to financial difficulties.
It has remained in doubt, despite Ecclestone being keen for it to happen.
The 82-year-old Briton was quoted last month by CNN as saying that New Jersey was “not on the cards for next year” because local organisers “did not have” the money.
At the same time, he told Reuters that he had not written the race off and it would take place if the organisers complied with their contract.
Nick Craw, president and chief executive of the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States(ACCUS), told Reuters on Friday that the race’s current absence from any calendar was not definitive.
“The calendar that is being circulated to the teams in Monza is a draft calendar,” he said.
“It contains more events than can be accommodated, it doesn’t contain some events that might be accommodated,” he added.
He said that an application had been submitted and believed that the race could reappear on a calendar to be presented to the governing FIA’s world motorsport council meeting on September 27 in Croatia.
That calendar will not be finalised until December.
Some teams are reluctant to go beyond 20 races, chiefly for the impact on key staff such as mechanics and engineers as well as the additional cost implications.
However, there has been scepticism about just how many races will be on the final version, with Ecclestone even suggesting it could be as many as 22.
Three of the current 21 – Mexico, South Korea and Russia – have asterisks against them, making them subject to contract renewals or track approval.
“Will those 21 all happen? There’s lots of rumours and speculation in the paddock about whether they’ll all make it. Ultimately I think Bernie’s job is to go out there and put the calendar together,” said McLaren principal Martin Whitmarsh.
“I think he sometimes has to speculate as to the viability or how realistic some of them are,” he added. “New Jersey, of course, would be fantastic in my opinion, it would be great for the sport.”
Marussia’s sporting director Graeme Lowdon agreed that there was still plenty of scope for change.
“Bernie puts the races on; the negotiations with the promoters from the outside seem to be tortuous, to say the least,” he said.
“In some cases, they are difficult to predict, some of the twists and turns, there are announcements that that race is happening and sometimes they don’t.” (Reuters)
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