• The Inside Line

The endless patience of Bernie Ecclestone

Kate Walker January 6, 2014
A much bigger crowd will be allowed in to the Red Bull Ring for the Austrian Grand Prix this year © Red Bull Content Pool
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The new year dawned with news on the Austrian and New Jersey grands prix, with one now set to go ahead this summer and the other under yet more pressure from commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone.

After a lot of to and fro-ing, the Styrian authorities have given the official go-ahead to the return of the Austrian Grand Prix, which is good news for the F1 calendar - a drop to 18 races might be good in terms of travel costs, but it would be a loss of face for the sport.

But the most significant part of the Austrian announcement was the size of the prospective crowd - a massive 225,000 people, and a huge increase on the 40,000-60,000 normally allowed through the gates at the Red Bull Ring.

It's hardly surprising that the local authorities proved to be somewhat flexible when it comes to crowd and noise control, as while the circuit has been used for other categories in recent years there is no denying that Formula One is the flagship when it comes to bringing crowds and cash into the Styrian mountains.

While negotiations were somewhat protracted, the ability of the grand prix to promote the region coupled with funding by one of Austria's biggest brands was always going to prove irresistible. The Styrian authorities are no strangers to the benefits of motor-racing, after all, having seen the Osterriechring-A1 Ring-Red Bull Ring through several incarnations.

On the other side of the pond from Austria's confirmation comes news that Bernie Ecclestone had originally considered a permanent facility for the New Jersey Grand Prix before electing to go with the street course that has proven to be endlessly problematic since it was first mooted back in 2011.

And a permanent circuit could yet be in the offing, with Pitpass reporting that there is still the possibility of a new deal being done for the race, and that the developers behind the permanent facility scheme are still interested.

Of course, given that shortly before Christmas Ecclestone was quoted as saying that Leo Hindery Jr. et al. were in breach of contract, these latest developments are likely to be a means of putting pressure on the street circuit group to start honouring their financial commitments to the commercial right holder.

"What is amazing with New Jersey is that the people signed a contract," Ecclestone told Autoweek at the time. "You have got to assume they knew what they had signed. They should have never made the commitment. We could sue them. They are in breach. … We gave them money and I have never seen anything from them. We could sue them. I've kept it going because somebody might come up and there has been two or three people who are interested and are looking into it. If anyone comes in today, they can have it."

Dropping hints in the media about other interested parties has long been Ecclestone's preferred modus operandi when it comes to getting recalcitrant race organisers to play ball, and there's no reason to suspect that there's been a departure from form where New Jersey is concerned. What is unusual is Ecclestone's patience - the Briton says he has received no money from New Jersey since 2011.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.
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Kate Walker is the editor of GP Week magazine and a freelance contributor to ESPN. A member of the F1 travelling circus since 2010, her unique approach to Formula One coverage has been described as 'a collection of culinary reviews and food pictures from exotic locales that just happen to be playing host to a grand prix'.