Sale casts doubt on fu­ture of Brazil­ian GP at In­ter­la­gos

Packet & Times (Orillia) - - SPORTS - MAURI­CIO SAVARESE

SAO PAULO — The long-term fu­ture of the Brazil­ian Grand Prix is up in the air.

The In­ter­la­gos track, which hosted its first For­mula One race in 1972, is due to be sold next year. Although F1 has a con­tract through 2020, no one seems to know what will hap­pen af­ter that.

“The con­tract will be re­spected be­cause it is an obli­ga­tion of who­ever buys the track,” said Sao Paulo Mayor Joao Do­ria, re­fus­ing to di­vulge who the buy­ers are. “We hope that af­ter­ward we are able to ex­tend for an­other 10 years.”

Do­ria said the sale of In­ter­la­gos, which sits on an area of al­most one mil­lion square me­tres, is “ir­re­versible” and should hap­pen in early 2018. The track is ex­pected to be pre­served af­ter the sale, while apart­ment build­ings will be added to the com­plex.

Sao Paulo city coun­cil­lors, how­ever, have ar­gued that the real es­tate could be more prof­itable af­ter pri­va­ti­za­tion, and that could mean the end for a track that was in­au­gu­rated in 1940.

As the po­ten­tial new own­ers are un­known, they can’t be asked what they think about the mayor’s project for post-pri­va­ti­za­tion.

Some es­ti­mate the sale of the In­ter­la­gos track, which many con­sider a bur­den to tax­pay­ers be­cause it hasn’t been prof­itable in years, could raise up to $600 mil­lion.

Brazil­ian GP or­ga­nizer Ta­mas Ro­ho­nyi said other venues could re­place In­ter­la­gos in case the new own­ers fail to ex­tend the con­tract with F1, but he did not pro­vide de­tails.

“What I am sure of is that with­out F1, In­ter­la­gos would be dead,” Ro­ho­nyi said. “And we just don’t know who will be at the ta­ble to dis­cuss that.”

Ro­ho­nyi said he thinks the un­known new own­ers will want to keep F1 at In­ter­la­gos, while For­mula One boss Chase Carey said “there is a great fu­ture for Brazil in F1.”

The Brazil­ian GP has strug­gled with low TV rat­ings at home and dwin­dling spon­sor­ship. Next sea­son, there will be no lo­cal driver on the grid for the first time since 1969, which could make Brazil­ians even less in­ter­ested.

But tick­ets sales were brisk again this year, de­spite lit­tle be­ing at stake since Mercedes driver Lewis Hamil­ton had al­ready won the ti­tle.

An­other is­sue at In­ter­la­gos is se­cu­rity, some­thing that made head­lines this year af­ter mem­bers of the Mercedes team said they were mugged at gun­point as they left track.

Do­ria said pri­va­ti­za­tion will make the track safer and or­ga­niz­ers more ac­count­able.

The mayor’s con­fi­dence did not stop Bri­tish team McLaren and tire sup­plier Pirelli from can­celling a test at In­ter­la­gos this week due to se­cu­rity con­cerns.

Af­ter the race on Sun­day, staff from Pirelli were tar­geted, but es­caped un­harmed.

“Fol­low­ing a rob­bery at­tempt, neu­tral­ized by Pirelli se­cu­rity, on a Pirelli mem­ber at the In­ter­la­gos cir­cuit last Sun­day — af­ter a week­end where sim­i­lar episodes oc­curred with other teams — it has been de­cided to can­cel the tire test planned on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day,” the Ital­ian com­pany said in a state­ment on Mon­day.

WENN

Fer­rari driver Se­bas­tian Vet­tel tosses the tro­phy in the air while cel­e­brat­ing his vic­tory at the Brazil­ian GP on Sun­day at In­ter­la­gos in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

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