Fi­nan­cial cri­sis puts Brazil­ian GP at risk in 2017

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Sun­day’s rain-trou­bled Brazil­ian Grand Prix could have been the last such event for a while.

For­mula One or­gan­is­ers and po­lit­i­cal of­fi­cials say that the con­tin­u­a­tion of the race at the In­ter­la­gos track needs greater fi­nanc­ing at a time when Brazil is cut­ting ex­penses amid a se­vere econ­omy cri­sis.

The Brazil­ian Grand Prix will run a deficit of around $4 mil­lion for just this year, ac­cord­ing to race or­ga­nizer Ta­mas Ro­ho­nyi, but the to­tal fig­ure for next year could be sig­nif­i­cantly worse – per­haps up to $10 mil­lion - be­cause of the ab­sence of key spon­sors.

“If we can’t bring spon­sors back, then For­mula One man­age­ment would have to cover that gap,” Ro­ho­nyi told re­porters shortly be­fore Sun­day’s race, which was won by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. “That is why For­mula One boss Bernie Ec­cle­stone is wor­ried.”

Or­ga­niz­ers and lo­cal of­fi­cials have said that a meet­ing to­mor­row in Sao Paulo will be im­por­tant to de­ter­min­ing the fu­ture of the race in Brazil.

Ec­cle­stone sug­gested ear­lier this year that three races were at risk for 2017: Brazil, Ger­many and Canada. At the time, Brazil­ian or­gan­is­ers an­swered that un­cer­tainty by say­ing the event is un­der con­tract un­til 2020.

Two com­pa­nies, Shell and state-run oil giant Petro­bras, de­clined to re­new key spon­sor­ships ahead of this sea­son’s race. Petro­bras has needed to cut ex­penses in the wake of a grow­ing cor­rup­tion scan­dal and has also pushed away from its spon­sor­ship deal with the Williams team, which saw Brazil­ian driver Felipe Massa run the last home Grand Prix of his F1 ca­reer.

Ec­cle­stone met with Pres­i­dent Michel Te­mer, who took of­fice after Dilma Rouss­eff was im­peached in May, for the first time ear­lier this week. Nei­ther side of­fered de­tails of the con­ver­sa­tion, but Te­mer has di­rect power over Petro­bras and other state-run com­pa­nies that have made large in­vest­ments in sports in re­cent years.

Brazil’s econ­omy, which fell 4 per­cent in 2015, is ex­pected to dip an­other 3 per cent this year, though econ­o­mists are pre­dict­ing a mild re­cov­ery in 2017.

The loss of spon­sor­ships isn’t the only risk to the tra­di­tional race in Sao Paulo, which has been on the cal­en­dar since 1973. Sao Paulo’s Mayor-Elect Joao Do­ria, who in­tro­duces him­self as a man­ager first and politi­cian sec­ond, has pledged to pri­va­tize the en­tire In­ter­la­gos com­pound.

Cur­rent Mayor Fer­nando Had­dad said his ad­min­is­tra­tion is ea­ger to com­plete on­go­ing ren­o­va­tions at the fa­cil­i­ties, which be­gan in 2015 and were re­ported to cost $60 mil­lion, “but it is bet­ter that we dis­cuss that with the new mayor this week be­cause it might not be worth to in­vest more here.” Still, Had­dad be­lieves a so­lu­tion will be found. “When I took over in 2013, no one ex­pected this in­fra­struc­ture that we built at In­ter­la­gos,” he told re­porters on Sun­day. “Even with the econ­omy cri­sis, we man­aged to do al­most all of it.

“For­mula One is a good in­vest­ment. It brings rev­enues of about $60 mil­lion in only one weekend and it makes Sao Paulo known abroad. I hope it stays.”

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