Fu­ture of Brazil­ian GP in doubt

Bangkok Post - - SPORTS -

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 after­wards 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 pri­vati­sa­tion, and that could mean the end for a track that was in­au­gu­rated in 1940.

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

Some es­ti­mate the sale of the In­ter­la­gos track, which many con­sider a bur­den to tax­pay­ers be­cause it has not been prof­itable in years, could raise up to US$600 mil­lion (ap­prox­i­mately 19.8 bil­lion baht).

Brazil­ian GP or­gan­iser 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, won by Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel on Sun­day, 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 pri­vati­sa­tion will make the track safer and organisers more ac­count­able.

The mayor’s con­fi­dence did not stop Bri­tish team McLaren and tyre 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, neu­tralised 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 tyre test planned on Tues­day and Wed­nes­day,’’ the Ital­ian com­pany said.

AFP

Fer­rari driver Se­bas­tian Vet­tel on his way to win­ning the Brazil­ian Grand Prix at the In­ter­la­gos cir­cuit on Sun­day.

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