Ecclestone: US GP isn’t vital

Bernie Ecclestone has fired off a warning shot to the US Grand Prix organisers by stating he will take the race elsewhere if a new deal cannot be agreed with Indianapolis.

“It is not vital to Formula 1 to be in the United States,” Ecclestone said. “There are bigger markets for us to be in other parts of the world. We could be in India soon instead of the United States. We don’t have a lot of sponsors from the US, no American teams and only one driver. I get along with Tony George and I hope we can strike a deal but we have offers from other places in the US too.”

Indianapolis has held an F1 contract since 2000, however the contract expires at the end of this season. However, Ecclestone has previously mentioned taking the US Grand Prix to the streets – perhaps Las Vegas or New York. Valencia and Singapore coming in as new races next year, Abu Dhabi scheduled for 2009 and South Korea for 2010. India is also looking to host a Formula 1 race, and Suzuka is returning to the F1 calendar under the guise of the ‘Pacific Grand Prix’. The F1 calendar is becoming very tight and no race is immune to the squeeze.

Ecclestone made similar threats last year about Indianapolis before agreeing to a one year extension. The US is a key market for many manufacturers so Ecclestone may not want to rock the boat too much.

“The automobile market in the USA is the biggest one for Mercedes-Benz outside Germany,” Norbert Haug, vice-president of motorsport at Mercedes, explained.

“For the BMW group, the USA Grand Prix is of key importance in so far as the United States is our biggest market,” Mario Theissen, head of BMW Sauber, said. “We sell more cars there than in Germany and also have our biggest production sites outside of Germany.”