The Turkish Grand Prix could be axed after 2011 if rumours in Turkey’s national press are to believed, despite the popularity of the Istanbul Speed Park with fans and drivers.
According to the Zaman newspaper, Bernie Ecclestone is believed to be in negotiations with the circuit’s builder and owner, the Istanbul Chamber of Commerce, to remove the event from the Formula One calendar in three years time.
With growing pressure on Ecclestone and his Formula One Group to offset the debt accrued by commercial rights holders CVC Capital Partners, more and more races are coming under threat as new venues – that are willing and able to pay higher promotion fees – emerge.
For Istanbul Speed Park’s general director Can Guclu the fears for the Turkish Grand Prix are real given the competition from rival countries. “We are afraid that 2011 may be the last year of the staging of F1 in Istanbul,” Guclu is quoted as saying by Zaman.
“There is serious competition from such countries as South Africa, Russia, Bulgaria and South Korea. South Korea has a highly developed economy and they place importance on sporting events. The [football] world cup was held in there in 2002. And Russia has already started constructing a race course.”
The Istanbul Speed Park hosted the inaugural Turkish Grand Prix in 2005 and has proved to be a popular event for Formula One fans with its notorious Turn 8 providing some of the most breathtaking racing in modern times.
Turkish Grand Prix organisers first approached Bernie Ecclestone in 2001 about the possibility of holding a race but it took four years before the inaugural grand prix in 2005. Consequently, Guclu wants to begin negotiations to extend the current contract immediately.
“If we want the Turkish Grand Prix to stay on the calendar, we need to start working immediately,” he said. “Or else, we cannot just begin negotiating for the race in the last year of the contract.
“We made a deal with Ecclestone in 2003 and the first race was organised in 2005. As you see, there is a four-year process in order to be included in the calendar.
“There is still nothing about extending the deal and no demand from either side.”