US GP return likely for 2010
|By Jonathan Noble||Sunday, September 7th 2008, 10:31 GMT|
The prospects for a return of a Formula One race in the United States have improved after Bernie Ecclestone held talks with team principals in Belgium about putting the event back on the calendar in 2010, autosport.com has learned.
The event at Indianapolis was dropped for this year after its circuit boss Tony George was unable to agree financial terms with Ecclestone to sort out a new contract at the end of 2007.
But with no prospects for a last-minute deal rescuing the event even for 2009, teams and Ecclestone discussed during a team principal's meeting at Spa-Francorchamps about ensuring the event does return - although not necessarily at Indianapolis.
It is understood a number of teams have made it clear to Ecclestone that it is vital, especially amid the world's current financial situation, for America to once again feature on the calendar.
Honda Racing CEO Nick Fry told autosport.com: "The American GP is key for two reasons. Firstly, this is supposed to be a world championship and a large part of it is made up of North America, so we should be going back there.
"Secondly, the North American market is absolutely vital to us, and for all the luxury car makers especially it is key. It is a market Honda is successful in, with Honda and Acura, and we would like to get back there as soon as possible."
BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen added: "It is important for BMW as a manufacturer but also for our sponsors. The USA is still the biggest market for BMW and we should be there. But we should be there successfully, so we have to find the right venue, the right setting and the right approach in order to make a point over there."
When asked by autosport.com if he felt that Indianapolis was the right venue, Theissen said: "If I look at where we sell our cars it is certainly on the east coast and the west coast, so from that perspective it (Indy) is not the ideal venue.
"I know Bernie is negotiating with several regions or cities in the US but apparently there is nothing confirmed or nothing ready to be announced."
Frank Williams said the event was vital even for independent teams like his.
"We all want it," he explained. "Many of our sponsors are very active in the US - and several American ones, like Thomson Reuters, AT&T, are looking to expand – Philips too."
Fry echoed Theissen's belief that a race located on either the Pacific or Atlantic coasts would be ideal – with sources suggesting that Ecclestone favours a race in Las Vegas.
"Ideally we would like a site on either coast, which is a key market for non-American brands. And from our point of view, the sooner the better.
"Bernie is very good at understanding the market and what the manufacturers want. He does realise the importance of this and we know he is doing his best to fix the problem, and we will give him all the support we can. We are all aligned on the importance of America."
Indianapolis spokesman Fred Nation said recently that his track was confident a deal could be put in place for them to return to the schedule.
"We are very optimistic for 2010," he said.