Ecclestone downplays volcano ash threat

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is convinced that the travel crisis caused by the exploding Icelandic volcano poses no threat to next month's Spanish Grand Prix taking place

Ecclestone downplays volcano ash threat

With the majority of the F1 circus trapped in Shanghai following the cancellation of flights back to Europe, questions have emerged about whether the Barcelona race on May 6 will escape the travel chaos that has already forced MotoGP organisers to postpone their next round in Motegi this weekend.

But although teams may have difficulties in getting personnel back to base swiftly, with cars and equipment likely to be delayed too, Ecclestone is sure that the Spanish GP will go ahead as planned.

"I am sure everything will be all right," said Ecclestone in Shanghai. "There is no question of cancelling the Spanish Grand Prix. Of course, it is causing everybody problems, but we will find a way to get everyone home."

F1's cars will not be able to return to the team's factories until the freight planes that carry them can get out of Europe, where they are currently trapped. If the flight delays continue for a few more days then it is possible the F1 freight could be shipped directly to Barcelona.

And with the prospect of it taking weeks to sort commercial aircraft timetables out once European airspace is open again, F1 teams are working hard to ensure that their staff can get back to base quickly.

A number of outfits, including Ferrari, McLaren and Lotus, have chartered their own aircraft to take personnel back to Europe.

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh said: "McLaren committed this morning to a charter plane for Wednesday to fly to Spain. We were the first to commit to that and have said that if it is a big enough plane then anyone else can come on board.

"We took the flyer and said that if it is half empty then we will bear the premium, so as long as we have got our team on it then we are happy for it to be full. I think some teams were hesitating this morning but they are now jumping on board pretty quick.

"Hopefully, as Spain is about the only place you can fly into, we can get them into Spain on Wednesday and onto coaches for Santander or road route home."

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali added: "Everyone is waiting to see what is going on. On the material side we know that either we move all the stuff, or we keep it here. So either we do another race here or we move altogether back to Europe!

"Everyone is waiting to see the updates and at the moment I would say the normal flights we are booked on are totally closed. To wait means we wait here for one week or 10 days, I don't know, but we are trying also to see if we can organise ourselves another way of moving through a charter flight.

"The situation is not only affecting F1, it is affecting the whole world so we need to consider that. I know that Carmelo Ezpeleta told me that they moved the date of the MotoGP race from next Sunday to October because of this problem, so it is something that is affecting everyone."

Red Bull Racing Christian Horner reckoned that F1 people would be resourceful enough to make their own way home - and that as long as the cars got to Barcelona there would not be a problem.

"I think we rely very heavily in Bernie as all the cars are in the same situation," he told AUTOSPORT.

"In terms of the upgrades coming they are still being made and they will be bolted to the car anyway, so as long as the car gets to Barcelona we should be alright. Thankfully there is an additional week between this race and the first European race, so hopefully things will settle down very shortly.

"In my lifetime I cannot remember a volcano going off and leaving people stranded. If the worst come to the worst, we will be on the Trans-Siberian Express. And where there is a will to get home, there is a way."

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