Ecclestone Praises Istanbul's Work

Formula One's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone has lavished praise on the the organisers of the Turkish Grand Prix after the Istanbul circuit made its Formula One debut

"The drivers are happy, the teams are happy and we are over the moon," he said of the facility 40 km from Istanbul on the Asian side.

"We've at last got a circuit that's going to sort the drivers out," he added.

"This is certainly a Spa-type of circuit which is what the drivers want. It sorts the men out from the boys," added Ecclestone, referring to the Belgian track that regularly tops the lists of drivers' favourites.

The undulating, anti-clockwise Istanbul circuit uses the hilly local terrain to offer several changes of gradient, presenting a challenge to drivers with blind crests combined with fast corners.

Several, including Ferrari's seven times World Champion Michael Schumacher who spun off, were caught out by it in Saturday's qualifying. Turn eight, a long left-handed curve which imposes considerable strains on the drivers' necks, has proved particularly tricky.

Ecclestone said his eyes had been opened to Turkey's potential when he commissioned a new boat from the country's shipyards.

"People think Turkey, third world country and whatever, but just have a look at what they've built," he said.

"They've done a better job than most parts of the world. First class and a good place for people to invest, for business and whatever," declared the 74-year-old billionaire.

"The circuit itself where the guys are racing is just what we've always wanted. We've been lucky that we've had the support that we can build this type of circuit in a country."

After winning over Formula One with, Istanbul is again eyeing the big prize of the Olympic Games.

"I think that we showed with this organisation that we are fit and now our aim is to have the Olympics in Turkey," said Murat Yalcintas, president of the Istanbul chamber of commerce. "After Formula One, the biggest sports event is the Olympics."

Istanbul has made four successive bids for the Games, failing each time.

The city, bridging East and West in a predominantly Muslim country, last year failed to make the final shortlist of five candidates to host the 2012 Games in a campaign eventually won by London. Neighbouring Greece hosted the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Yalcintas said more than 100,000 people were expected for Sunday's race.

Turkey is the third new circuit on the Formula One calendar after Bahrain and China last year but Ecclestone would not be drawn on which other new venues might be in the pipeline.

"No idea," he said. When asked about Mexico, aiming for a race next year in the Caribbean resort of Cancun, and South Africa, he replied simply: "Nice places."

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