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Vettel fastest in first India practice

Source : REUTERS
Last Updated: Fri, Oct 26, 2012 09:16 hrs
Vettel_1

Greater Noida: India can hope to host two Formula One races within the next decade but the country faces plenty of competition on a crowded calendar, according to the sport's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone.

In a conversation ranging from sacred cows on India's roads to Lewis Hamilton's move to Mercedes next season, the Briton told reporters at the Indian Grand Prix that a second race in the country was a possibility.

"We've got too many races now either in the championship or about to go in. So, later on maybe. Three or four years," he said.



Ecclestone doubted it would be in Mumbai, home of the 'Bollywood' film industry and the country's financial capital, but "one of the other big places" instead.

Asked whether Mumbai would not be the obvious place, with Sunday's race catering for the capital at the Buddh Circuit some 45km south of New Delhi, he grinned mischievously: "Probably is, actually."

Next year's calendar will have 19 races, a reduction from 20 this season, with New Jersey's debut postponed to 2014 and Valencia now alternating with Barcelona.

Russia is due to make a first appearance in 2014, with a race following on from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and Mexico and Thailand are among those countries also pushing to be included.

Ecclestone said next year would be too soon for Mexico, whose interest in the sport is likely to soar with Sergio Perez replacing Hamilton at McLaren.

The country last hosted a grand prix at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a circuit named after the late brothers Pedro and Ricardo who both raced for Ferrari in the 1960s, in 1992.

"They haven't got a circuit that's ready," said Ecclestone, who shook his head when asked about the old one. "That's the problem. It's the old one. It just needs sorting out a bit."

INDIAN BIRTHDAY

The Briton, looking in good shape ahead of his 82nd birthday on Sunday, said New Jersey's decision to postpone had not cost local organisers money - "because they haven't got it" - and hoped a new contract would be agreed for 2014.

Sitting in front of a backgammon set - having just concluded a 'board meeting' with old friend and playing partner Karl-Heinz Zimmermann - Ecclestone was open-minded about the Formula One championship as it entered the decisive last four races.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel, who is close to Ecclestone and occasionally joins him for a game of backgammon, is chasing his third title in a row with a six points lead over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso - also a double champion.

"I don't mind who wins. I think the guy that deserves to win eventually will win," said the Briton, whose grip on Formula One remains as firm as ever despite legal troubles in Germany over the past sale of a stake in the sport.

Hamilton is effectively out of the picture and has said he does not expect to win much with Mercedes, who have been off the pace for most of the season, in 2013 as the team prepares for a radical shift in the rules for the year after.

Ecclestone had no doubt that his arrival, in place of the retiring seven times champion Michael Schumacher, would be beneficial for the team.

"I think it's good for Mercedes. If they are going to really get their act together they need someone like Lewis that's going to do a bit of inspiring to people that want to go and work there," he declared.

"Nobody wants to work for a team (when) they don't look as if they are doing well but now maybe they will. I think his name is enough... which is what everyone expected of Michael."

The supremo said a new 'Concorde Agreement', the document binding the sport's commercial side together and expected to be signed soon by all parties, was "beautiful" and "one of the best Concordes we have ever had".

The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA), led by Jean Todt, wants to raise the entry fees paid by teams as part of that deal, to help finance it's own activities, and Ecclestone saw a logic to that.

"He wants to put the FIA on the same sort of footing as FIFA and the IOC and all those (bodies)," he said. "Nice big offices and making it look like a prestige federation."

Road safety is one of Todt's priorities in office but Ecclestone, back in controversial mode, cast a blind eye on the hazards of driving in India, where cows often wander across highways and elephants loom out of the dark among the unlit trucks and mopeds.

"It's no more (mad) than lots of places we go to. Are you going to Brazil?," enquired the bespectacled octogenarian, who is driven to the track in India.

"I haven't seen any cows. Same as when I went to Bahrain. I didn't see any protesters."

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