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Wednesday July 2, 2014 MYT 1:04:07 AM
Wednesday July 2, 2014 MYT 1:05:07 AM
by alan baldwin
LONDON (Reuters) - Monza, home of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix since the first championship in 1950, risks being dropped from the calendar after 2016, according to Bernie Ecclestone.
The sport's 83-year-old commercial supremo, who is facing bribery charges at a trial in Germany, told Italy's Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper on Tuesday that the race's future was in doubt.
"Not good," Ecclestone said when asked about contract renewal. "I don't think we'll do another contract, the old one was a disaster for us from the commercial point of view. After 2016, bye bye..."
Ecclestone has previously threatened races as part of a bargaining procedure, notably with Silverstone before renovations were carried out and a long-term deal agreed, but he has also followed through.
The French Grand Prix has been absent since 2008 while Austria, a popular fixture with a circuit now owned by Red Bull, returned to the calendar only this season after an 11 year break.
Ferrari-owned Mugello has been mooted as a possible future venue for an Italian Grand Prix but Ecclestone said he had yet to receive any proposal from Ferrari president Luca Di Montezemolo.
Monza, known as the temple of Italian motorsport in a former royal park just outside Milan, has hosted the country's grand prix in every year since 1950 with the sole exception of 1980 when Imola hosted the race.
The circuit is the fastest on the calendar and one of the most atmospheric.
Along with Monaco, Spa and Silverstone it holds a special place in the affection of Formula One fans because of the links with the sport's history and great names of the past.
Ecclestone said television audiences were lower in Italy than elsewhere, with Ferrari's poor recent performances partly to blame.
"If Ferrari began to finish first and second in qualifying and the race...the audiences would go up everywhere. Ferrari is a global passion," he said.
Ecclestone, who has been involved in Formula One since the 1950s and once owned the Brabham team, said the sport had become too clinical with drivers' personalities stifled and rules restricting their driving.
He returned to a personal hate in criticising the sound of the quieter new V6 turbo engines, and indicated he would be happy for struggling smaller teams to leave the sport.
"They should stop," he said. "If they do not have the money, they should close. I am ready for a Formula One with eight teams and three cars each.
"Is it better to see a third Ferrari or a Caterham? Ferrari might find new sponsors in America and an American driver. Great. The same for the others.
"Let's take Caterham. They have invested a load of money, they are going to need a load more and therefore paying drivers. But what for if they have never been competitive?"
(Editing by Josh Reich)
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