Rome or bust?

According to Reuters, Rome has signed an agreement with FOM’s Bernie Ecclestone to bring a grand prix in the city streets to life. It was suggested earlier this year that Rome was being considered as a potential venue for a new street circuit. Race organizer and former Formula Two driver Maurizio Flammini said:

“The agreement with…Bernie Ecclestone to bring the Rome grand prix to life has already been done and signed,”.

Rome Grand PRix

The talk began early this year, publicly, and even prompted a visit as well as statements from former FIA president Max Mosley. Mosley said at the time:

“I would be surprised if it happened,” Mosley said in an interview published in Thursday’s La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“I know how much effort and money it costs to organise a street circuit race in Monte Carlo. And Italy has lots of valid permanent circuits.

“Anyway it’s Ecclestone’s problem, not mine.”

The suggested date is the 2012 calendar although Reuters says that Ecclestone implied that 2013 may be more realistic. Only Ecclestone knows the calendars and contracts for all the circuits. He is the only one who knows which venues may be leaving F1 and which ones might be possibly coming. The current number of races is something the teams have endorsed but they have cautioned int he past that they do not wish for more.

This notion means that perhaps the exit of a circuit like Turkey, China or Valencia may leave a spot for the Grand Prix of Rome. The trend toward street circuits is something that has cropped up as of late and while Mosley’s words of expense are well intentioned, it has to be less expensive than building a state of the art Tilke circuit.

While Mosley has continually placed himself in the “I told you the sky was falling” position, Ecclestone has played down the economic impact the world credit crunch has placed on the sport. The idea that countries are clamoring to sign up for a grand prix and willing to spend $500MM on a Tilke-designed track seems illogical at this point in time.

Concerning too is the lack of sponsors and withdrawal of Honda, Toyota, BMW and to some extent, Renault. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the budget cap, onslaught of privateer teams and renewed interest in lower-cost street circuits are all part of the grand scheme of reducing costs in order to survive.

F1 is struggling to remain relevant in a world where excess has ceased to exist and almost militant “green” corp members skewer the sport for its abuse of the planet and wealthy carbon effusive lifestyle…this while the US and UK braces for some of the worst winter weather in decades and the melt-down conference generates massive carbon abuse in Copenhagen Germany this past week.

If trends continue and the sport is systematically shamed (by eco-warriors and guilt-laden politicians) and orphaned by sponsors, as well as manufacturers, as they struggle to remain profitable and “greenwash” their products and services in the hope of making a buck; I see a new, smaller and more pedestrian F1.

Any wonder that IF the US gets another chance at a grand prix that it will be a street circuit?

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