x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Bernie Ecclestone praises 'top-class job' by Bahrain Grand Prix

The fact the race was organised without any trouble from protesters, as was expected, has encouraged Formula One supremo of its future next year.

The French Grand Prix, which was taken off the Formula One calendar in 2008, could make a return next year. Fred Dufour / AFP
The French Grand Prix, which was taken off the Formula One calendar in 2008, could make a return next year. Fred Dufour / AFP

With the Formula One calendar's most contested race having safely passed without disruption, Bernie Ecclestone, the sport's commercial rights owner, has redirected his focus towards next year's schedule.

The Bahrain Grand Prix came and went on Sunday without the trouble that had been predicted, but also without the spectator figures expected by race organisers. Mark Webber, the Red Bull Racing driver, expressed his disappointment at the sight of an empty grandstand, but the kingdom's crown prince countered that the fans were watching on screens from the entertainment village.

Ecclestone remained unflinching when asked about the future of the Gulf state's race, which saw its run-up marred by protests. "You know what they say, there's no such thing as bad publicity," he said. "[Interest is] growing all the time, and other places are interested. I think it will grow here for sure. We will be back here next year, and for many years after, because they do a top-class job."

With several new and returning countries fighting for a place on the 2013 calendar, Ecclestone knows he must juggle his options. The Grand Prix of America, planned to take place in New Jersey next year, may be delayed by a year, while Spain's two races - the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona and the European Grand Prix in Valencia – will alternate from next season.

"Under the circumstances, especially the current economic climate, the best solution we could find was that we alternate," he told El Pais.

Next season will also see the return of a French race, Ecclestone said. The founding nation of grand prix racing dropped off the calendar in 2008 following financial problems, but with three French drivers joining the sport this year, interest in the country is growing once more.

"We have a deal," he told L'Equipe. "We agreed on the financial terms with the sports minister, David Douillet, who visited me [last] Tuesday. We are just discussing a few money details related to the race."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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