ABU DHABI (Reuters) - A deal has been done for India to return to the Formula One calendar in 2015 and for six years beyond that if tax problems with the country’s authorities can be overcome, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Saturday.
“The door is open for them,” the Briton, who turned 83 on Monday, told Reuters at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“It’s all there. Done. That’s all done,” he added when asked about a contract extension. “Just a case of the government sorting itself out.”
The race, held at the Buddh International Circuit south-east of New Delhi, has been dropped from the 2014 calendar with its future uncertain.
Although some in the paddock fear it may be gone for good, organizers said last weekend that they were determined to complete the remaining two years of the existing contract in 2015 and 2016.
Indian motorsports chief Vicky Chandhok told Reuters last week that race promoter Sameer Gaur, of Jaypee Sports International (JPSI), was also speaking of a five-year extension.
Ecclestone said a new deal had now been agreed.
The construction of the $400 million circuit, which drivers have hailed as one of the best recent additions to the calendar, and race promotion fees have been paid by private enterprise without government subsidy.
Problems over taxation, with Formula One being classified as entertainment rather than a sport, as well as the considerable bureaucracy to be overcome in bringing equipment into India have been cited as obstacles to the future of the race.
Chandhok and Gaur said last week that talks would be sought with local and central government to resolve the issues.
Former F1 racer Karun Chandhok, son of Vicky, welcomed the development.
”We are working really hard to make it happen,“ he told Reuters after talking to Ecclestone later in the paddock. ”We had lots of great meetings last week (with Ecclestone’s people).
”There are things to be sorted out for the government but that’s more from the teams’ point of view. The tax implications are more affecting the teams and drivers than FOM (Formula One Management).
“The good thing is Bernie wants to do it. One thing he did say is ‘we want to make it happen. Let’s try and get it done’. You never know with Bernie...but the inclination is there from the Jaypee side and from his side.”
Editing by Ed Osmond