F1's SEAsia future in doubt after Ecclestone comments about Singapore

Mon Nov 21, 2016 10:12am EST
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By Marius Zaharia

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has cast doubt over the future of the sport in Southeast Asia by telling a German magazine that Singapore no longer wants to host a grand prix after its current deal expires next year.

Neighboring Malaysia will not host a Grand Prix after 2018 because of declining ticket sales and TV viewing figures, the country's Tourism and Culture Minister said on Monday, and the region could be left without a race for the first time since 1998.

The Singapore race costs some S$150 million ($105.04 million) to put on every year, 60 percent of which is funded by the government. It was first staged in 2008 and the city-state renewed its contract for another five years in 2012.

Ecclestone's blunt comments in Auto Motor und Sport, however, suggested negotiations over a further extension have not gone well.

"Look at what we have done for Singapore," Ecclestone said. "Yes, the grand prix has cost Singapore a lot of money, but we've also given them a lot of money.

"Singapore was suddenly more than just an airport to fly to or from somewhere. Now they believe they have reached their goal and they do not want a grand prix anymore."

In comments to Singapore newspaper the Straits Times, however, Ecclestone clarified that F1's stand was that it did not want to lose Singapore.

"My words were taken in a funny way. What I said was simple - no decision has been taken yet. Negotiations are ongoing and will be sorted out shortly... before the end of the year, I'm sure. We want to extend long-term," he said. "We'll see what happens."   Continued...

Formula One - F1 - Brazilian Grand Prix - Circuit of Interlagos, Sao Paulo, Brazil - 13/11/2016 - Bernie Ecclestone, Chief Executive of the Formula One Group, rides in an elevator during the race. REUTERS/Nacho Doce