BARCELONA (Reuters) - The chances of Germany hosting a Formula One Grand Prix this year are only 50-50 despite determined efforts to save it, according to Niki Lauda.
The retired triple world champion, now non-executive chairman of reigning champions Mercedes, told Reuters at the final pre-season test in Barcelona that the race remained in the balance.
“(Formula One’ commercial supremo) Bernie (Ecclestone) is the one who takes the decision but at the moment it doesn’t look like it. But I understand why,” the Austrian said.
With the season starting in Australia on March 15, there is every chance that the teams will head for Melbourne still unsure whether the championship will be run over 19 or 20 races.
Germany has alternated between the Nuerburgring and Hockenheim in recent years but both circuits have financial troubles.
This year would have been the Nuerburgring’s turn, but the track is under new and uncertain ownership, while Hockenheim suffered poor attendance last year and is reluctant to take a hit three years in a row.
“Hockenheim says we cannot lose every year the money so I do not know what will happen,” Lauda said. “I think it’s strictly between Bernie and them. I haven’t heard anything negative or positive.
“I think Bernie reduced the price (hosting fee), at least that is what I was told, but if they cannot afford it then I do not know. What can you do? This is really the organizers’ fault.
“It is bad for Germany, bad for Mercedes, bad for everybody if the organizers cannot get it going. If I had to bet, 50-50 only, I think,” added Lauda.
Ecclestone told Reuters this month that he was trying to keep the race alive, even if the odds were against it.
“It’s not looking good...you can say that it (the race) looks unlikely but we are trying to rescue it. I don’t want to lose it, for sure. We are trying our best,” the 84-year-old said.
Editing by Ed Osmond