LONDON (Reuters) - Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone expects next year’s U.S. Grand Prix in Austin to go ahead, despite lingering doubts about state funding, but is less certain about the sport finding new owners in the near future.
“It will be (on), for sure, they will sort their finances out,” the 85-year-old said in a wide-ranging post-season interview with Sky Sports television.
The Oct. 23 race in Texas, the only round in the United States and important for teams and sponsors, is on the 2016 calendar with an asterisk against it as subject to agreement with the commercial rights holder.
Ecclestone expressed concern last month after media reports that Texas state subsidies were being reduced by more than 20 percent to around $19.5 million. Bad weather this year also hit revenues significantly.
On Formula One’s future ownership, Ecclestone indicated a change might not be as imminent as some expected.
There has been takeover talk for months and he was quoted recently by German daily Handelsblatt as saying controlling shareholders CVC Capital partners were likely to decide by March.
However he told Sky that CVC, whose co-chairman Donald Mackenzie has been a regular presence at races, would take some persuading.
“The bottom line is simple: in the end, the major shareholder really doesn’t want to sell. That’s really the truth of things,” he said.
“People keep tempting him. And one day maybe...at the moment, there’s people that may be doing a little more than in the past. But I think it will be difficult to get him to say yes.”
Asked whether he might seek to increase his own five percent stake, Ecclestone did not rule it out.
He was also asked about comments made by Mercedes motorsport head Toto Wolff suggesting the dominant team could change their driver line-up if the relationship between triple champion Lewis Hamilton and Germany’s Nico Rosberg deteriorated further.
Ecclestone saw no threat to Hamilton who recently signed a new three-year deal.
“He’s got a contract so he can hardly be set aside. And I can’t imagine a team would want to get rid of one of their best assets,” he said.
Commenting on Red Bull’s problems with securing an engine for 2016, and Renault’s deliberations about their future, Ecclestone was relieved both had decided to stay.
“If I’d have been (Red Bull owner Dietrich) Mateschitz, I’d have stopped. And I’m pleased that he didn’t,” he said.
Renault, he added, were “more or less on the edge of leaving” before announcing this month that they were buying Lotus and returning as a full constructor.
Editing by Tony Jimenez