India can hope to host two Formula One races within the next decade but the country faces plenty of competition on a crowded calendar, according to the sport’s commercial supremo, Bernie Ecclestone.
In a conversation ranging from sacred cows on India’s roads to Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes next season, the Briton told reporters at the Indian Grand Prix that a second race in the country was a possibility.
“We’ve got too many races now either in the championship or about to go in. So, later on maybe. Three or four years,” he said.
Ecclestone doubted it would be in Mumbai, home to Bollywood and the financial capital, but “one of the other big places” instead.
Asked whether Mumbai would not be the obvious place, with Sunday’s race catering for the capital at the Buddh Circuit some 45km south of New Delhi, he grinned mischievously: “Probably is, actually.”
Next year’s calendar will have 19 races, a reduction from 20 this season, with New Jersey’s debut postponed to 2014 and Valencia now alternating with Barcelona.
Russia is due to make its first appearance in 2014, with a race following on from the Winter Olympics in Sochi, and Mexico and Thailand are among those countries also pushing to be included.
Ecclestone said next year would be too soon for Mexico, whose interest in the sport is likely to soar with Sergio Perez replacing Hamilton at McLaren. The country last hosted a grand prix at Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, a circuit named after the late brothers Pedro and Ricardo who raced for Ferrari in the 1960s, in 1992.
“They haven’t got a circuit that’s ready,” said Ecclestone, who shook his head when asked about the old one.
The Briton, looking in good shape ahead of his 82nd birthday on Sunday, said New Jersey’s decision to postpone had not cost local organisers money — “because they haven’t got it” — and hoped a new contract would be agreed for 2014.
Sitting in front of a backgammon set — having just concluded a ‘board meeting’ with old friend and playing partner Karl-Heinz Zimmermann — Ecclestone was open-minded about the championship as it entered the decisive last four races.
Ecclestone cast a blind eye on the hazards of driving in India, where cows often wander across highways and elephants loom out of the dark among the unlit trucks and mopeds.
“It’s no more (mad) than lots of places we go to. Are you going to