Formula One could introduce a grand prix race in Greece
'Formula 1 Mediterranean Grand Prix' registered as trademark
F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says Greeks " are keen"
Ecclestone confirms all systems go for Russian Grand Prix in Sochi later this year
A grand prix in austerity-hit Greece could be on the horizon according to Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone.
On May 30, Ecclestone’s company Formula One Licensing registered the ‘Formula 1 Mediterranean Grand Prix’ as a trademark.
“The Greeks are keen,” Ecclestone told CNN. “They want me to go and see the Prime Minister or the mayor,” added Ecclestone, referring to Antonis Samaras and Georgios Kaminis respectively. “We will have to find out if they have got any money.”
Total investment of around $1 billion is required to build a track from scratch and cover the F1 hosting fee, which typically runs for 10 years.
Private investors are looking at the construction of a track in the Keratsini-Drapetsona municipality, which is six miles to the west of Athens.
It would be hard for Greece to justify a publicly funded investment after receiving more than €150 billion in bailouts following the recent recession, with unemployment still above 27 percent – the highest in eurozone.
“Greece has experienced, and still is in the middle of, a massive crisis, but is now on the verge of stabilization and turning things around very slowly,” said Greece’s leading F1 journalist Dimitris Papadopoulos.
“Priorities must be set on where government funding will go and I’m pretty sure that an F1 race is not on the priority list on that level.
“We should, however, point out that private initiatives are looking at the possibility of funding the construction of a street circuit in the area of Drapetsona and the hosting of a race.
“The plans have been laid, financial studies have been completed, and the project has been presented to interested parties for financing.
“The Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras sent a letter to the mayor of Drapetsona, by which he provided his full support to this attempt and that is based on private funding.”
Athanasios Papatheodorou – track architect for the prospective race promoter Dielpis – says that “the Prime Minister himself has supported fully the initiative for organizing F1 races and is looking forward to the instruction from the relevant international federations to realize the Dielpis Formula 1 project.
“The greatest benefit for our country would be giving to the world the opportunity to see the most historical port of the Mediterranean sea,” added Papatheodorou.
“And our experience at organizing big events, such as the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, is a big credential for us.”
While the Games in Greece were a tremendous success, their legacy has been far from medal-winning and images of the neglected sites recently hit the headlines on the event’s 10-year anniversary.
The bailouts for Greece came from the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank in which Germany has the largest single stake.
Ecclestone himself was recently a big contributor to Germany’s economy through paying the largest legal settlement in the country’s history.
He paid the state of Bavaria $100 million to settle charges, which he denied, that he had paid a $44 million bribe to steer the sale of F1 in 2006 to his preferred bidder, the private equity firm CVC.
Ecclestone has remained in F1’s driving seat and recently returned to work at the Belgian Grand Prix after the conclusion of the court case.
Registering a pan-European trademark for the title ‘Formula 1 Mediterranean Grand Prix’ is a key step in the process of bringing the race to the F1 calendar.
Wherever possible, Formula One Licensing registers trademarks for the names of upcoming races and prior to the Mediterranean Grand Prix it protected the title to the Austrian Grand Prix which returned to the F1 calendar in June.
A Mediterranean Grand Prix in Greece was first rumored in 2006 by Autosport magazine when it was suggested that the race could be rotated between a number of circuits, starting with Valencia in 2008 and then Paul Ricard in France the year after.
Last month F1 announced that the Mexican Grand Prix will return to the calendar next year after a 23-year absence and a new race in Baku, capital of the oil-rich country of Azerbaijan, will take place in 2016.
This year’s new addition is a Grand Prix in Russia on a track which snakes around the park used for the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
It’s the product of a partnership between Ecclestone and his personal friend Russian president Vladimir Putin.
“Russia is definitely going ahead,” said Eccelstone. “Putin has given it 100% support. He is easy to deal with. A nice guy. Super guy. Trustworthy.
“He is a guy that if he says ‘good morning’ you can guarantee that it is before Midday. He wants to get the race done and he will get it done,” added Ecclestone.
Putin’s resounding show of support comes against a backdrop of calls from UK politicians for the cancellation of the race which is due to take place on October 12.
Conservative MP David Davis, recently said that the “morally proper” thing for F1 to do is to put the race on hold in light of Moscow’s alleged support for pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine who have been accused of shooting down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17.
Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has also questioned whether Russia is fit to host either the Grand Prix or the 2018 World Cup
“The question marks I’m raising will only increase over the next coming weeks and months, over the summer and up to the Grand Prix,” said Clegg.
The only F1 race to have been canceled in the past 20 years is the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix which was dropped due to a civil uprising in the country.