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Jumat, 03 Juli 2009

Hockenheim to be saved but Fuji facing the chop in 2010?


The German Grand Prix at Hockenheim could yet be saved from dropping off the 2010 F1 World Championship calendar, it is understood – but the future of the Japanese Grand Prix at Fuji International Speedway conversely looks bleaker than ever.

The Hockenheimring has hosted the top flight on 31 occasions since 1970, and for every year bar two since 1977, but the current agreement is that it will alternate as the venue for the German Grand Prix with the Nürburgring, which is set to host the 2009 edition in just over a week's time.

However, the city council – which fully finances the race – has recently asserted that it can no longer afford to keep footing the bill, following year-on-year multi-million Euro losses that totalled €6 million for the 2008 edition alone.

Mayor Dieter Gummer did, nonetheless, leave the door open should a new promoter or new investors be willing to step in to fill the void, and following a meeting with the sport's commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone in London earlier this week, it is believed that there may yet be a chink of light at the end of the tunnel, with the most likely suggestions being that the Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive finds an investor or agrees to promote the grand prix himself, or else acquiesces to lowering the race promotion fee.

“We discussed the different options,” Gummer told the Mannheimer Morgen newspaper, adding that he is hopeful of finding a solution to 'keep Formula 1 with us in the next years'. “Now we as well as Bernie Ecclestone need to do our homework.”

By contrast, off the back of mounting speculation about the future of the Japanese Grand Prix, it has been confirmed that the Toyota Motor Corporation-owned Fuji Speedway could be set to depart the fray just two years on from its long-awaited return to the schedule. The race first officially took place at Fuji in the mid-1970s, but was axed after only two outings on safety grounds when two spectators were killed in 1977, with a sanitised version replacing Honda-owned rival Suzuka in 2007.

Fuji is currently slated to stage the 2010 Japanese Grand Prix, but with the world's largest car manufacturer having been hit hard by the global credit crunch, it is being reported that the circuit will pull out of the deal. The present financial year is expected to be the worst in Toyota's history, with a forecasted net loss of US $5.7 billion.

Suzuka is due to hold the 2009 Japanese Grand Prix on 4 October, and a Toyota spokesman told The Associated Press: “It's true that [Fuji Speedway] is making various considerations regarding its hosting of the event next year.”

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