Ecclestone denies ‘VIP GP’

Bernie EcclestoneBernie Ecclestone has moved to dismiss rumours of a ‘VIP-only’ Mediterranean Grand Prix that would be held at the Paul Ricard High-Tech Test Track and not be open to paying spectators.

Although some suggested such an event would be consistent with F1′s ‘ultra-elite’ image it would send out exactly the wrong message from a sport that desperately needs to get in touch with its fan base.

Race spectators at Formula One races are growing accustomed to seeing less and less of the cars each year due to the FIA’s proscriptive engine regulations and lack of any tight restrictions on pre-race testing. The quality of racing itself in 2006 is markedly worse than 2005 now that tyre stops have been reintroduced, sapping the later stages of races of the drama we often saw last year.

Takuma Sato, BAR-Honda, Suzuka, 2005And yet, in spite of this, many Grands Prix attract sell-out crowds of passionate fans – we saw Spain’s Alonso-maniacs last week and the German and Italian Schuey/Ferrari fans the weeks before. The British are famously big motor racing fans – not just of their home drivers – and the Japanese get behind Toyota, Honda, Takuma Sato and, this year, Super Aguri.

Why on earth would any sport with multi-million dollar sponsors want to shy away from an appreciative public that can even forgive for being deathly boring at times? A VIP GP would have been a bad public relations move for Formula One – and if Ecclestone can see the economic unviability of it that’s all you need to know.

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