By Bharat Sharma, New Delhi, March 11 IANS | 9 months ago

In a sensational twist to the Indian Grand Prix controversy, Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone has said its promoters Jaypee Group of not fully fulfilling its contractual obligations to see through the five-year deal.

Jaypee, in a polite yet firm retort, refused to discuss the contractual terms in public and promised to sort them out with the Formula One Management (FOM), thus by inference confirming that the whole issue has now boiled down to financial matters.

Ecclestone told IANS from his London office on telephone that he and his organisation was still committed to see through the five-year contract provided, what he calls some "surmountable obstacles" are sorted out.

He said the Indian GP promoters have not fully complied with the race contract to put the 2015 race in jeopardy. It now transpires that the tax and bureaucratic hurdles for the uncertainty of the race returning to the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) were only a facade and not the only reasons.

Ecclestone's startling revelations come days after he said that he wants the race to be pushed to 2016 so that the country "gradually gets over all the bureaucratic and the tax issues to improve the general financial conditions". His statement fuelled speculation whether the race will ever see through the remaining two races of the contract.

Ecclestone hastened to add that he was still hoping India to be back on F1 calendar next season.

"I was hoping that things would get better in India but they haven't unfortunately. The race promoters there have not been able to comply with parts of the contract and they are mostly money related. I must clarify here that we still have very good relations with the promoters and we still want to see through the remaining two years of our contract. But that can happen only if we get the financial guarantees," said the 83-year-old Monday night, adding that Jaypee did meet most of the terms of the agreement in the first three years (2011-2013).

For his part, Jaypee Sports International CEO Sameer Gaur told IANS that it would not be prudent to make the contractual details public and reiterated he would soon meet Ecclestone to bring the race back next year.

"It would not be right for me to talk about the contract with anyone else other than Mr. Ecclestone and FOM. I am already in touch with him but you can't expect me to discuss publicly what transpires between us. We will soon meet to sort out the issues and am confident the race will be back next year," said Gaur whose company shells out around $40 million a year to host the race at a time when it is also feeling the heat of the current global financial criss.

As it is, the history shows it is tough for a race to return in the increasingly crowded calendar. The 2014 season will see Austria's comeback and then the F1 caravan travelling to Sochi, Russia, for the first time.

Ecclestone said India had two months to settle the issue and if things fall in place, it might not have to wait till 2016 to make a return.

"I am still trying for 2015 and we have got about two months time to make that happen. We have loved the organisation in India and it is a fantastic circuit. We really want to get back. I hope the promoters are able to sort things out soon, otherwise it would be difficult in the future to slot them in an already packed calendar," said the British businessman, who last week said that Azerbaijaan was among the possible venues in 2016.

Underling India's potential, he went to the extent of saying that the country has more potential than Asian giant China, who have been successful hosting a Grand Prix in Shanghai since 2004.

"India is among the few new F1 venues where people understand the sport and want to understand it better. That is why I have greater faith in India than China," he concluded.

(Bharat Sharma can be contacted at bharat.s@ians.in)

(Posted on 11-03-2014)

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