DECEMBER 10, 2001

Austria gets a new deal

The Austrian Grand Prix is to continue until 2006.

THE Austrian Grand Prix is to continue until 2006. The Austrian Minister of Sports and Tourism met Bernie Ecclestone in London last week and details of a new five-year contract were agreed. There had been worries that the circuit could not raise the money needed to fund the fees which have to be paid to Formula One Management but a compromise was found. As part of the deal the regional authorities will take over the promotion of the race (which was previously held by Patrick McNally's Allsport Management company in Geneva.

McNally will no doubt remain involved in the organization of parts of the event as he runs the VIP hospitality and the trackside signage at most Grands Prix events.

The Austrians are hoping to be able to cover the costs necessary by increasing the size of the crowds and the income generated by the spectators. This will probably mean that ticket prices will be hiked. The major problem of the event is that the local infrastructure is not really good enough for a Grand Prix with the Formula 1 circus spread out for many miles in all directions in small hotels. The race is made viable by the fact that so many of the spectators choose to camp at the track.

Austria had been considered to be one of the weakest races on the F1 calendar but a new deal means that the British GP is now very definitely the race most likely to be dropped, although the San Marino GP at Imola is also still in some considerable doubt. The signing of a new deal with Austria also means that it is going to be even harder for non-European races to break into the calendar - unless the teams agree to increase the number of races.

And that is not going to happen.