Apr.19 (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed claims that next month’s Spanish grand prix could be cancelled.
It was confirmed on Monday that this weekend’s Japanese round of the MotoGP series has been called off due to the travel disruptions caused by the volcanic ash above Europe.
And football games on Thursday between Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, and Hamburg and Fulham, could also be scratched, with UEFA to make a decision “in the coming days”.
Mercifully for F1, there is now a rare three-week break between Sunday’s Shanghai round and the opening of the European season in Spain.
But with the hundreds of tonnes of freight, including the cars, stranded at Shanghai airport – while F1’s six 747 jets are grounded in Europe – it is currently impossible to predict when the team factories will be reunited with their equipment.
“The main concern is getting the engines back because they have to be worked on,” F1 chief executive Ecclestone told the Times.
“But I am sure everything will be all right,” said the 79-year-old, who despite having a private plane in Shanghai is currently unable to return to Europe.
“We know there will be a Spanish grand prix, we just don’t know where yet,” he joked to another reporter in China, adding that his plan-B is “suicide”.
“There is no question of cancelling the Spanish grand prix,” he insisted. “Of course, it is causing everybody problems, but we will find a way to get everyone home.”
The movement of F1’s actual people is less problematic, albeit expensive: several teams – including Ferrari and McLaren – are organising private charters on Tuesday or Wednesday into Spain, where some major airports are still landing planes.
The personnel will then return to their respective team headquarters by bus.
Other F1 people have diverted to Dubai or even as far afield as the US, in the hope of finding another air route back to Europe.
As for the freight, the end of the air chaos could even be nigh, after British Airways, Air France and KLM tested planes in European skies without problems, and Niki Lauda’s airline conducted a test with an Airbus A320 from Vienna to Salzburg.
“The flight was the best ever, with blue skies. I don’t understand what all the fuss is about,” said the triple world champion.