LONDON (Reuters) - Germany — home of world champions Mercedes — looks unlikely to host a Formula One Grand Prix this year but there is still time to secure a deal, the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters on Monday.
The 84-year-old Briton was speaking after Germany’s Rhein Zeitung newspaper quoted him as saying there would be no race because “the visitor numbers were so poor in recent years that it is not economically viable.”
Ecclestone confirmed a fax had been sent to the paper in response to a query but denied the matter had been decided.
“Who knows? There are two places (circuits) there. Wait and see,” he said.
“It’s not looking good...you can say that it (the race) looks unlikely but we are trying to rescue it. I don’t want to lose it, for sure. We are trying our best.”
This year’s race was due to be held at the Nuerburgring under an alternation agreement that saw Hockenheim host it last season.
Ecclestone told Reuters last month that Hockenheim would host this year’s July 19 race because of problems at the Nuerburgring. However, he subsequently threw doubt on that by saying no deal had been signed with any German circuit.
Both circuits have struggled financially, with Nuerburgring changing ownership last year after rebuffing a bid from Ecclestone while Hockenheim’s crowd figures dwindled in 2014.
The country’s four-times world champion Sebastian Vettel, who comes from near Hockenheim, has lacked the pulling power of seven-times champion Michael Schumacher and last year’s race drew just 52,000 on the Sunday.
Only 45,000 turned out on race day at the Nuerburgring in 2013, the season after Schumacher finally retired.
That compares to some 120,000 for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone and 80,000 on race day in Austria — a race that also attracted plenty of German fans last year when it returned to the calendar for the first time since 2003.
With the Formula One season starting in Australia next month, Ecclestone indicated Germany had only a couple of weeks to do a deal and stay on what will otherwise be a 19-race calendar.
Germany’s two tracks are both historic ones, albeit much modified. The country has hosted a round of the championship every year since 1960.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar