March 14, 2010 / 9:58 AM / 8 years ago

Ecclestone mulling F1 return to Indy

MANAMA (Reuters) - Indianapolis is still a logical venue for a U.S. Formula One Grand Prix and an eventual return is on the cards, commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone said.

“It is. It’s only the fact that it’s all the wrong crowd and the wrong people ... nothing worked there really, we’d have to have a big change round,” the Briton told Reuters at Sunday’s season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix. “But we’d like to get back there.”

Asked whether the United States could be back on the calendar as early as next year, the 79-year-old replied: “We can have a look. Twenty one races, no problem.”

The calendar currently stands at an unprecedented 19 races, after a previous 17, with Ecclestone committed to India hosting a grand prix for the first time next year. That makes 20 races a possibility.

“It’s a round number and easy to remember, I get muddled up now with 19 or 17,” he said.

American great Mario Andretti, the 1978 world champion, told reporters at Sakhir, where he is attending a reunion of champions for the 60th anniversary of the sport, that Formula One needed to be in the United States.

“I can’t write the cheque, all I can do is support it in every possible way that makes sense because I believe in it so much,” Andretti said of a U.S. Grand Prix.

“I was just talking to Bernie and he is well aware of that need. He is pretty switched on, he’s just got to figure out a way,” added the 70-year-old.

“Indy was to me the proper infrastructure and place to host that and that’s probably where it needs to be unless we find some magic investors that could put on something else somewhere else.”

‘BIG MISTAKE’

Indianapolis hosted the race eight times until 2007 but Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi, former winner of the Indy 500 as well as two F1 titles, said the Motor Speedway had never been the right location.

“To go to Indianapolis was a big mistake,” he told Reuters.

He pointed out that the F1 layout on the famed oval circuit ran in the opposite direction, with cars cutting across the infield and looking slow in comparison to Indy cars.

“The Long Beach Grand Prix was fantastic for Formula One, we had so much fun,” he said of the race held in California between 1976-1983. “It was the best, we had the Hollywood stars and the glamour of grand prix racing.”

The failure of the U.S. F1 team, who were due to enter this season, has also dealt a blow for the image of the sport in North America.

”The worst that could have happened was that it didn‘t,“ said Andretti. ”It’s a big disappointment for all of the fans that were hoping to have their own team to cheer about, but it’s just one of those things.

“It’s a huge loss, because there was a hope there and then it fizzled.”

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