In an interview with Britain's The Guardian newspaper, F1 commercial manager Bernie Ecclestone acknowledged that the future of historic F1 venues like Silverstone and Spa-Francorchamps remain uncertain amid the ongoing surge of new venues, and a concurrent push by teams to cap the schedule at 20 races. Korea's new Yeongam circuit holds its first race this weekend, while Austin, Texas, India and Russia have plans to host new races in the next few years. Ecclestone reiterated that the current tracks will have to compete for their dates on the schedule.
Ecclestone said the Belgian Grand Prix in particular was "absolutely" threatened by new venues with significant money behind them. "If it wasn't supported by the government over there, it probably would go because they wouldn't be able to afford it," he said of Spa. "It's the same with the British Grand Prix."
Ecclestone reckons the expansion into new markets at the expense of European tracks is healthy. "We're a World Championship and so, by definition, we need to be in different parts of the world. In the end, common sense has prevailed and we've expanded," he said.
Ecclestone went on to defend the layouts of the newer circuits – most of which have been designed by Hermann Tilke – against the criticism that they have produced bland racing.
"Our problem is that we're trying to build race circuits that are super-safe," Ecclestone told the The Guardian. "You don't get so much up-and-down because you can't just put a new circuit anywhere. But one of the best circuits in the world is Turkey. It's a great circuit – that's up-and-down."
Yet the Istanbul track could also be among those under pressure, Ecclestone added, due to ongoing problems with low attendance.
"Maybe someone will decide they need a rest because it's not working for them commercially. A good example is probably Turkey," said Ecclestone. "They've built an incredible circuit and it might even be the best – but there's not much enthusiasm from the public. I don't know why."
Ecclestone's age – he turns 80 next week – has prompted concern among some team principals that not enough attention has been paid to a potential replacement for the man who has run the commercial side of the sport for decades. However, Ecclestone says he has no plans for retirement, and sees no reason why he wouldn't still be running F1 for another 10 years.
"Absolutely. What else would I do?" he declared. "People retire to die. The way I feel at the moment, why stop?"