Rome is aiming to host a grand prix on the streets of the Italian capital in 2012, and the event's promoter says an agreement has already been made with F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone.
Maurizio Flammini, organizer of the Rome GP and boss of the World Superbike championship, floated the idea in January and says the first step toward a deal has now been completed, but that the approval is not expected until next summer.
"The first agreement has been signed," Flammini told Gazzetta dello Sport. "The details can't be disclosed, but it's a written confirmation that Bernie will support the GP in Rome.
"We still need approval from the province, the region, the ACI [Automobile Club Italiano] and the FIA. I think we need seven or eight months more for those, it's a long administrative process."
Flammini says the event has widespread support, including that of Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, and that a street circuit with modern safety standards could be constructed in the proposed area of Rome. He is eyeing a race in August of 2012.
"Now only a few people are against it," he told Italian newspaper Repubblica. "Even president di Montezemolo changed his mind when he saw the details of the project. The race in Rome wouldn't be on a street circuit because the roads at EUR are huge and would allow for a very high level of safety. We can have a wide track with wide run-off areas, and also permanent structures to support it. In Rome we'll have a street circuit with levels of safety and spectacle on par with a real track.
"We know the prospected year is 2012, even though it could even be brought forward if we build the structures in record time. We are working toward having a race in spring or fall, but sometime in August would have its advantages because there's no traffic in Rome during that month, and there is better availability with the hotels."
Rome's mayor, Gianni Alemanno, says that the event has no intention of replacing Monza on the F1 calendar, but would hope to be a second race in Italy.
"We think the Rome GP is very important and we are in favor of it," he told Repubblica. "It's not an alternative to Monza, it's supplementary."
But representatives of Monza are critical of the Rome project and of Flammini. "This is the latest act of arrogance from a parasite capital city that has lived for the last 2000 years with the oxygen stolen from the other towns," Monza mayor Marco Mariani told Gazzetta.
Monza provincial president Dario Allevi added: "This wouldn't be the first time Flammini lies for propagandistic reasons."
But Flammini responded to the criticism, telling Gazzetta: "I don't need this propaganda. My 30 years of work are demonstration of my reliability.
"We are one of the four major motor-racing groups in the world and we built the Superbike championship out of nothing. We have a fine relationship with the Monza circuit, where Superbike has raced for 20 years."