Motor Racing

Singapore wants to drop F1 race, says Ecclestone

Singapore wants to drop F1 race, says Ecclestone
Marshals pushing Jenson Button, McLaren Honda, Formula 1 car during the Practice 1 for 2016 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit on 16 September 2016. The Singapore Grand Prix contract is due to expire next year in 2017. TODAY File Photo
F1 chief says Singapore is ditching the race as 'they have reached their goal'
Published: 8:58 PM, November 20, 2016
Updated: 9:32 AM, November 21, 2016

SINGAPORE — The future of Singapore Grand Prix has been cast into fresh doubts after Formula One head honcho Bernie Ecclestone claimed the Republic no longer wants to host a race here.

Speculation was rife during September’s Singapore Grand Prix on whether negotiations to extend the Singapore race when its five-year deal expires next year would be concluded successfully.

In an interview with German magazine Auto Motor Und Sport that was published on Sunday (Nov 20), Mr Ecclestone — who once christened the Singapore night race the “crown jewel” of Formula One — claimed Singapore is not going to extend its deal.

“Look at what we have done for Singapore,” the F1 chief executive was quoted as saying. “Yes, the Grand Prix has cost Singapore a lot of money, but we’ve also given them a lot of money.

“Singapore was suddenly more than just an airport to fly to or from somewhere. Now they believe they have reached their goal and they do not want a Grand Prix anymore.”

When contacted by TODAY, a Singapore GP spokesperson said they “don’t comment on ongoing commercial negotiations”.

Mr Ecclestone’s comments came on the back of a poor 2016 edition of the Singapore race. Organisers Singapore GP reported that overall ticket sales at the Marina Bay Street Circuit were 15 per cent lower than the average attendance since 2008.

While some may regard Mr Ecclestone’s latest comments as a pressure tactic to get Singapore to seal the deal, Deloitte Singapore analyst Mr James Walton disagreed.

"I think he's being provocative. It would seem that to be making these comments about Singapore he's got nothing to lose," observed Mr Walton, the Clients and Markets Partner and head of the Sports Business service line at Deloitte Singapore and Southeast Asia.

"He must be fairly certain about the direction things are heading...that's a real stunner. Having read his quotes, this is no negotiation tactic. To turn around and say Singapore is ungrateful, that's no kind of tactic, that's a jilted person. To me this negotiation tactic is burning bridges."

Mr Walton added that the current world and economical climate means Singapore is right to adopt a wait-and-see approach.

“With Brexit, Donald Trump and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, everyone is waiting to see what happens,” he said. “If you sign up for the contract, the fees increase with the duration and there is a built-in inflation element. 

“That means sitting in 2016 gambling on the fact that there will not be a severe recession in the next few years with people questioning why we are spending money on a luxury. It’s a tricky one for the Singapore Government in this economic climate.”

In the interview with Auto Motor Und Sport, Mr Ecclestone also said that some of the current manufacturers – including world champions Mercedes – may quit in the near future.

“It could happen to us that Mercedes and Ferrari run away,” he said. “But honestly, if the races get better, this may not be such a terrible vision.

“We have to expect the manufacturers to leave us anyway. Mercedes will retire on the day when it suits them and it’s something we had before – look at Honda, BMW and Toyota. They go when Formula 1 has done the job for them. There is no gratitude.

"It is the same with the organisers." ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LOW LIN FHOONG