Ivan Capelli, president of Milan’s automobile club, says his negotiations with Bernie Ecclestone over the future of Monza on the Formula One calendar have no deadline.
Capelli is charged with extending Monza’s contract to host the Italian Grand Prix beyond the end of its current deal, which expires after next year’s race.
Ecclestone has been lukewarm about the race’s future, declaring at the Belgian Grand Prix two weeks ago that he thought it unlikely a deal could be done.
“I don’t know about Monza at the moment,” said the F1 supremo. “I hope we don’t lose it but I think there is a good chance we will.”
Speculation has suggested a deal needed to be reached before the conclusion of the 2014 race, as was the case with the extension of the Malaysian Grand Prix, but in an exclusive interview with this writer for ABC Grandstand’s Box of Neutrals, Capelli said that there was no deadline for a deal.
“We had a meeting with Bernie during this weekend. We improved the discussion that we have,” he said. “The most important thing is that Bernie Ecclestone did not give us any date limit.
“He said to us ‘Don’t worry, don’t rush, the race will be in the calendar even if we have not physically signed a contract. Let’s work together to find a solution’.
“So this is again a positive mood from Bernie Ecclestone showing that he wants to keep Monza on the calendar.”
The disparity between the two sides is reportedly in the vicinity of €10 million (A$16 million) after meetings during the Italian Grand Prix weekend.
“We still have to work, we still have to reach his request,” continued Capelli. “But business is done by two parties — it is a compromise we have to find with Mr Ecclestone to have, for our side, something that is affordable.
“At the same time Bernie Ecclestone should understand that Monza is something that is important for the Formula One calendar.”
The Monza circuit is backed by the local government, meaning its ability to navigate negotiations with Formula One Management have been partly restricted by how much the local authority is willing to be involved.
With talks rapidly accelerating towards a crunch, Capelli said recognition from the Lombardy regional government of the race’s importance and a subsequent increase of investment in the circuit has eased his plight substantially.
“The most important thing is that finally the politicians understand how important Monza and the Italian Grand Prix is as an international event is for Italy,” he said.
“We had confirmation from the governor of the region that he would supply us €7 million each year for 10 years to restart completely the circuit and to improve the facilities for the supporters and fans for the Formula One race.”
With another bumper crowd — up by around 8 per cent on last year’s numbers — packing the Autodromo on Sunday to see Sebastian Vettel finish second for Ferrari, Capelli, himself an ex-Ferrari driver, admitted there was a lot of pressure on him do close the deal to save the race.
“There is a lot of pressure but, as usual, Italians are very good when we are in an emergency!
“We are not able to plan things before, but when we are in a crucial situation, we are very good.
“I am positive. I think we will reach an agreement.”