March 27, 2015

SEPANG, Malaysia (AP) The German Grand Prix could remain off the sport's calendar after this year's cancellation, and the iconic Italian GP may be next to go, Formula One commercial head Bernie Ecclestone said Friday.

Speaking after a meeting with team leaders ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix, Ecclestone said he could not confirm the return of the race in Germany in 2016.

The German race alternates between the Nurburgring and Hockenheim. But the Nurburgring found the event was no longer commercially viable and Hockenheim could not step in at short notice.

Hockenheim has a contract for next year.

''That doesn't make a difference,'' Ecclestone said. ''A lot of people have a contract.

''The trouble in Germany was the Nurburgring spent an awful lot of money which they borrowed, didn't need to spend what they spent, and therefore didn't need to borrow the amount they borrowed,'' Ecclestone said. ''They forgot to pay it back, and that caused a few ripples. It sent a bad message.''

The number of races in Europe continues to decline as the venues struggle to cover the costs of the high hosting fees in the absence of the kind of significant government support received by venues in Asia and the Middle East.

Ecclestone said the loss of all races from the sport's European heartland ''would be terrible,'' but later said ''whatever goes, goes'' when asked about the future of the Italian Grand Prix.

''It's funny how these people dig up all this money for things like the Olympics, swimming championships, European athletics, and God knows what else to boost the country,'' Ecclestone said.

Ecclestone said he also discussed with team leaders some ideas on how to improve F1, which has suffered from declining television audiences because of recent anti-climactic championships and high participation costs which squeeze smaller teams and bar new entrants.

The F1 head, whose past ideas have included medals instead of points and artificial rain, now advocated points for qualifying and scrambled race grids.

''I suggested that maybe we take 20 points for a race,'' Ecclestone said. ''Ten points for qualifying and 10 for the race. Ten points for pole. The one that's on pole starts maybe 12th on the grid, so you're going to get a whole bunch of decent guys starting in the middle of the field.

''They (the teams) need to think about these things. It's difficult for them. We've only been talking about it for five meetings.''

Ecclestone also said there is a need for the drivers to do more to promote themselves and the sport. He praised current champion Lewis Hamilton, but said past champions Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher could have done more.

''He is the best world champion we've had,'' Ecclestone said. ''Apart from the fact he's talented, he's a good guy, he gets out on the street and supports and promotes Formula One.''

Ecclestone said he discussed Hamilton's promotional prowess with Vettel: ''I told Sebastian, you should be doing what he's doing.''

He said efforts to do a promotional video with Schumacher also ran into difficulties.

''We tried to do something with `Schuey,' doing a recording and he would answer questions,'' Ecclestone said. ''When you do and you have someone there asking the questions and they say, `Yep, maybe,' then they answer, `Could be,' and then, `Don't know,' there's no point. In fact, it's negative and worse than saying nothing.''

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