MONZA, Italy (AP) – Italian Premier Matteo Renzi has a message for Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone: "Leave Monza alone."
"That’s what we’re going to tell Ecclestone. Formula One doesn’t rely solely on money. It’s also about the (history)," Renzi told Italian radio after Ecclestone’s latest warning on the Italian Grand Prix’s future.
No circuit has hosted more Formula One racing than Monza, which was on the inaugural 1950 calendar and has been a mainstay ever since, only dropping off in 1980 when Imola hosted the Italian GP. The track outside of Milan will be hosting its 65th GP this weekend.
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But Monza organizers have had trouble producing the estimated 25 million euros ($28 million) per year that Ecclestone seeks to keep the race in place.
"We are happy to be at Monza, obviously, but we are not doing cut-price things," Ecclestone said two weeks ago at the Belgian GP.
Ecclestone added that there is a "good chance" Monza will be dropped when its deal expires after next year’s race.
Monza organizers are prepared to pay 15 million euros ($17 million) per year to keep the race through 2020 – far off the 25 million euros ($28 million) that organizers in Austria and Belgium pay for their races, according to the Gazzetta dello Sport.
The 40-year-old Renzi can deliver his message in person to the 84-year-old Ecclestone when he presents the winner’s trophy after Sunday’s race.
If Monza doesn’t produce the cash, the Enzo and Dino Ferrari circuit in Imola that hosted the San Marino GP from 1981 to 2006 could step in as a replacement. Or perhaps the two tracks would alternate hosting the race from year to year.
"The premier’s attention is a big sign toward maintaining the grand prix in Italy," Imola Mayor Daniele Manca said. "Imola is ready to lend a hand."
F1 great Jackie Stewart said he would be "very sad" if Monza was dropped.
"It would be very negative for Formula One and motorsport in general if Monza could not put a deal together, with a possible compromise on one side or the other," Stewart told Autosport. "No matter where you are in the world, if you say the word Monza, it comes to everyone’s mind what it is – it’s the home of the Italian Grand Prix.
"The charisma of Monza and the passion of the crowd is in excess of any other grand prix in the world," Stewart added on the 50th anniversary of his first career win at Monza.
Monza’s problems come after the German GP was dropped for this season – although it is due back next year – and with the French GP off the calendar since 2008. New races in Asia and the Middle East, meanwhile, continue to attract Ecclestone’s attention.
"It’s not good," Stewart said. "The French started motorsport … Germany has Mercedez-Benz, Porsche and so forth. They both have a great history … You learn a lot from history. It is tradition we need."