Motor racing-Spanish races to alternate, France looking doubtful

BARCELONA Sat May 12, 2012 2:02pm BST

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BARCELONA May 12 (Reuters) - Spain's two Formula One races in Barcelona and Valencia will alternate from next year while a return to France is looking less likely, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone said on Saturday.

"The (Spanish) race will be here in 2013 and 2014 in Valencia," the Briton told Reuters at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya ahead of Sunday's first European race of the year.

The 81-year-old also expected Canada's Montreal race to agree a 10-year contract renewal from 2014 despite demands that the circuit be upgraded.

The world economic crisis has hit Spain hard, where local administrations are under pressure to make deep budget cuts as part of a central government austerity drive.

The eastern city of Valencia, on the brink of being bailed out by the central government due to debt problems, currently hosts the European Grand Prix in June while Barcelona has the Spanish Grand Prix.

Spain, home of Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, is the only country with two races a year. Germany's two, at Hockenheim and Nurburgring, already alternate.

A New Jersey race scheduled for 2013 will give the United States two rounds after the debut of a new circuit in Austin, Texas, this year.

France, which lasted hosted a race in 2008, is hoping for its race to be reinstated on the calendar next year at the southern Le Castellet circuit.

Although financial terms have been agreed, the change of French president with Socialist Francois Hollande beating conservative Nicolas Sarkozy in this month's election, has cast doubt on any deal going ahead.

The previous French Grand Prix circuit at Magny-Cours was in an area of rural France where jobs are scarce, leading to speculation that would again become the favoured venue for economic reasons.

Ecclestone's family trust owns Le Castellet and the 81-year-old has been firmly opposed to any return to Magny-Cours, a track with little appeal for sponsors and VIPs.

Ecclestone told Reuters nothing had been signed and another senior Formula One source said the chances of a deal appeared to have receded.

"I have no idea. No idea what they are doing. It's a funny arrangement they were making anyway. So I just don't know," Ecclestone said when asked whether the French political shift made any difference.

Ecclestone also said he had asked the Canadian Grand Prix organisers to upgrade the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve as a condition for any contract extension.

"They are going to try and rebuild," he said. "It needs a bit of an upgrade I think. They know what we want to do."

He said the talks were for a 10-year renewal of a contract that expires in 2014 and was confident that would happen despite previous hiccups that saw the hugely popular race taken off the calendar in 2009.

"It will happen. We love Montreal," he said. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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