February 26, 2009 / 5:00 PM / 11 years ago

Motor racing-Return to America still some way off, says Williams

GROVE, England, Feb 26 (Reuters) - A U.S. Grand Prix is still some way off returning to the Formula One calendar despite teams putting pressure on commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone, Williams founder Frank Williams said on Thursday.

“It is a disappointment to all the teams that there is no presence in North America,” the Briton, whose team’s title sponsor is American telecoms giant AT&T, told reporters at a pre-season media day.

“We pressured Bernie to resolve that but I think his problem as a promoter is that he sees no race track that is good enough, in his standards — that is to say, one that is ready to race on — and he’s probably right.

“There are some good layouts in America, really demanding circuits but the safety features don’t compare at all to what is required by the (governing) FIA or the GPDA (drivers’ association),” added Williams.

“My private opinion is that we are a little bit of a way off yet but Bernie is brilliant at surprises.”

KEY MARKET

The Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal has been dropped from this year’s calendar and the U.S. round at Indianapolis made its last appearance in 2007.

Despite slumping sales in the global credit crunch, the United States is a key market for car manufacturers that dominate the sport, such as Mercedes and BMW, as well as for many of the sponsors.

The question of returning to America has been back in the spotlight this week after plans were revealed for a U.S.-based team to enter the championship in 2010.

Nine circuits have hosted grands prix in the United States over the years, including makeshift ones such as that laid out in 1981 and 1982 in the car park of Caesar’s Palace hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

Ecclestone still has several would-be hosts pressing for inclusion on the calendar, with South Korea scheduled for 2010 and India in 2011 after Abu Dhabi makes its debut as the season-ender this year.

“We’re a little bit full I think for the next few years,” said Williams. “Something in Europe may have to go and we sincerely hope it’s not (Britain).”

Editing by Antonella Ciancio

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