Stories about Imola signing a deal Bernie Ecclestone to run the Italian Grand Prix from 2017 can be believed… and have been circulating for several months.
But there is a catch…
The Imola race promoter does not have the money to do it, unless the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI) agrees to provide funding – and the ACI says that the race must stay at the Autodromo Nazionale at Monza. It is not really surprising given that Monza has hosted the Italian Grand Prix on all but a handful of occasions since 1921. Imola has held the race just once, in 1980, when Monza was undergoing upgrading work. There was a separate deal for a San Marino GP at Imola, but that disappeared long ago because there was no money available.
So, in reality, the fact that Imola has a provisional contract with FOM is fairly irrelevant. Having said that Imola does have some financial support from a regional development consortium called Con.Ami which has said that it would help fund the race if the ACI provides it with the same funding that it is planning to spend at Monza. The ACI is able to do this because it it looks after car registrations for the government, and earns a fee from every car sale in Italy. Bernie Ecclestone, the boss of FOM, wants €22 million a year for race fees. The ACI is willing to pay more than half of that money to secure the race for Monza, with the Automobile Club de Milano paying about half that sum and the remainder coming from ticket sales. There is additional funding from the Lombardia region, but this is for upgrading work at Monza. The first tranche of this money has been paid, according to the regional president Roberto Maroni. He is blaming the problems on the Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, of the Democratic Party. Lombardi is ruled by the Lega Nord party, which advocates the transformation of Italy into a federal state, with fiscal federalism and greater regional autonomy. The Lega Nord argues that this is an attempt to damage the economy of the region.
The ACI is a federation of automobile clubs and is independent of the government, although it must work through the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) when it comes to sporting matters. It is in a position where it can be influenced by politicians in Rome, because of its car registration role.
Angelo Damiani Sticchi, the ACI President, says that he has a mandate from the Italian government and from CONI to save the Grand Prix and says that he will do what is required. He believes that Monza is the only realistic choice and that a new deal with Monza is required under the terms of the Stability Law that was agreed at the end of last year to allow the ACI to provide the funding required.
Sticchi Damiani says that Imola has never been considered as a viable alternative and requires money to get up to F1 standards. He also says that the track could do nothing without the ACI money, but adds that he cannot give the money to Imola because he is legally bound to fund Monza. He says that he expects the deal with Ecclestone to be completed soon and a probably announcement at this year’s Grand Prix in September.