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Nurburgring still wants German GP

NEWS STORY
19/11/2012

Next year's German Grand Prix may still be held at the Nurburgring, if the circuit's current operator has its way.

Doubt was cast over the venue's future as a result of a dispute between its operator, NAG, and its owner, Nurburgring GmbH, over lease fees. The quarrel seemed to spell the end for the historic Rhineland circuit as a Formula One venue, however it is understood the operators are now in discussions with Bernie Ecclestone about the 2013 event.

"If the issue over whether there will be a Formula One race at Nurburgring in 2013 is sorted out by year-end, that would still be early enough," managing director of Nurburgring GmbH Thomas Schmidt told Reuters.

Complicating matters is the fact the circuit is expected to be auctioned early next year with NAG interested in bidding for the venue. However as its operator NAG could be considered to have an unfair advantage in the sale process should it purchase the Nurburgring while leasing it from its current owners.

"We have to sell the 'Ring in a pan-European, transparent and discrimination free auction," Schmidt explained. "Otherwise the buyer could face EU demands for repayment of subsidies."

Current owners, Nurburgring GmbH, is majority owned by the Rhineland-Palatinate state which has attempted to settle the venue's future with the help of bridging finance. In August EU regulators increased its investigation in to the state-funded support the circuit has received.

To circumvent any potential conflicts of interest Schmidt is hopeful NAG will end its lease by year end, freeing it to make an offer for the German circuit without attracting the attention of EU competition watchdogs.

It's a cat and mouse tale, with Nurburgring GmbH wanting more money from NAG while at the same time wanting the operator to end its lease so that it can buy the circuit from it. Further muddying the waters is the fact that, without NAG's wealth, the German Grand Prix cannot return to the venue.

"We have agreed with NAG to plan for 2013 regardless of our dispute," admitted Schmidt. "Next year is shaping up to be a good year for the Nurburgring."

This follows claims last week that the future of F1 at the Nurburgring, including next year's Grand Prix, was in serious jeopardy, as not only had talks between the existing management at the Nurburgring and the managers of the insolvency broken down, so too had talks with Bernie Ecclestone.

Hockenheim, which is currently scheduled to host next year's German Grand Prix, at least according to the calendar issued by the World Motor Sport Council in late September, is also in doubt as it appears that despite being on the calendar, the organisers have not held formal talks with Bernie Ecclestone about staging the event.

"It is the case that we are, of course, in constant contact but it has never led to negotiations on a Formula One event in Hockenheim in 2013," Hockenheim mayor Dieter Gummer told the Deutsche Presse Agentur.

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