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Ecclestone tips Hill junior for F1 drive

NEWS STORY
05/03/2013

It is always tough to predict who will be the next driver to make his or her way through the junior ranks of motorsport into Formula One. The outlook is particularly muddied at the moment due to an influx of drivers who are paying to race. However, one person who can usually see through the quagmire surrounding the sport is its oracle in chief Bernie Ecclestone. Pitpass' business editor Christian Sylt recently asked him which young driver he hopes will break into F1 and his answer is a name which will be familiar to our readers.

Writing in the City A.M. newspaper Sylt revealed that Ecclestone hopes former champion Damon Hill's son Josh will follow in his father's footsteps and become the first ever third generation F1 driver.

Damon's father Graham is the only driver to win the triple crown of motorsport - the 24 Hours of Le Mans, the Indianapolis 500 and the F1 championship which he took twice in 1962 and 1968. Damon followed suit in 1996 when he became the first son of a champion to win the title.

Josh will this year compete in the Formula 3 European championship, a junior series two steps below F1. The winner gets a test drive with Ferrari's F1 team so victory would put him one step closer to repeating history.

"I wish Damon's son would get into F1. It would be super. It would be fantastic," says Ecclestone. Josh has been racing since 2008 and took his maiden win in 2011 in the British Formula Renault championship. Last year he graduated to the Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup and finished third in the standings.

In contrast, some say that the increasing numbers of pay-drivers joining F1 have diluted the quality of the drivers. "Last year we had a year where it was a bit difficult to sort out the wheat from the chaff so maybe this year we will see a bit more of the guys you thought were going to be good," says Ecclestone.

A third generation driver in F1 is not the only thing on Ecclestone's wish list. "I want to get New York on the calendar if we can," he says. A 3.2-mile street race in New Jersey was due to take place from this year and would have had Manhattan's historic skyline in the background. However it failed to get off the grid due to funding difficulties and it has left a hole in F1's calendar.

A slot for a twentieth race is still listed as being 'To Be Announced' on F1's official website but Ecclestone confirms that "there are going to be 19 races this year." Next year there is due to be a Grand Prix at Russia's £32bn Olympic park in Sochi and Ecclestone is also in negotiation about hosting races in Mexico and Thailand.

It looks set to push the calendar beyond the 20-race limit set out in his commercial agreements with the teams. Increasing it beyond this limit requires the consent from the majority of the top three teams based primarily on races won in the four seasons prior to 2012.

Ecclestone believes that it would be possible to add two more races to the calendar. "Having races in the right place is what matters. The teams could probably deal with 22 races."

He adds that South Africa, which last hosted an F1 race in 1993, would be his dream addition to the calendar. "If I had the choice I would like to go back to South Africa. I want to be in Cape Town. I have been offered Durban but I think we would be better off in Cape Town." Time will tell whether it ever comes off.

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