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Pain in Spain over Camps' reign

NEWS STORY
12/05/2007

The announcement that Valencia is to host a round of the Formula One World Championship from next year has been tarnished by a political row which has broken out following claims that the deal was conditional on regional president Francisco Camps retaining his position in elections later this month.

Thursday's announcement that Valencia had signed a seven-year deal to host a Grand Prix was followed by reports that the deal was conditional on Camps retaining his seat, leading to a backlash in the Spanish media, which claimed such a deal to be "insulting to the people of Spain", indeed, in a poll run by El Pais, 76 percent of readers voted that such a deal was a "scandal".

"The motor racing patron has the right to decide where to run races," said El Pais in its headline article, "but not to campaign in such an obvious way for a particular party just before elections he is not allowed to vote in."

Ecclestone, who clearly didn't expect the Spanish inquisition, subsequently denied linking the deal to the election result, telling Catalonia television: "I said I wouldn't formalise a contract until after the elections because I didn't know who I would be signing it with."

Interestingly, less than an hour after the original announcement on Thursday, at least one 'local' website referred to the conditional nature of the deal, claiming that Ecclestone had dropped a "bombshell".

BYM Sailing and Sports News, quoted the F1 supremo as saying: "I didn't have the nerve to tell the President this morning, but the contract will only be signed after the election. I know this will come as a surprise but I am the sort of person who works with people, not institutions."

Other than the media, Spanish politicians are incensed at what they see as meddling in their country's affairs, indeed some have gone as far as to suggest that such a condition in tantamount to blackmail.

"These are lamentable, unfortunate and worrying statements," Deputy Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega told a press conference on Friday. "In the first place because it shows a clear lack of democratic culture, and secondly because it's an insult, a lack of respect to everyone, to the people of Valencia and all Spaniards."

Meanwhile, it is understood that there is absolutely no substance to claims that Ecclestone's deal with Mr Ong Beng Seng, the entrepreneur responsible for taking F1 to Singapore, is conditional on the Island City-State switching to GMT. It had been claimed that should the proposed night race prove problematic due to safety, or indeed any other, issues, switching from SGT to GMT would solve the problem.

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