F1 chief: Austin race 'an uphill struggle'

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- The head of Formula One expressed doubts on Saturday over whether the 2012 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, will go ahead as scheduled.

F1 is due to return to the U.S. after a five-year absence. Indianapolis last hosted a race in 2007. Before that, Phoenix hosted three GPs from 1989 to 1991, and Watkins Glen in upstate New York hosted from 1961 to 1980.

Asked about the November race's prospects, F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone said: "I don't know. We're trying. It's a bit of an uphill struggle there at the moment.

"There are two parties, one is building a track, the other has the contract and they've forgotten to talk to each other."

Red McCombs, former owner of the San Antonio Spurs and Minnesota Vikings, and one of the chief financial backers of the race in Austin, said last month the U.S. should be able to support two races after the five-year drought.

Ecclestone said there were "no problems" with the grand prix scheduled in New Jersey in 2013.

Among other calendar issues, he said next year's Bahrain GP will definitely go ahead despite ongoing trouble in the country, and he would like to see the Turkish GP return to the schedule.

The World Motor Sport Council endorsed a calendar that schedules the Bahrain race for April. But there remain concerns among some teams about safety after it was canceled this year due to anti-government protests.

Flanked by Bahrain's crown prince, Ecclestone said he "looked forward to being back" in the Gulf state.

"Everybody is content. No dramas," he said. "We wouldn't have put it in the calendar otherwise. It was only because we knew we would be there."

A government crackdown ended mass protests months ago but Sunni-ruled Bahrain's security forces still clash almost daily with Shiite protesters demanding greater rights. More than 30 people have been reported killed in eight months of protests.

Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa said he was "very" confident the race would be held as scheduled, saying it has widespread support in the Gulf country and is symbolic of what Bahrain is all about.

"It is seen as a prime symbol of moderation in the country; anyone with a moderate agenda, global agenda knows that race is what ties Bahrain to the world," the crown prince said. "Extremists on either side might disagree. But the majority of people, especially those that love their country and want to be part of the world, support it."

The crown prince said he was hopeful a report due out Nov. 23 by an international commission investigating the protests and subsequent crackdown will ease the concerns of F1 teams.

The Turkish GP was dropped from next year's list amid complaints from local organizers over the cost of staging the race.

Turkey joined the F1 calendar in 2005 but the race attracted poor attendance due to high ticket prices and the difficulty of access to the venue on Istanbul's Asian side.

Istanbul's six-year contract expires this year. Many drivers have said they want to go back as they enjoy the testing circuit, with its mammoth Turn Eight, the longest of the season at roughly 700 yards.

"I didn't want to lose it. We are trying with the government to see if we can't resurrect it," Ecclestone said, adding that it was unlikely to be held next year. "I doubt it, but you never know. We'll do our best."