Tskhinvali, Friday: Bernie Ecclestone’s plan to introduce Formula One to the Caucasus in 2011 have hit a major stumbling block today, with the FIA threatening that they will not sanction the inaugural South Ossetian Grand Prix, should the event go ahead.
The FIA has long maintained a position of what it calls “political neutrality,” meaning that it holds no official position on international political disputes, which includes refusing to recognise the sovereignty of disputed territories such as Northern Cyprus and South Ossetia. Neutrally, of course.
“South Ossetia is a tiny, impoverished fragment of Georgia that does not hold a status as an internationally recognised nation, and therefore the FIA has no choice but to refuse to sanction any motorsport events that go on under the flag of the territory,” an FIA spokesman said. “Given the unstable political and economic situation of the region, we consider Mr. Ecclestone’s plans to construct a street circuit around the centre of Tskhinvali to be both misguided and perverse.”
How Ecclestone could extract a lucrative Grand Prix from a country with a per capita GDP of $250 has yet to be made clear, but a representative of the organisation responsible for the South Ossetian Grand Prix was on hand to tell us that “South Ossetia is both proud and prepared to take on the challenge of hosting a Grand Prix. At present we are working on dialling out problems with the safety of the proposed circuit, access to major transport networks and the fact that the Georgians keep shutting off our electricity. However, we are confident that we can construct a temporary street circuit with facilities equal to those of Interlagos, or, failing that, Silverstone.”
Ecclestone has reportedly flown to the semi-autonomous region to discuss plans further, but most commentators are sceptical of the plans going ahead.