Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone on Thursday, asserted that the troubled Indian Grand Prix has run out of time for a 2015 return and its organisers must settle the contractual obligations for a possible comeback in 2016.
Ecclestone was hoping the race organisers, Jaypee Group, will sort out the five-year contract in time for a return next year but that has not happened yet, leaving the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) owners too little time to get the event back on track.
Usually, the FIA World Motor Sport Council ratifies the next season's calendar in September and the final one in December.
"It is too late for 2015. We (Formula One Management and Jaypee) are looking at 2016 now and hopefully the tax issues in India will also be sorted out by then. The organisers also need to settle the existing contract before we get back. I am expecting to see them next week," Ecclestone told PTI from his London office.
After the event was dropped for 2014, the 83-year-old had revealed that the race promoters had not complied with the contract, mainly the financial side of it.
The tax and bureaucratic set-up in India has anyway made the teams and FOM uncomfortable, putting the high-profile event in further jeopardy. As it is, accommodating India on the ever-crowded calendar will not be easy.
Mexico's return next year after a 23-year absence takes the calendar up to 20 races and Azerbaijan has also confirmed a deal to make its F1 debut in 2016. Russia makes its debut in October this year.
Ecclestone, however, reiterated his wish for a successful Indian Grand Prix.
"As I have said in the past, we and the teams want to go back to India, irrespective of how busy the calendar is. I hope the environment for our return gets better. Until then, my message to all the F1 fans is that keep watching the sport on television," said the British magnate, who recently paid USD 100 million to end his bribery trial in Germany.
No Jaypee official was available for a comment. Jaypee Sports International CEO Sameer Gaur had bet his life on the race's return in 2015.
Sebastian Vettel completed a hat-trick of wins at BIC last year besides securing his fourth world title. The race saw dwindling spectator interest after making an impressive debut in 2011, when a whopping 95,000 flocked to the stands. The promoters claimed sixty thousand were present on Sunday last year, five thousand less than 2012.