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Formula One fans want race ban lifted

The Bern Grand Prix - an undated photograph Keystone

Motor-racing fans are calling on parliament to lift a 50-year-old ban on Formula One grand prix in Switzerland.

But the chances of Michael Schumacher gracing a Swiss racetrack in the near future appear slim, even if parliamentarians give the green light.

Formula One races were held in Switzerland until the 1950s when they were banned following a serious accident at Le Mans in France in which more than 80 people died.

Strong opposition to the sport saw the ban incorporated in traffic legislation in 1958. But campaigners believe this should now be scrapped.

“Today, things have changed. Safety is guaranteed, and there haven’t been any fatal accidents for ten years,” said Adriano Cimarosti, editor of the weekly “Automobil Revue” for 40 years.

On Wednesday the House of Representatives is set to consider a motion put forward by Ulrich Giezendanner, a rightwing Swiss People’s Party parliamentarian.

He wants legal clauses prohibiting Formula One racing in Switzerland removed from the statute books.

Economic benefits

Giezendanner says the return of Formula One would bring many economic benefits: construction of a grand prix circuit would create initial investment worth several hundred million Swiss francs; it would provide jobs for at least 300 people; and television coverage would generate publicity for the whole country.

However, the big question is where a new racetrack would be built. A disused military airfield near the resort of Interlaken has been suggested, but the local authorities have already scotched the idea.

They are concerned about noise and pollution from a circuit that would need to be used on at least 100 days a year, including weekends, to be profitable.

“There is a place for everything: putting on Formula One in Interlaken would be like staging the America’s Cup on Lake Brienz,” said Andreas Gross, a centre-left Social Democrat parliamentarian.

Long-term dream

Cimarosti agrees that the construction of a grand prix circuit which meets all the requirements of Formula One is still a long way off.

“Europe, where there are restrictions imposed on advertising, especially on tobacco, does not offer ideal conditions. Emerging markets such as Brazil or China are more interesting for the organisers”.

Moreover, he believes there is already a glut of suitable racetracks around the world.

“Racing teams can’t take part in many more events; they already spend many months on the road, and the limits have more or less been reached already”.

swissinfo, Daniele Papacella

Motor racing has been prohibited in Switzerland since the 1950s.

However, the law does make exceptions in cases where safety is guaranteed.

Parliamentarian Ulrich Giezendanner is now calling for international motor racing to be allowed to return Switzerland.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR