Just when American Formula 1 fans like me were getting exciting about welcoming the return of Formula 1 racing to the U.S., it looks like the first race, planned for 2012 in Austin, Texas, won't be happening. The United States Grand Prix was planned for Austin, TX on a new, under-construction track, the Circuit of the Americas.
There's an old saying about putting the cart before the horse, and it looks like the Austin race organizers did just that. While the construction of the track had already begun, and the race was already scheduled on the official FIA schedule for November 18, 2012, it seems they never had a formal contract with Formula 1 to have the race.
In a flash of political drama, construction was stopped this week when investors in the track itself confirmed they had yet to secure the official rights from Bernie Ecclestone's buddy, promoter Tavo Hellmund. The state also threw a monkey wrench into the plans when Texas Comptroller Susan Combs announced the $25 million in state financial incentives would not be paid until after the first race happened, as opposed to being available in advance as organizers had planned.
It could be turning into a fight, as Tavo Hellmund has commented that the circuit had been in breach of its contract with Ecclestone. It's getting rather confusing as Ecclestone commented about the situation that "There are two parties. One is building a track, the other has the contract, and they've forgotten to talk to each other." It seems like a big mess and if the organizers don't get their act together, I think another city will step forward.
The $300 million Circuit of the Americas project had employed 300 workers just for the construction of the track, just south of Austin, Texas. It now looks like the race will be pushed a year until 2013, leaving no U.S. based race in 2012 for us American fans. The move also puts the Austin race in the same season with the recently announced New Jersey Grand Prix, currently scheduled for June 2013.
As an American fan, I really want Formula 1 racing to return here and I think the Austin event is important. The event will bring attention to the sport and also allow U.S. fans to attend a race. I think the sport will appeal to NASCAR and other racing fans here who are not familiar with the exciting world of Formula 1 and having events here in the U.S. will broaden the fanbase, bring FIA more revenues. I hope the organizers in Texas get the race together and I hope Formula 1 supports their efforts to make it a reality.
A lifetime auto racing fan, Freddy Sherman collects vintage muscle cars and attends races and rally events in the U.S. and around the world. You can follow him on twitter -@thefredsherman
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