Driving Today

U.S. Grand Prix in Trouble … Again

The effort to create a viable Formula 1 race in the U.S. seems star-crossed.

Don’t say we didn’t tell you this was coming. Media reports now indicate that the organizers of the proposed 2012 U.S. Grand Prix, which was destined for a racing facility on the outskirts of Austin, Texas, have just one week to come to an agreement with Formula 1 honcho Bernie Ecclestone, or they can go whistle Dixie. The publicity machine behind the new Circuit of the Americas has been thumping the tub for the F1 race for months now, but the intractable Ecclestone, who doesn’t feel like he has to mince words, has been very direct on the subject.

“It’s all very simple; they don’t have the money,” said Ecclestone to the Associated Press. “We don’t have a contract. If they want to come back to us, if it’s not signed before the end of next week, I suppose it won’t be on the calendar next year.”

That’s about as clear as it can be, and to his credit, Ecclestone is anything if not predictable. If you don’t have the money to get his blessing for a Formula 1 race, you might as well not waste your time talking to him about it. He wants significant guarantees, he wants to see the color of your money and he doesn’t suffer fools easily. The World Motor Sport Council, which happens to be heavily influenced by Ecclestone, will have its next meeting on December 7, so if the Circuit of the Americas has any real hope of staging an F1 race next year, it better get its ducks (and dollars) in a row pretty darn quickly.

From our vantage point, the chances are slim. The Circuit of the Americas’ bid for a Grand Prix is even messier than most F1 deals. Former race driver and current promoter Tavo Hellmund was the guy who originally had what at least appeared to be a deal to stage a U.S. Grand Prix in Austin, which happens to be his hometown. But friction between him and the big-money guys -- like billionaire Red McCombs -- quickly put the whole thing in jeopardy, and the FIA decided to scrap the pact with Hellmund, trolling for higher stakes. The organization might get a bigger payday, but the race is very unlikely to take place in 2012. There’s a higher probability it will make the 2013 schedule, but we wouldn’t bet the farm on that, either.



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