Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
In a statement issued today, the Circuit of the Americas announced they will suspend the construction of the circuit until a ‘contract assuring the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be held at Circuit of The Americas in 2012 is complete’. Apparently the circuit has not yet finalized a contract with Formula One ‘per a previously agreed upon timetable'.
The construction of the circuit has already started and over 300 workers are present at the site on a daily base, but as Formula One has failed to deliver a race contract, all the work has been suspended, and will only continue when such a contract between the Circuit of the Americas and Formula One has been signed.
Bobby Epstein, founding partner of Circuit of the Americas, “We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula One and MotoGP Championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern.”
And he further commented, “We believe the United States is vital for the future of Formula One and its teams and sponsors. Given the purpose-built Tilke design, creating a unique fan experience and iconic challenge for drivers, we hope that Texas will not be left behind. More than 100,000 fans have expressed an interest in purchasing tickets for Formula One alone.”
Red McCombs, founding partner of Circuit of the Americas stated, “It is in the best interest of all parties to reach a timely resolution, local businesses, fans and the State of Texas are counting on us.”
McCombs referred to the agreement the circuit has with the State of Texas to annually contribute $25 million to pay the race fees, paid from the Major Events Trust Fund. But Texas State comptroller Susan Combs had earlier today revealed her concerns, “I am concerned with reports that have come out over the weekend regarding possible problems with the Texas race even taking place.” And she added, “If and when an application is received, we will do an extensive review of the application to ensure taxpayers are protected, and also to determine if this will have a positive economic impact for the taxpayers of Texas.”
The failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern
Last week FOM (Formula One Management) CEO Bernie Ecclestone said he had his doubts whether the race would actually take place in 2012. “Austin? I wouldn't want to put my money down that that will happen,” he said ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “I hope it will and we are doing our best to make it happen, but I wouldn't want to say yes. For New York [scheduled for 2013] no problem at all," added Ecclestone.
His words certainly had an effect and Circuit of the Americas president Steve Sexton replied the 81-year old Formula One boss and told the local Austin American Statesman, “Our funding is secured, and construction is on schedule, so we don't understand Mr Ecclestone's comments. He has expressed great interest in the Austin race and in expanding the Formula One brand into the United States.”
Promotor of the race Tavo Hellmund also gave his reaction last Sunday, “It is now the responsibility of the Circuit of the Americas to make this project happen before Mr Ecclestone's patience runs out.” He also denied he has plans to run the circuit himself, he is just the promoter of the race and he told the National newspaper, “I don't plan to be a track operator. My mission has always been to put the whole deal together and get it going and then continue to broaden my horizons.”
Ecclestone confirmed this, “There are two parties. One is building a track, the other has the contract, and they’ve forgotten to talk to each other.”
The Austin Grand Prix is scheduled for November 18, 2012 and with construction now being suspended, it could end up in a race against the clock. The construction of the circuit had already been delayed and the date for the inaugural US GP has been moved from June to November.