Berthold Bouman, F1 Correspondent
Although promoters of the race and the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) have yet to make any official comments, it appears the 2012 US Grand Prix has been saved as the FIA (Federation Internationale de L’Automobile) today confirmed in a press release “the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar was confirmed as previously published.”
The press release appeared on the FIA website after a meeting of the WMSC (World Motor Sport Council) earlier today, and refers to the Formula One calendar that had been published previously -- on which the US Grand Prix at Austin is scheduled for November 18, 2012.
Almost a month ago the COTA announced the suspension of the construction of the circuit located south of Austin, according to a spokesman, as the circuit was still waiting for a contract with Formula One. The announcement at the time came after FOM CEO Bernie Ecclestone openly had voiced his concerns about the US Grand Prix. “Austin? I wouldn't want to put my money down that that will happen,” the 81-year old Formula One boss said at the time.
It also emerged race promoter Tavo Hellmund had an agreement with FOM and FIA, but had no plans to run the circuit himself. 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.”
Another two weeks later COTA announced they had made a counter offer, as they felt the current contract was not what they had expected. Asked why Ecclestone still hadn’t received a signed contract co-founder of the COTA Bobby Epstein replied: “He hasn't received it yet because the new contract presented to us two weeks ago contained unrealistic and unfeasible demands.” And he added, “We have signed and returned a contract similar to what we anticipated receiving.”
But Ecclestone refused to sign the counter offer and instead gave the COTA a deadline of one week, which he again extended with another week until today’s meeting of the WMSC in New Delhi, India. In today’s publication the unchanged 2012 calendar was confirmed, which also means in the first time in the history of the sport a record of 20 races will be held, while the Grands Prix of Bahrain (April 22) and Korea (October 14) are also no longer in doubt.
Formula One and Circuit of the Americas ready to roll !
After Motorsport.com published the initial story, COTA has now issued an official statement in which they confirm the race is on for 2012, "Mr. Ecclestone received his check today. We want to thank the fans supporting us, the local officials and businesses that have encouraged us, the State of Texas, Circuit of The Americas staff and Bernie himself. I want to thank and commend Bobby Epstein for getting us across the finish line. Bobby's perseverance and leadership kept the project on track despite unfair and unfounded criticism," said Red McCombs, founding partner of the COTA.
Steve Sexton, president of the COTA stated, "We have a substantial number of fans who have expressed interest in buying tickets and hospitality, so today is a win for all of them as much as it is for Circuit of The Americas."