Dec 26, 2011
Formula 1’s Bernie Ecclestone has a strange way of treating the promoters that pay so dearly to stage a Formula 1 race. At best, he offers them bemused indifference; at worst, outright skepticism. The latter seems to reflect his attitude toward the two upcoming U.S. grand prizes that are now being contemplated for 2012 and 2013, respectively.
Somehow, the beleaguered proposed F1 race slated for Austin, Texas, next year has made it onto the 2012 schedule. The race will take place at a greenfield track where construction has moved forward in fits and starts for a year or so. Reportedly plagued with money troubles, the event nevertheless found approval from Ecclestone after a last-minute influx of cash won the F1 honcho’s favor. A second U.S. F1 race, which is proposed for the 2013 season, also seems likely of approval, but, of course, no 2013 schedule has been announced.
At nearly the same time that Ecclestone approved the U.S. race in Austin, he also started firing shots across its bow. “Formula 1 will not be big in America. But Formula 1 will be in Russia for 2014, and in South Africa by 2013 even,” Ecclestone said in an interview with veteran journalist David Frost.
Ecclestone’s major complaint with American promoters is that they want to make money from the events they stage. The F1 major domo generally likes the promoters associated with F1 to take most of the risks but not reap much in the way of returns. He also seems to favor deals that involve governments like Bahrain that are trying to improve their images by paying huge sums to host a Formula 1 race.
That is not the case in the United States, where private money has to fund most of the cost and where staging a race is more a business proposition than a public relations ploy. The U.S. has also had a chequered history of staging Formula 1 races, as we have chronicled here before. Given Ecclestone’s lack of confidence that F1 can ever be a force in America, it will be interesting to see how the Austin and New Jersey races will unfold.
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