Texas: The US Grand Prix that never was?

United States Grand Prix Circuit of the Americas

Nov.18 (Reuters) Next year’s planned U.S. Grand Prix will be cancelled if organisers do not agree a contract and pay fees by the end of next week, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters on Thursday.

Bernie Ecclestone

Bernie Ecclestone making the calls

The 81-year-old Briton said his patience with organisers of the race in Austin, Texas, had run out and he was not prepared to wait beyond the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo on Nov. 27.

Circuit of the Americas president Steve Sexton indicated in a statement that hope was not dead and 2013 might be a possibility.

Asked whether he had set a deadline of Dec. 7, when the governing FIA’s World Motor Sports Council meets in New Delhi to ratify the final calendar, Ecclestone said he could not wait that long.

“It needs to be before that. We don’t need any deadlines, having to thrash around at the last minute to do something. It’s gone on long enough.

“They (the Texas circuit owners) have got next week anyway. We are going to be in Brazil so they can come back next week,” he added.

Asked whether the race, which was announced with great fanfare as the first to be held in the United States since 2007, would be off if no deal was done, Ecclestone replied: “Yeah, yeah.”

Circuit of the Americas signage in front of the construction work. Circuit of the Americas Announcement & Construction, Austin, Texas, Tuesday 12 April 2011.

Circuit of the Americas signage in front of the site

The Formula One boss denied he would be making more of an effort to keep Austin on the calendar if he had not done a deal for a grand prix in New Jersey, with a backdrop of New York’s Manhattan skyline, for 2013.

“There’s nothing to save. They can’t bloody well pay,” he said, his exasperation evident.

“What do you want me to do, wait until next year? To put all our cars on it, run around the circuit and everything and come back with no money? The teams want paying.”

Some team bosses suggested, when news of Austin’s difficulties first emerged, that it was all part of a familiar pattern of brinkmanship and that a deal would ultimately be reached.

Ecclestone, however, shot that idea down.

“It’s not brinkmanship, it never has been with me,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do a deal now with these people for 18 months or more…if they had the money, I’m sure there would be no problem.”

The Briton said Full Throttle Productions run by Tavo Hellmund, whose father worked with Ecclestone to put on the Mexican Grand Prix in the 1980s, no longer had the rights to host the race.

Tavo Hellmund (USA) Austin Grand Prix Promoter with the Construction team. Austin Grand Prix Circuit Construction, Austin, Texas, USA, January 2011.

Tavo Hellmund (middle) at the US GP track construction site

“He’s gone. He hasn’t got a contract any more. I don’t have any contract with anybody concerning the race in Austin,” he added.

The race at the Circuit of the Americas was scheduled for Nov. 18 next year on what would have been a record 20-race calendar that also includes the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix which had to be cancelled this season due to civil unrest.

Construction was halted at the Austin track on Tuesday, with Circuit officials saying workers had been told to down tools indefinitely because they were still waiting for a contract from Formula One.

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts separately ruled out the state paying any public funds in advance of the race being held.

Sexton indicated that all might not be lost, however.

“We have been excited for and working towards a 2012 USGP race and now understand that Mr. Ecclestone is interested in moving the Austin race to 2013,” he said.

“We know the U.S. market is important to the teams and their sponsors and 2013 certainly allows time for the Circuit of the Americas to be ready.”

The start of the race with only six cars.

The start of the 2009 United States GP at Indianapolis with only six cars

Ecclestone rejected the possibility of Turkey, dropped for next year, being reinstated and said there would be 19 races if Austin was axed.

He was non-committal when asked what the impact would be on Americans’ perception of his sport after the debacle of a six-car race at Indianapolis in 2005 and the failure of a proposed U.S. F1 team for 2010.

“I don’t know. We had nothing to do with the team that was going to be there and it didn’t happen,” said Ecclestone.

“Since we’ve been talking to the people in Austin we’ve done two or three deals with different countries. I don’t know what the problem is for America really.”

  • Tamburello_1994

    2009 was the The US Grand Prix that never was. I know, I was there.

    I thought Texas was a bit ambitious, But I don’t think those Indiana boys are ready for F1 to come back.

    Such a waste of a pretty good road course, Though.

  • Bec

    They were supposed to pay by July, but they didn’t, Bernie gave them an extension, they still didn’t pay, now they have another deadline.

    The US should have asked India how to build and finance a circuit, they certainly seem to have no idea themselves.

  • F1 Follower 1991

    the last race there was 2005 wasnt it? There was no 2009 US Grand Prix at Indianapolis like the caption signifies?

  • Anthony

    At least Turkey will be back on the calendar (most likely).

  • Tamburello_1994

    “The US should have asked India how to build and finance a circuit, they certainly seem to have no idea themselves.”

    I bet The United States has more “circuits” than any other country. How many does India have?

    Truth be told, F1 had their chance in the U.S. and they blew it big time. Being centrally located in Indiana offered many advantages that Texas just can’t.

    This Texas situation looks bad, But let try and keep prospective about it.

  • AJ05

    Yet another project from the US that has collapsed (indefinitely,to be fair). Sounds similar to the USGP F1 team,anyone? All the hype, and then nothing…

  • Geoffrey Hunton

    The last USGP at Indy was 2007. Hamilton scored his second win there after a wheel to wheel duel with team mate Alonso going into Turn 1 about half way through the race. It was also the race where Vettel made his race debut for BMW, filling in for the injured Kubica after his massive accident the week before. Vettel went on to become the youngest driver (at the time) to score points in F1.

    The New Jersey Project seems to be a move by Bernie to keep the Austin GP and other nations currently hosting or planning to host a GP accountable. With near misses like Korea and India this will hopefully prevent issues like this from happening again. I doubt the New Jersey Project will ever come to be either, mainly because the residents in and around the track site are not that happy about it and the support for F1 just does not exist.

    If there is to be a USGP, it should be brought back to Indy or moved to a facility like Miller Motorsports Park. Central US location and a facility that can be brought up to current spec very quickly. With proper financing and some rose tinted glasses, the Glen could be brought back to life for a USGP but outside of vintage festivals and one off press events, I highly doubt the site of the true USGP will ever host something of that level again.

  • Tamburello_1994

    @ Geoff,

    Excellent, Intelligent Post. 100 percent agree.

    As an American that lives in America I can assure you Texas was an ambitious idea at best. I would have never heard they were even building a circuit for F1 in Texas if I never visited this website. Chances are extremely low I would have gone to Texas for any sort of race. Indiana was prime for F1, To go anywhere else would cut the chances of success in half.

    But if it had to be somewhere else I like the Watkins Glen idea. I was actually thinking Road America. Either or, There’s plenty of places here that, I think would be suitable. It really has to be Indy Because, sadly, F1 needs all the publicity it can get in the U.S.

    If some folks here are just gonna take cheap shot, Make statement that would be considered silly at best, I guess that your right. My advice is to leave your agendas at home. Please. Nobodies walking around here trying to perpetuate that America is perfect. I’m sure if we put all our cards on the table, I can find fault on were you live too, So don’t go there.

    All opinions are welcome, But haters will not be respected.

  • Bec


    But how many Grade 1 licensed circuits does the USA have? Answer = 0
    How many Grade 1 licensed circuits does India have? Answer =1

  • Tamburello_1994

    @ bec

    What grade licence does the Grand Prix circuit at Indianapolis have?