November 14, 2011
The saga of Formula 1's 2012 visit to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas has yet another chapter.
Will it be the final one? Possibly. But probably not.
While the series was in Abu Dhabi over the weekend, F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone said that he wouldn't want to put his money down on the race happening next year at Austin.
Strong words. But is it just a power play? Or the real deal?
Tavo Hellmund's promotional company has the rights to the race at Austin. Bobby Epstein is helping fund construction of the track, which is estimated at $300 million. Apparently they're not getting along. And add in the fact that the state of Texas is involved to the tune of a $25 million major events fund, and yeah, this is getting messy.
By all accounts the meeting did not go well. Sources in Europe and the United States suggest that Epstein was offered a new contract but he has not signed it, presumably because he doesn't like the terms. Ecclestone hasn't been paid, and the state of Texas hasn't disbursed the $25 million from the trust fund. The rules say it can't until after Nov. 18, less than one year before the scheduled event. Even so, online inquires suggest that all of the applications, paperwork and meetings required to apply for the money have not been completed.
Circuit of the Americas president Steve Sexton downplayed Ecclestone's comments about the race's future in a statement, saying that funding for the race has been secured.
Maybe it's not all conjecture from Ecclestone at this point, especially given the fact that the series doesn't have to have all of its eggs in the Austin basket after the announcement of the race in New Jersey starting in 2013. At this point, it's almost a minor miracle that the race still has a future given all of the hurdles that it's had to clear And that's why it wouldn't be so surprising to see it actually happen.
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