It's tough being an American Formula 1 fan. There just don't seem to be a lot of us around. One thing I think is key to F1 increasing its American fan base is staging races on American soil. After finally getting a race back to U.S. in 2012, the United States Grand Prix scheduled for November 18th in Austin, TX, we all thought we would see two American races on the 2013 F1 calendar, the other being a race in New Jersey called the Grand Prix of America, set against the Manhattan skyline.
Now it looks like the race, or more specifically its organizers, are having financial problems. Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has even commented to the press with his dreaded "I don't know if it is going to happen." We've heard those comments before other races, they always mean the organizers are late with their payments to Formula One Management, Ecclestone's company that controls the system. Ecclestone seems to do this a lot, to publicly embarrass the race into paying their late fees and I like his style. He commented to ESPN, "I hope everything will be okay. They are sorting things out internally with some of their funds. If they are ready for 2013 we will have them." Ecclestone confirmed the race was late with their initial payments.
Formula 1 Grand Prix races typically have to make payments of between $25 and $50 million at certain points in advance of the race. The payments are part of the license fees charged by FOM to allow organizers to stage a race. ESPN is reporting the race will now have to pay penalties for paying the fees late. I think Ecclestone has probably given them a lot of leeway, as he has wanted a New York race for a long time.
The problem is that's a lot of money and it needs to come from somewhere. There isn't a finished track or anything really built yet, so organizers need to raise money on speculation and hope. The race organizers are headed by investment banker Leo Hindery, who interestingly was one of the bidders to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers MLB team. I think they need a title sponsor now, like the AT&T Grand Prix of America and start generating some cash.
The race people are taking a far different view of the situation, commenting to ESPN that they don't comment on their contractual relationship with Formula One Management. They went on to add some very positive comments about the race, that they are "on track for a June 2013 race, with all course engineering and construction professing precisely on schedule, a strong management team in place, and strong ongoing support from New Jersey, New York City and the local communities involved." They went on to add "We are very confident the 2013 F1 Grand Prix of America will be a great event." I hope we will see the race happen in 2013 and on into the future.
A lifetime auto racing fan, Freddy Sherman collects vintage muscle cars and attends races and rally events in the U.S. and around the world. You can follow him on twitter -@thefredsherman
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