Thursday, November 17, 2011
U.S. Grand Prix has week to save race
LONDON -- The 2012 U.S. Grand Prix will be canceled unless the organizers in Texas sign a contract with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone by the end of next week and prove they have the money to put on the race.
Ecclestone wants the dispute with Circuit of the Americas officials in Austin settled before the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix on Nov. 27.
"It's all very simple -- they don't have the money," Ecclestone told The Associated Press on Thursday. "We don't have a contract. If they want to come back to us, if it's not signed before the end of next week, I suppose it won't be on the calendar next year."
Ecclestone wants a guarantee or a letter of credit that he will be paid.
"We have been working on this now for quite a few months and years so we can't do any more," he said. "We have a World Motor Sport Council meeting on the 7th of December and we need to prepare everything before that."
In response, Circuit of the Americas indicated it was looking at staging the race in 2013.
"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," Circuit of The Americas president Steve Sexton 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 dispute resulted after F1 decided to scrap a previous contract it had with Tavo Hellmund, a former driver with family ties to Ecclestone who originally was granted the rights to stage the U.S. Grand Prix.
The deal with Hellmund was recently canceled over a contract breach, and F1 officials have instead been negotiating with the track developers, Circuit of the Americas.
At a news conference in Austin, Hellmund said Circuit of the Americas investors, including billionaire businessman Red McCombs, are negotiating to buy him out of whatever stake he still holds in the race. Hellmund said he is worried about the race's future but remains hopeful it will run next year.
"This has been my dream ... to bring Formula One to Austin," Hellmund said. "I've done everything I promised to do, and more."
Hellmund blamed investors for putting the race in jeopardy because he said they failed to meet several financial deadlines. But Hellmund also deflected any questions about race finances, saying he wasn't involved and didn't understand that side of the business.
The state of Texas also had been planning to pay the cost of Formula One's $25 million annual license fee, but state Comptroller Susan Combs this week announced the state will not contribute any money in advance.
Ecclestone said it was likely there would be one fewer race in 2012 if the Texas organizers didn't sign the contract in time.
Ecclestone said he had not considered moving up the race in New Jersey that is scheduled for 2013. A 10-year agreement has been reached to hold the race along the Hudson River waterfront, providing striking views of the Manhattan skyline.