F1? Austin, Texas? Don’t make me laugh
And so my hiatus ends. And I’m glad I can do it on a light-hearted note, after the announcement yesterday that the US Grand Prix will take place at a new circuit in or near Austin, Texas from 2012. Because this instantly jumps out as a doomed scheme. My Gillett-o-meter is off the scale – and this is coming from someone who bought into the Stefan GP story.
There are a number of reasons why I’m sceptical already, 10 of which are listed below:
1) They say they’re going to build a brand new circuit for the 2012 GP. It will almost certainly be as a double-header with Canada, from what I’ve heard, so effectively it’s 2 years from now. And this isn’t the Middle East, where they don’t have laws to prevent slave labour, but equally they will be expected to reach Bernie’s incredibly high standards. So they’re already pushed for time
2) On top of this, they haven’t even picked a site for the circuit yet. They have no land. So they need to buy land. Prices will almost certainly have gone up now the announcement has been made. And of course there are seemingly no plans yet if there is no set location. So how are they going to get it done in time?
3) Then there’s the circuit itself. It is likely to be built in a flat, rather featureless area on the outskirts of the city, and will probably end up being designed by Tilke. And with no motorsport heritage to add, the outcome is pretty predictable. How is that going to serve as an attraction to, say, Europeans who might consider going to Austin instead of Montreal?
4) Where’s the money coming from? They’ve been vague about it so far, other than saying the state or city isn’t going to be paying for building the circuit
5) Who are Full Throttle Productions? Nobody seems to know. They seem to have held only one or two events in recent years quite a way down the stock car ladder. So yet more questions about money will come in here, as well as organisational capabilities
6) Further to this, the Mayor, who was quoted in the initial press release, has now denied knowing anything about it. That’s not good, whichever way you put it
7) And now there’s the location. Yes, Austin isn’t like the rest of Texas. But it’s still in Texas. Who’s going to come to watch? The attendances at Indy dropped off after the first couple of races there, and that was Indy, the capital of American motorsport. Austin has no motor racing heritage, not even NASCAR
8) There are also infrastructure questions. Austin holds one big music festival, and it struggles to deal even with that – an F1 GP would be much, much bigger. Whilst it has an airport which is fine for the teams, it’s not exactly a transport hub, so how do the fans get there?
9) Then there’s the drawback of it being not like the rest of Texas – it’s a very liberal city that prides itself on being one of the greenest cities in the US, which inevitably means the environmentalist crowd won’t be happy, not only at the construction of an enormous circuit, but also the arrival of loads of tourists by plane and then burning more petrol when they’re here
10) And finally, there’s Bernie. Just because he has a deal doesn’t guarantee a race is going to take place at all – we’ve seen that so many times before. He has an uncanny knack of digging his way out of bad situations with little or no damage to his or F1’s reputation, as we saw with the Donington fiasco. He also has an uncanny knack of getting what he wants. There have been suggestions that the Donington deal was only done merely as a blackmailing tool for negotiations with the BRDC over Silverstone, and that he knew Gillett was a dreamer and that the race would never take place. Who would bet on a similar situation here, perhaps with Indy? If he was that committed to this project, why has he been banging on about a race in New York? What about Jersey City and Monticello?
Plenty of questions to be answered here before we get anywhere near finding out how legitimate this really is. I am very cynical already, which usually isn’t a good sign. I support the notion of having a US GP. However, it has to be right, and this doesn’t seem right. This has farce written all over it.