One thing that always amazes me about the comments on this blog is the number of people who look at the world from the glass-half-empty point of view (pessimism), rather than the glass-half-full (optimism). Perhaps it is in the nature of a blog-poster to always look at reasons why things cannot happen, rather than wondering if something might be possible. Formula 1 is a world where the half-empties are left behind and the half-fulls rule the roost. And I like that. I love the fact that an idea will be looked at on its merits and then the downsides are examined, rather than being ripped apart with negatives first. The initial reactions to the idea of a race on the streets of New Jersey were almost all negative. That was back in August when I first reported the idea. It was impossible for this reason, that reason and 42 other things as well. From what I am now hearing we are now just a few days away from an announcement which will bill the townships of Weehawken and West New York, as “Monaco on the Hudson”. From what I have gathered thus far the idea comes from a group of investors led by Leo Hindery Jr, a celebrated media investor and a former chief executive of TCI, Liberty Media and later AT&T Broadband. The mayors of the two communities are behind the idea as it will cost them nothing and will enhance their districts and make them considerable amounts of money.
Weehawken waterfront was a major port area in the early part of the Twentieth Century but did not have the space to expand and fell into decay. In the 1990s plans were developed to revive the area, with residential, office and commercial property and parks for recreational activities. There is potential for further development and the circuit is expected to run on the waterfront to the north of (would you believe, Hamilton Park), climbing up Pershing Road to run along JFK Boulevard before returning to the Hudson level on Anthony M Delfino Way with the pits and paddock area being at Port Imperial, with ferry access from there to New York and train access to the centre of the circuit on the Hudson Bergen Light Railway, which links to the New York subway. This gives F1 the New York backdrop it has so long wanted and creates a venue which can be largely served by public transportation systems.
One of the big advantages of the idea is that most of the land is owned by one man: Arthur Imperatore, an Italian-American businessman who made his fortune in the trucking business before buying much of the waterfront land from the bankrupt Penn Central railroad for $7.5 million in 1981. He then started the NY Waterway ferry service between Weehawken and Manhattan. A sports fan, he was once the owner of the New Jersey Devils hockey team. The logic for him is obvious. If the neighbourhood is deemed to be more glamorous, the price of real estate will rise and he will make profits. There will also be more business for his ferry company.
The other aim of the race, besides getting F1 into the New York urban area – something that NASCAR has failed to do and that IndyCar did but never made work – is to support a concerted effort to make F1 bigger in the United States. A second US race to support the event in Austin means that there will be at least four races in the US timezones, although one can expect to see an event soon in Mexico (to make five) and perhaps in Argentina (to get to six). This means that F1 can create a much stronger TV package for the Americas in general and the United States specifcially and thus a better opportunity for F1 to build up its presence in these important markets. The process will obviously be helped by an American driver and so the search is now on to find one. In this respect Tony Fernandes seems to have got ahead of the game by signing up Alexander Rossi, who is expected to race in GP2 next year…