The Austin fight goes public

The questions about the planned United States GP in Austin, raised by remarks made by Bernie Ecclestone in Abu Dhabi, have resulted in some interesting public revelations in Texas. The state Comptroller Susan Combs confirmed that no state funds would be paid out in advance of the event. The plan had been for the first year payment to be made before the event and then money coming in would offset the investment. It seems that this is also part of a dispute between the Circuit of the Americas and Tavo Hellmund, who holds the contract to run the race.

“It’s no secret that I’ve supported Texas hosting a Formula One race since 2008,” she said. “I believe a well-organized event of this magnitude can be a tremendous benefit to Texas if done right. Investors, businesses and event organizers want to come to Texas because we’ve developed an economic climate that is attractive, our state is a great location for events, and we’ve got space and potential to grow. A tool for recruiting large events to the state is the Major Events Trust Fund (METF), which was created by the Texas Legislature in 2003. In the past two years, eligible METF recipients have included the NFL Super Bowl XLV, the NBA All-Star Game and the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Final Four tournaments. The support provided by the METF comes from sales, hotel, beverage and other tax revenue generated by out-of-state visitors who attend the event. When the United States Grand Prix was formally announced, it was the only Formula One race scheduled in the U.S. During the past 18 months, organizers have taken many steps to bring high-profile motor racing to Central Texas, including the development of the Circuit of the Americas, and the announcement of the global MotoGP and V8 Supercar race series starting in 2013. The recent announcement of an annual Formula One race in New Jersey is a concern, as additional races have the potential to reduce the number of attendees to a Texas race, thereby decreasing the economic impact. Additionally, the reports of a slowdown in construction at the Circuit of the Americas, and recently publicized disagreements between the race rights-holder and the circuit developers have prompted speculation about whether the Austin race will even occur. The ongoing controversies are a concern and we will continue to monitor them. Let me state clearly: We have not paid out any money for the Formula One event. The only dollars that can be spent on the United States Grand Prix are tax revenues attributable to the successful running of a race. The state of Texas will not be paying any funds in advance of the event. Further, as is the case with all METF events, each application will be reviewed and analyzed for its likely economic impact and only after the race occurs would any funds be disbursed. If an METF application is submitted, it will be thoroughly vetted and economic impact data scrutinized based on the actual circumstances for that event. Ultimately, I am responsible for protecting the interests of Texas taxpayers, first and foremost. I will not allow taxpayer dollars to be placed at risk. My position on that has not changed.”

Blaming the New Jersey event sounds like a politician looking for excuses, as it is clear that the intention of having more than one race in the US is intended to help both. They are so far apart that ticket sales will barely be affected and the fact that there are two events will create more buzz. Thus, one must conclude that Combs is trying to force the issue, probably to get Hellmund to sign over the race contract to the circuit owners. The fact is that both sides need the other. Hellmund is committed to paying Ecclestone for the race; but he needs a circuit on which to run the race. The circuit owners have sunk large sums into construction and are not going to walk away. The way forward is thus to sort out the mess by getting the circuit and the contract under the control of the same person.

Combs’ statement has been followed by an announcement that construction of the project is suspended “until a contract assuring the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix will be held at Circuit of The Americas in 2012 is complete. The race contract between Formula One and Circuit of The Americas has not been conveyed to Circuit of The Americas per a previously agreed upon timetable”.

While construction at Circuit of The Americas has progressed as scheduled with over 300 workers at the construction site daily, all work will suspend immediately. The delivery of the Formula One Grand Prix race contract will allow construction operations to resume.

“We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the F1 and MotoGP Championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern,” said Bobby Epstein, founding partner of Circuit of The Americas. “We believe the United States is vital for the future of F1 and its teams and sponsors. Given the purpose-built Tilke design, creating a unique fan experience and iconic challenge for drivers, we hope that Texas will not be left behind. More than 100,000 fans have expressed an interest in purchasing tickets for Formula One alone.”

“It is in the best interest of all parties to reach a timely resolution,” said Red McCombs, chairman of McCombs Enterprises and founding partner of Circuit of The Americas. “Local businesses, fans and the State of Texas are counting on us.”

62 thoughts on “The Austin fight goes public

  1. What a goat rope! Does the STATE of Texas want this race to happen or NOT? How does Governor Perry weigh in? Anything is possible in the US, especially in Texas! A weekend set-up race circuit pales in comparison to a purpose-built motor speedway – that is an economic reality. The state needs to embrace this Austin Circuit of the Americas project with open arms! It sounds like so much political posturing to me! Wouldn’t it be nice to see a consortium of Texas oilmen come together (like in Abu Dhabi) and fund this race into reality! If I won the Powerball, I sure would send in a check!

  2. Sounds like a Bernie deal! Get someone to build a circuit but give the rights to someone else who was going to pay with a loan from the state.
    No doubt there are some commissions to be paid as well as the official fee.

  3. Combs, when visiting the British Grand Prix in July 2010, said she would be “very surprised” if F1 put another race in the U.S. and said even if that happened, it would not affect the Texas race.”

    Now she says “The recent announcement of an annual Formula One race in New Jersey is a concern, as additional races have the potential to reduce the number of attendees to a Texas race, thereby decreasing the economic impact.”

    from the Austin American-Statesman 19 July 2010 (http://www.statesman.com/sports/formula1/combs-enthusiastic-about-f1combs-enthusiastic-about-f1-after-watching-british-grand-812021.html)

    So another US F1 race was not a concern in 2010 but it is in 2011? Explain that one.

  4. I know fine well you dont appreciate the negative doom & gloom comments, but I cant see another way to look at this one. It seems as if all parties involved are lining up to blame the others for the failure of the project.

    A decade of legal battles to decide who is financially responsible or a F1 race in 2012 – which is the more likely? The only thing Id bet on at this stage is Bernie getting paid either way!

  5. Joe , may I ask where you are from? I don’t believe any taxpayer money should be paid out. From what I read that is more and more becoming a global sentiment.

    1. Casey,

      I am from England, but I left there 20 years ago and I live in France. Paying out taxpayers’ money is perfectly normal around the world, for big events such as Expos, Olympic Games, World Cups and Grands Prix. It also happens in the United States for events such as the Super Bowl. It is part of the whole events-tourism industry.

  6. 300 workers at the construction site, daily? That’s not at all what I’ve been reading.

    The local media has been reporting a handful of workers, sporadically on site, with work often shuttered for weeks at at time. Recent video from the site showed some graded earth and no permanent structures.

    Combs is clearly trying to spin this terrible news in the best light possible, but such obvious deviations from the truth don’t help his credibility.

  7. “It is in the best interest of all parties to reach a timely resolution,” – very much true. I hope Red counts himself in on “all parties”.

    Meetings went not the right way. Bernie put pressure on COTA to give Hellmund (or him) what he wanted, COTA won’t budge easily, now Combs tells all off them to hurry up or end up with their mess, and COTA steps up with pressurizing to jeopardise timely finish of construction if a deal is not done.

    I very much hope they do agree and this GP does happen next year.

  8. It sounds silly that Hellmund and McComb seem unable to sort out their business interests. Bernie will support Hellmund in that game because they have a contract already and Bernie isn’t the kind of guy who breaks contracts.

    So it really boils down to the question who suffers most if the race gets delayed due to this stalemate. Both sides will have invested heavily and need to see a return at some time. My guess is that McComb is deeper invested, but he can probably afford it easier to make losses.

    For the fans it is a loose/loose situation if the two decide to sit it out and do not settle the dispute. Hopefully there will be very little benefit to dragging this out for either party.

  9. I am a lifelong American fan of F1, but this is turning me off to the point where I’m losing interest. We’d like some straight talk. The back and forth over this race is not what F1 needs to state its case in America.

  10. It is beginning to seem like Mr. Hellmund is not willing to transfer the race rights to the circuit? Are the principal circuit owner’s attempting to squeeze him out of the play??

    Very interesting but confusing.

  11. I believe Bernie has grossly miscalculated and killed the Austin Grand Prix whilst trying to save it.

    Bernie has long used volatile statements to the press in order to motivate recalcitrant business partners. It works too, except when it doesn’t.

    By telling the press that the Austin race was in jeopardy, Bernie may well have succeeded in pushing the disconnected Texas organizers back together. What Bernie clearly didn’t anticipate was the reaction his statements would receive from Texas state government officials.

    I fully predicted their reaction – that of withholding all funds until AFTER the grand prix has actually been run. Anyone with ANY experience in US politics could easily have predicted that reaction. The moment Bernie questioned the viability of the event, paying the 25 million prior to the event became political suicide. Bernie is the recipient of the money, and he’s saying the event is at risk? The State’s reaction was fait accompli from that very moment.

    The thing is, Bernie is an old hat at political games. He should have known this is EXACTLY how US politicians would react – clearly he did not know. Bernie overplayed his hand. Without the 25 million in state funds, the organizers will now have to come up with Bernie’s fee – and they’ll have to come up with it very soon. The suspected deadline is less than a month away. Then they’ll have to spend even more money to build the actual facilities, not the Potemkin village that currently exists.

    The killing blow has been delivered so soundly, one might think Bernie set out to destroy the event, but why? Bernie had not yet received his 25 million, there was absolutely no economic incentive for Bernie to decimate Austin’s fortunes..

    No, I believe the most obvious conclusion to be drawn is that Bernie completely miscalculated, he screwed up – Badly. Clearly the event was already at risk, but Bernie’s boisterous statements to the press have probably delivered the killing blow.

  12. One senses the Americans don’t quite know what they are dealing with with Bernie. Frankly starting work without a contract is pretty dumb in any walk of life, let alone when dealing with BE…

  13. I don’t know what Bernie’s up to, but I expect it’s something un-good.

    Two factoids:

    1. Leo Hindery was on Speed’s Wind Tunnel program and, when asked how they intended to do OK absent public money, especially since F1 takes over key income streams, he said they planned to make a lot of money without any public money and (here’s the good part) the key to this is 2 years of negotiations with Bernie that resulted in the organizers having a piece of “all four income streams”. Not sure what that means, but it’s rather different than standard. One wonders if Bernie needs Leo moreso than vice versa. (Leo is much more than a typical ex-racer and race promoter, as a look at his bio will reveal. Not many former-racers sit on the Council of Foreign Relations.)

    2. Prior to Bernie opening his big mouth about alleged matters in Austin, the state was to pay out their chunk after Nov 18 of this year. The only limit was by statute, which prohibits payment more than a year in advance. So, it appears that the concrete result of Bernie’s big trap is a year’s delay in TX money being disbursed. Clever man, in a nasty sort of way…

  14. OK, fit the foil hat, put your feet up, its Bernie conspiracy time:

    Donington. Any one remember that? Silverstone under constant attack from Bernie, Donington gets the nod, but finances fail. Then the preferred venue, Silverstone, gets the GP, once it gets the offer right. Always seemed to me that Donington got used to lever Silverstone. Worked well for Bernie, Silverstone and the fans, not so well for Donington. (Or something vaguely like that. Im working a conspiracy here, I only need conspiracy standard facts…)

    Austin. Who the hell wants a GP in Austin? LA? Yeah. Vegas? Yeah. Miami? Yeah. All very well known places with profile. New York, perhaps the best known city in the world? Hell yeah. But Austin? Where is the glamour, profile and prestige in that? Nah, I dunno either.

    So, what do we hear now? After ages trying to get something like A New York GP, Austin gets the deal. Then suddenly, New York has a plan and offer Bernie. Off the back of that, perhaps with some prior knowledge or rumour, Austin runs in to financial difficulties. From Austin’s POV, what’s the point of being the lesser US GP?

    Seems to me that once NY got announced, the money in Austin got worried, and every one is covering collective booty. Having the only GP in the US makes sense, good sense. The second, with out the exclusivity? Not so much.

    Its a guess, but I reckon what Bernie wanted all along was a New York GP, and Austin got used to lever the people in NY. If it failed, then OK, at least there would be a US GP to build a US following from. Sooner or later something more prestigious would have emerged.

    As for poor Austin, I reckon it got used in the same kind of way I suggest Donington did.

    I’ll get my coat…

  15. This is what happens when the current “poison” brand of U.S. politics get involved with sports. The Austin project has become stuck into the “tar baby” of political discontent. In the current financial climate, what with the “Occupy Wall Street” gang and terrible cuts being made to education, the care and well being of vulnerable people, and such, going on record and saying how much the state is going to pay for a playground for the rich just doesn’t go over to well. I believe it will happen, but don’t expect any big announcements from any politician regarding the matter. Things over here in the States are going to h**l in a hand basket. It seems that one party (I’m not going to name names) is trying to do the right thing and actually govern; while the other one doesn’t care about governing, just trying to get into office and staying there, as if the only object is to win at all costs. They are in business to look after the interests of the wealthy, as if the wealthy will then gladly spread their wealth with the other 99%. Sorry this turned into a political diatribe, but the situation is interconnected. Too bad. I like F-1 racing.

  16. AC

    > Seems to me that once NY got announced, the money in Austin got worried,
    > and every one is covering collective booty. Having the only GP in the US
    > makes sense, good sense. The second, with out the exclusivity? Not so much.

    Well, perhaps they got worried, beats me, but they shouldn’t have. They should have celebrated. A successful NYC race is the best thing that could happen to the Austin race, as it increases interest and puts Austin on par with NYC. The only thing better than that would be a third race on the west coast… unless a fourth race was added elsewhere which would help even more. What F1 needs (as do the Austin race promoters) is a higher F1 profile in America, not a limited one.

    It is well known that when an exit from the Interstate has just one fast-food restaurant, the best thing that can happen to that burger joint is to have another two built close by. Their revenue doesn’t fall, it goes up as more and more folks show up. Same basic principle at work here, but with a sport instead of a spot.

    As long as the US does not have multiple F1 races, it is doomed to maintain its status as a rather minor event among many major events. The more F1 races we have, the more people will care, and after some time even the best American drivers will have some reason to join in (which they don’t have now). If the Austin people didn’t realize this, then Bernie should have explained it to them.

    Of course that assumes that Bernie gets it, which is something his behavior tells me to doubt. I’m sure the major teams get it, but Bernie not so much. In the matter at hand, he seems to have been taking special initiative to do what he can to sink F1 in non-NYC America. That might be best for him somehow (not sure) but it’s just stupid and bad for the sport he supposedly cares about. Whether others can overcome Bernie’s negative actions remains to be seen. I know nothing about Hellmund, really, except he apparently once worked for Bernie, but that says nothing about his character. We’ll see what the money people decide is in their own self interest. No way to tell right now.

  17. F1, where in infighting behind the scenes is usually far more interesting than the parades and passing in the pits of the races.

    A number of American motor journalists have expressed huge skepticism over either race ever happening. We shall see. Sit back, grab some beer and popcorn and watch the catfights.

  18. What a shame! First the date change, now this.

    I had been looking forward to the announcement of ticket sales and planning my trip to Austin. F1 and fantastic music, beautiful city (from everything I have heard)

    I have been going to Montreal for many years, didn’t renew my tickets as Austin was going to be THE GP to go to!

    It looks like I will now go to Montreal again unless the uncertainty can be worked out fairly quickly. I can’t describe how disappointed I feel. There’s probably no Santa clause either.

    I hope they sort it out and that there is an eveneing with Joe!

  19. I’m with AC on this one. As soon as The Bolt started on about Austin I saw it as being for the benefit of the NYC race.

    BTW are you one of the Thames Ditton AC’s old boy?

    1. Jonathan,

      Sometime there needs to be a kerfuffle to sort things out. I suggest you keep your salt and pepper close at hand. Too much money is sunk into the ground for this one to simply disappear…

  20. Joe, your statement regarding the amount of American F1 expert racing journalists, pretty much explains a lot of things in a nutshell: If there were more interest in the US for F1, there would be more covering the sport. The US sells more Ferraris in California than they do in Italy. The Infinity brand launched in the US in the late eighties and is a strong rep for Renault, as is it’s direct parent company, Nissan. Mercedes-Benz have been involved in the US as their own importer since 1964, not forgetting the other arms of Daimler involved in North America, such as Freightliner, Detroit Diesel, MTU, Western Star…ex. All of these firms have a vested interest in the American market (as had Toyota and BMW when they were involved). These firms have been pushing for a US race since Indy dropped out, due to the costs involved. It goes without question that in order for the American market to attain a keener interest in F1, more exposure to F1 is required. Having races broadcast at 8am Sunday mornings is not the correct approach. However, with Canada, Brazil and the two US races in the timezone is certainly a correct step in the right direction. Construction grinding to a halt, can only be percieved as a bad situation, regardless of the reason. If Texas should fall by the wayside, be it Bernie’s fault or their own, it will tarnish F1’s reputation again in the US.

  21. The USA knows nothing about F1.
    Every single time,EVERY SINGLE TIME,I mention Im an F1 fan they say,whats that?
    I understand why F1 wants to come here,but these people dont care.So F1 is going to have to find a way on their own dime or its not going to happen.
    I live 1760 miles from Austin and was/am going.I will not be asking for state local or federal assistance.
    I just hope the fools finish the track they started.How on earth can you be this far into the project with these fundamental issues unresolved?
    It parallels USF1.

  22. Peter Windsor and David Hobbs are the only ones I pay any attention to here, though don’t know if they’d be called ‘journalists’ or not. Motorsport magazine and Joe’s amount to more of a F1 resource than all of the USA in total.

  23. After reading up on things, Is it possible, that the thing that cancelled the contract was Hellmund not securing the 25 million being disposited at FOM before the end of July this year?
    When the hearings were taking place the COTA team mentioned a deadline for this payment as being critical to securing the race and being the reason for their hurry in getting the deal sealed with Austin and Texas.

    In that case, the letter of credit Bernie now wants (and wanted from Tavo before) would be the one to cover upfront payment of the race fee, which sounds pretty much like the normal way for FOM to do these deals.

  24. About the comments on US F1 journalists. For me there’s (was) only one really – Henry N. Manney III. Sadly I can’t find anything of his on the web; but all references are close to reverential.

  25. I hope you are right Joe. I’d love to make the trek out from San Diego with my salt n pepper for a good plate of hat……is BBQ sauce allowed?

    Echoing another comment, i have believed all along that theres no public money to support building an F1 circuit here, period. The $ has to come from within the industry, which is very unlikely. The race in NJ is much more likely to happen as a temporary circuit.
    USF1 + COTA = deja vu.

  26. One more Journalist thought: the other notable from 40 years ago was, of course, Denis Jenkinson. What’s interesting is how different journalists can be excellent in so many ways. DSJ was intensity and detail; HNMIII captured the spirit (and took a pretty good snap while at it).

    With diminished coverage of racing in US mags and increased TV coverage I eventually, long past, stopped all auto magazine subscriptions. That was till this year and I subscribed to GrandPrix+

    Because it’s worth it. The immediacy and quality (and, ok, passion) of writing and photography provide the same scale of pleasure that I used to get when a new Motor Sport arrived at the newsagents or R&T arrived in the mail.

    It’s impressive, in these days of turmoil for the journalism business model, that you pull this off. I wish you continued success.

    Thanks

    PS – I consider Peter Egan highly too – as a columnist though. In that category I still miss Satch Carlson.

  27. I still don’t understand the often used statement “F1 needs to be in the US”. It may sound useful to the teams, as we do like our cars here and are home to some very large car companies, but surely “need” is relative to the end user. If F1 was popular here then I’d agree, but it just isn’t and thus DOESN’T sell cars!

    In my humble opinion, to get us Americans enthused about F1 there needs to be at least 2 American drivers. If Ferrari is serious about this (allegedly they get more sales here in California than in Italy) they would plonk a US driver in one of their cars. Instant attention grabber! Of course whomever they choose would have to not be a complete plonker………

    I do feel that Europeans don’t understand the American TV audience. As an ex-patriot I am grappling with it still myself after 16 years. For sure though, F1 is invisible when it comes to marketing here. American audiences have moved away from single-seater racing, it’s as simple as that. Indycar is a failure. Sadly it only received decent TV ratings at the last race for horrible reasons.

    So that’s how I see it. Put a US driver in a good car, ONLY a Ferrari, as it’s the only F1 brand which would excite an American and you MAY win a US market share of interest.

    What say you, Joe?

  28. Joe,

    I think you mean Varsha is a “homebody”. A “homeboy” would be something entirely different (and I don’t think Varsha qualifies as a “homeboy”).

  29. Keith Crossley

    > PS – I consider Peter Egan highly too – as a columnist though…

    Amazing how much one man can write about personal tinkering with old British cars. Sad to report that eventually I got bored. Too bad he won’t get on a plane and tell us about race happenings… just his existential reports of the weekend would do…

  30. Joe,

    Point taken about American Journalist in F1.

    Quick question, why would Bernie as the commerical F1 right holder (I think) enter into a race agreement without all the details lined up?
    I would think this would be prudent.

  31. JoeSaward wrote: “American motor journalists who are experts in F1 can be counted on less than one hand.”

    Undoubtedly true. Just as true – F1 journalists who are experts on the United States can be counted on less than one hand.

    A large number of US racing journalists (and US based readers of your blog) were entirely prescient about the eventual outcome of this debacle. It’s not that we’re a bunch of cynics. It is simply that we understand how things aren’t done in the US.

    The Austin fiasco raised our alarm bells from the very start. In this, the F1 press would have been well served to have listened to the US racing press. Austin was always as much a US story as an F1 story.

  32. Mr.E has offered Austin a new contract starting in 2013.

    But Austin want a much reduced fee (less than the £15.8 million) to offset the NY/NJ race, as they believe the USA can only fully support one race.

    Austin politicians seem to think they’re race is up there alongside Monaco and Monza.

  33. Hmmm interesting read, especially the comments.

    This does smack (as someone said earlier) of the whole Donnington/Silverstone thing, I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t get the race in 2012. Bernie has already suggested that it may not happen until 2013 when presumably the circuit has been built on the dime brought in by the promise of a MotoGP (as were Silverstone’s updates).

    It is such a shame though, as the circuit layout looked awesome which is probably the still best thing that the Austin GP has going for it.

    As for US drivers, it’s more about the lack of ability than the lack of interest, or rather the lack of a US based series that tests/proves the drivers abilities at a level even close to F1, the drivers produced through the national series just don’t seem to cut it. Alexander Rossi did OK at he recent test, however this just emphasises my point as he had to leave the US and go racing in Europe.

  34. How can the track owners stop work on the facility when they also have contracts for a MotoGP event as well as an Aussie V8 Supercar Race?
    Could this be one of the reason the owner’s are attempting to renegotiate the deal with Bernie?

    I also think this is what they call brinkmanship; massive egos colliding over who can get the better of each other, with huge amounts of cash at stake to boot.

  35. Well I wouldn’t exactly call myself a expert and I’m certainly not getting paid to spend so much time following the F1 spectacle but there ARE legitimate fans and followers of F1 walking these streets. You just don’t see or hear much from us because the attention is always on some other continent. And since there is literally no money to be made off the reporting in this country it is impossible to get into it unless you’ve got a trust fund.

    Here’s to hoping that the US GP happens and something changes. I dream of traveling around the world like our intrepid Joe to report on the rich and famous F1 faces… Someday.

  36. Asanator

    > As for US drivers, it’s more about the lack of ability than the lack of interest

    That’s an absurd statement to make.

    > or rather the lack of a US based series that tests/proves the drivers abilities
    > at a level even close to F1, the drivers produced through the national series
    > just don’t seem to cut it. Alexander Rossi did OK at he recent test, however
    > this just emphasises my point as he had to leave the US and go racing in
    > Europe.

    Why on earth would you think that Alexander Rossi of all people is among the best American drivers? Nothing against the young man, I appreciate what he’s trying to do. But, let’s face it, his main claim to fame (in F1 circles but nowhere else) is that he is one of the few American drivers interested in F1. If not for that, nobody knows his name.

    1. RShack,

      Rossi has made a reputation in Europe, where the going in tough for everyone. The others who stay home will never have any chance at all.
      It is irrelevant whether anyone in the US knows his name at the moment. If he makes it in F1 then they will.

  37. So, to review…

    1. Bernie signs a contract with his former gofer, Tavo Hellmund. Apparently, said contract has money due to Bernie a few months ago.

    2. State of Texas agrees to pony up an amount approximately equal to Bernie’s fee, with legal limitations that make the money available no sooner than a year in advance of the event, which seems to be the day people are waiting for.

    3. Tavo evidently fails to both (a) provide the funds as required of him, and (b) sign over the race to those who are spending millions to build the track.

    4. After several months of waiting without comment for his $millions (presumably waiting for the TX funds), and with only a few days remaining until Bernie’s money can be released by TX, Bernie decides to open his big mouth in public, thus single-handedly causing a delay of 1-year in the release of his funds by TX.

    5. After arranging to not get himself paid, he then tears up his contract with Tavo and offers a different contract with unknown-to-us particulars to the track-builders, at which point things are stalled.

    While I admittedly have no faith in Bernie’s good faith, I will deploy force of will to maintain an open mind.

    The only thing that seems apparent so far is the Tavo seems to be the weak link in the chain, if not a shady character. I wonder why Bernie is letting him off the hook while he promises to hold others to their contracts? I also wonder if Tavo will reappear as other races in this hemisphere are promised.

    Possible hypotheses:

    1. Bernie doesn’t really want 2 races in the U.S.

    2. Bernie thought he would force resolution, and failed to realize that he was unilaterally talking TX into delaying his $25m by a year. When that dawned on him too late, he had to make it someone else’s fault, so he did.

    3. Leo got Bernie to delay Austin by a year, so that NJ/NY would have even more thunder by being first instead of second.

    4. With NJ/NY in hand at the cost of giving Leo part of all 4 revenue streams, Bernie wants a better deal from Austin… and the contract offered to the Austin track-builders is somehow better for Bernie than the one he had with Tavo.

    5. Tavo and Bernie are in cahoots, and they perceive that they stand to make more money from a Mexico race than an Austin race. Thus, Tavo is released from his Austin contract without penalty and will reappear when Mexican race proposals soon bubble up.

    6. Bernie wants only the best for everyone. He therefore consciously and selflessly chose to fore-go his $25m for at least a year, and perhaps forever, just to give those pitiable yokels in TX additional time to get their act together… this despite the fact that Austin track construction is more on-schedule than recently new F1 tracks ever were.

    Um, what others am I missing?

  38. Joe, the facts you mention about Rossi are true. I don’t see how that has any bearing on the point I was making… which is… there is no reason to assume he is among the top American drivers, nor does it make any sense to use him as a basis for concluding that American racing drivers aren’t much in evidence in F1 or its feeder series because American drivers lack ability. Both of those things are downright silly if not bizarre.

    Rossi is noteworthy for being one of very few American drivers who are motivated to spend their careers trying to grab hold of a rung on the F1 ladder, and one of the fewer among those few who has had a bit of success on one of its feeder series. If he has credentials other than that, I have missed them.

    To be clear, I would love to see Rossi achieve his goals. If I was young and very talented and had too much money (none of the three apply), I would be trying to do what he is trying to do. I also would refer to see a much larger swath of American drivers trying to do that same thing. But they aren’t. And that’s true regardless of what my preferences might be.

    It has always been the case that only a small portion of American drivers head to Europe for racing. This is largely due to the fact that we have a continent’s worth of racing over here, including a wide range of racing genres. As we both know, F1 has been primarily an English business plus Ferrari. Not sure why anybody would expect top American drivers to abandon successful careers here and flock to F1 when F1 has failed to either build or maintain a significant presence in America. As should be obvious by now, the fact that the office in Paris agrees to call it the World Drivers Championship does not provide a sufficient reason for them to do that. Some think it should, and I wish it would, but inspection tells us that it just doesn’t.

    In much the same vein, I think it rather silly that we call our baseball championship the World Series, as the only teams competing are based in North America. But we do know that American baseball teams are superior to those of other nations. We have an unfair advantage over others, due to the role of baseball in our society. Most nations simply don’t give a damn about baseball.

    The phenomenon of localized interest is not true of auto racing. I think we can agree that Europe and North America are the two continents with by far the greatest racing traditions (with a respectful nod to noteworthy South Americans). For obvious reasons, European and American racing developed in parallel, with occasional cross breeding. Given this, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to call the winner of an England-based series a World Champion when the American continent is largely not involved. I accept that it is called that, and I don’t mind. In fact, I maintain an obviously false hope that it will challenge more American drivers to give it a try. But I do assume that everyone realizes that American drivers are not involved in it because they are focused elsewhere and not because they don’t know how to go fast.

    Since I assume others have a sense of perspective, it comes as a bit of surprise to see somebody claim that Americans aren’t in European racing because Americans lack talent. Who would think America doesn’t produce the same level of driving talent as Scotland or England or Germany or Brazil? Why would anybody think that? Simple arithmetic on the population numbers show that such a discrepancy would require a rather remarkable explanation.

    The reasonable conclusion is the European racing and American racing are more-or-less parallel universes, although in typical American fashion we welcome European and South American drivers into the racing series plural over here. We do so mostly without comment about the driver’s nationality. In the same way that you can become an American if you want to, you can also become an American racing driver if you want to. It’s not that big a deal. At the same time, we would not assume that those who choose to not come here are making their decisions based on a mysterious lack of talent. Traditionally, we are happy to see talent regardless of its nation of origin.

    [Disclaimer: Actually, we have some morons over here who just might assume that a decision to not come here does reveal inferiority, given the other trash that our morons seem to believe, all of which is embarrassing. My impression is that every nation has its flotsam and jetsam, those who think with their glands instead of their minds. It probably can’t be helped.]

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