• US Grand Prix

Work at Austin suspended amid race contract dispute

ESPNF1 Staff
November 16, 2011 « Big difference between 2011 and 2012 tyres - Wickens | Debris most likely caused Vettel's puncture - Pirelli »
Workers have downed tools in Austin © Circuit of the Americas

Construction work at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin has ground to a halt, casting fresh doubt over the return of the US Grand Prix in 2012.

The event is scheduled to take place on November 18 next year at a purpose-built track outside Austin, but statements from key officials this week have revealed that a contract to hold the race is not yet in place. A statement from the circuit said construction work has been suspended "until a contract assuring the Formula One United States Grand Prix will be held at Circuit of The Americas in 2012 is complete."

"We have spent tremendous resources preparing for the Formula One and MotoGP Championship races, but the failure to deliver race contracts gives us great concern," Bobby Epstein, founding partner of Circuit of the Americas, said. "We believe the United States is vital for the future of Formula One 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. Over 100,000 fans have expressed an interest in purchasing tickets for Formula One alone."

The news followed a statement from Texas state comptroller Susan Combs raising concerns over the event and confirming that no state funds would be spent on the project until after the race. Combs' comments are significant as organisers were banking on $25 million from the Texas Major Events Trust Fund (METF) to help cover the cost of the sanctioning fee. In the statement Combs admitted fresh doubt had been cast over the Austin project after news that a second race will be held in the USA 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," Combs' statement read. "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."

At the weekend Bernie Ecclestone said: "It is a bit of an uphill struggle but we will try and get there. There are two parties - one has a track and is building it, and the other has got the race contract. And they forgot to talk to each other."