It has been officially confirmed that the US Grand Prix is to return to the annual F1 schedule on a ten-year deal from 2012 – but contrary to prior speculation, the race will be held not in or around New York, but in Texas.
The agreement was announced by F1 commercial rights-holder Bernie Ecclestone and officials from both Texas and the capital of Austin, the city where a purpose-built track will be constructed specifically to welcome the top flight and host the event – a first in America.
The circuit is reportedly to be built 'within ten miles' of Austin's international airport and will be at least three miles in length, and is less than three hours by road from fellow major cities Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. No cost forecasts or date for the 2012 race have yet been released, though it was revealed that the track will be privately rather than publicly-funded.
“The visibility and prestige of this event will spotlight our state on an international stage,” stated Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, according to The Associated Press
“You don't put Austin in the same sentence as Monaco or Singapore, but everyone was blown away,” concurred Tavo Hellmund, managing partner of race promoter Full Throttle Productions LP. “Austin has grown up...I think they (F1 officials) fell in love with the city. It isn't a one-trick pony where we're going to set up a street course.
“We are extremely honoured and proud to reach an agreement with the F1 commercial rights-holder. We have been diligently working together for several years to bring this great event to Austin, the State of Texas and back to the United States.”
Hellmund added that Austin had fought off rival bids 'from New York to Miami' to clinch the deal, with Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Ecclestone having made no secret of his desire to see F1 cars race through the streets of New York, and Monticello Motor Club having taken everybody by surprise by emerging as an unexpected front-runner late last week [see separate story – click here
Fred Nation, vice-president for communications for Indianapolis Motor Speedway – which hosted the grand prix from 2000 until 2007, when race promoters and Ecclestone proved unable to reach agreement on financial terms – offered well wishes for the race's new home, despite Indy having remained a viable contender to reprise its hosting role up until Austin's confirmation.
“The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is proud of having been host to the United States Grand Prix from 2000 to 2007, and we were pleased to have some of the largest Formula 1 crowds in the world,” he affirmed. “Since 2007, we have been asked many times about having Formula 1 return, and our answer has been the same each time – if the business deal is right, they are welcome back. If such a deal is in-place in Austin, we wish both the city and Formula 1 success for a race in the United States.”
F1 has invariably received a somewhat lukewarm reception across the other side of the Pond, with the infamous tyre débâcle
and farcical non-event of 2005 the unquestionable nadir of an at times difficult relationship and an incident that led to banners proclaiming that 'F1 is Fake Racing' and 'F1 Sucks'. What's more, after Indy fell out of favour in 2007, Ecclestone angered some fans by claiming that the sport did not need to compete in the States – a view palpably not shared by the majority of the teams.
Since 1961, the US Grand Prix has also been held at Watkins Glen and subsequently with varying levels of success on street circuits in Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix.