Despite being confident that its state-of-the-art circuit will be ready in time for its proposed slot on the 2012 F1 calendar, there are doubts that F1 will be ready for what Austin has to offer in June.
The inaugural US Grand Prix scheduled for the new Circuit of the Americas, currently under construction on the outskirts of the Texan capital, was last week handed a mid-June date as part of the familiar double-header with Canada, but reports in the local media have pointed out the differences between running a race in Austin and one in Montreal - or Indianapolis for that matter - at that time of year.
"The race at the Circuit of the Americas, just south-east of Austin, will fall a week after the Canadian Grand Prix," the American Statesman
confirmed, "That race unofficially marks the beginning of summer in Montreal, but the weather there in June is similar to Austin's weather in March. Last year, Austin's high temperature on 17 June was 93 degrees — with 94 per cent humidity. In 2008, the thermometer hit an even 100.
Although F1 is accustomed to running in both high temperatures and oppressive humidity, there are suggestions that, despite the logistical sensibilities of pairing with Canada, moves could be made to relocate the Austin round elsewhere on the schedule.
"This is the proposed date, [and] the date won't be final until the September or December WMSC meeting," FIA senate president Nick Craw explained, "A fall date is therefore possible, which would possibly offer cooler weather."
Such a move would find favour with Dr Stephen Olvey, the Circuit of the Americas' director of medical services, as much for the safety of spectators as the super-fit F1 drivers.
"Weather can play an important role in how many sick or injured people you have," he noted recently, revealing that 99 per cent of those needing medical attention at big races are spectators, "There's a lot of heat exhaustion and sunburn - and there are always people who over-indulge."
Craw, America's representative at the highest level of FIA affairs, also revealed that any prospective date change would have to be put forward by either race promoter Tavo Hellmund or F1 commercial guru Bernie Ecclestone. The latter, however, told Hellmund - an old friend as well as, latterly, someone to be negotiated with regarding F1 events - that the race was always likely to be scheduled for June. There is a precedent for splitting the USGP and its Canadian partner, however, as the first few F1 races on the road course at Indianapolis took place in September, three months after the annual trip to Montreal.
Suggestions that Hellmund may push for a later date to accommodate delays in the construction programme have been rubbished, however. According to the American Statesman
, the organisers continue to insist that they are 'on pace' to meet the June deadline, despite any major 'above ground' construction being yet to begin.
"If you ask one of our construction managers how things are progressing at Circuit of The Americas, the answer you will hear is 'we are on schedule for a June 2012 completion',” a recent statement on the venue's website claimed, "The weather in Texas has been relatively fair and dry since the beginning of 2011 allowing for site preparations to advance with little delay. The contours of the track are now visible and major infrastructure features like storm water drainage and retention facilities are being laid in place."
The 2012 F1 schedule currently shows 21 dates, making it the biggest ever assembled. The calendar not only reintroduces the USGP, with Austin following Korea and India as new additions in successive years, but also features the Turkish Grand Prix, rumoured to be under threat financially, and Bahrain, which continues to cause concern despite being reinstated in an October slot this year.