Bernie Ecclestone has urged the various parties attempting to pull together next season's United States Grand Prix to 'fall in love' after continued delays threaten to put the event in jeopardy.
Speaking from the paddock in Abu Dhabi, Ecclestone admitted that time was quickly running out for the Austin-based Circuit of the Americas to be completed in time to host its inaugural grand prix next October, and blamed a lack of communication between various sections of the development process for the delay in progressing beyond initial earthworks at the ambitious multi-facility site.
Tavo Hellmund's success in securing a contract to stage the first USGP since Indianapolis Motor Speedway bailed out at the end of 2007 was heralded as the start of a new era in American participation in F1, with a purpose-built road course replacing a series of street circuits and the hybrid layout at IMS that did little to boost F1's reputation in a country where it has struggled to gain widespread appreciation. Despite the Austin venue looking both dramatic and challenging on paper, however, construction has been painfully slow, putting the project into the same boat as Korea and India when it comes to causing rumours of cancellation.
Ecclestone, despite having a close personal relationship with Hellmund, did little to quell the speculation, apparently safe in the knowledge that he would have at least one US-based grand prix from 2013 after doing a deal for a street race in New Jersey.
"Austin? I wouldn't want to put my money down that that will happen," he shrugged when asked for an update by Reuters
, "I hope it will and we are doing our best to make it happen, but I wouldn't want to say yes.
"What's happened is you've got a guy that owns the land and started building and there's the guy that owns the company and has got a contract with us. And they forgot to talk to each other. The truth of the matter is maybe the people that have put the money down are perhaps a bit pissed off that he's getting some publicity and they are not and are saying 'we've got our money on the line, you haven't got any money on the line. They are trying to get it together. I've said 'you guys have got to fall in love, get married'."
Intriguingly, Ecclestone's response may tie in with the news that Hellmund is no longer centrally involved with the Austin project, having moved on to investigate possible future F1 sites in Mexico, Argentina and Africa.
“It is now the responsibility of the Circuit of the Americas to make this project happen before Mr Ecclestone's patience runs out,” he is alleged to have said, “I don't plan to be a track operator. My mission has always been to put the whole deal together and get it going and then continue to broaden my horizons.”
Those behind the Austin project have countered Ecclestone's concerns by claiming that there is no basis to the claims.
“There is no question that, if he wants the USGP race to happen here in 2012, it certainly will,” a statement issued via the local Austin American Statesman
newspaper stated, “Our funding is secured, and construction is on schedule, so we don't understand Mr Ecclestone's comments. He has expressed great interest in the Austin race and in expanding the F1 brand into the United States.”
The teams will continue to assume that the race in Texas will happen as scheduled next season, with FOTA chairman and McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh
admitting that it was important for the event to come off.
"America doesn't need F1, we need America," he pointed out, "I think we are excited about the prospect of going to the States, I'm sure Bernie is working very hard on the Texas race and
the New Jersey race. It's in our program and we assume we are going there and I suspect that we will. I imagine, as is often the case, there's some posturing and negotiation but that's not our business. The calendar says we're going there and that's what we're planning on and looking forward to."