16 November 2012
Hellmund turns attention from Austin to Mexico
Ousted from the Circuit of the Americas project, Tavo Hellmund has now turned his attention to reinstating Mexico on the F1 map.
Tavo Hellmund has revealed that he has put his spat with the new backers of the United States Grand Prix behind him to focus on bringing another favourite to the F1 schedule.
Hellmund, who came up with the idea of building a state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Texas in order to return America to the calendar, hasn't been involved with the Circuit of the Americas since falling out with other investors. He claimed that he had not been paid, they said he had stopped 'showing up for work', before Hellmund claimed that the two parties had reached agreement on an $18m settlement while he held the promotional rights to the F1 race. That buyout subsequently fell through and Hellmund's deal to promote the race was subsequently cancelled by family friend Bernie Ecclestone because no money had been handed over to secure the event. The dispute was settled, out of court, while the F1 circus was in Canada in June and, since then, CotA has been gearing up to stage this weekend's USGP. Hellmund, meanwhile, has kept his distance, although he expects to be at the circuit over the next few days.
“I've got meetings and dinners planned,” he told the local Statesman newspaper, "I'm really going to savour the next four or five days. It's a special time.”
There is no time to feel bitter over what has happened in Texas, as Hellmund now has another F1 project to occupy his mind - one that could see him emulating his father, who took the grand prix fraternity to Mexico in the 1980s. Although several proposals have been made public regarding a potential Mexican Grand Prix over the past few years, Hellmund is optimistic that he can galvanise things quickly enough to secure a slot on the 2014 schedule, not with a new facility in a new location, but with an upgraded Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City.
“The track needs a facelift, but so many of the right components are in place,” he explained, estimating a budget of between $60-75m would be required, with about half of that needed to refurbish the pit and the paddock areas.
While admitting that Cancun remained a possible host for future Mexican grands prix, Hellmund insisted that, with Sergio Perez already making a name for himself in the top flight, and GP2 Series frontrunner Esteban Gutierrez in contention to fill his seat at Sauber next year, it was imperative to get the country back on the schedule sooner rather than later.
“I think it's totally the right time,” he claimed, “No one wants to waste the opportunity of having these drivers. The sky is the limit - [a race now] could potentially break every grand prix attendance record.”
While Hellmund dreams of taking F1 back to Mexico, meanwhile, Ecclestone continues to suggest that the sport needs to expand further into the United States - even before the first race in Austin has confirmed the level of interest that the sport can expect. A second race, scheduled for the New York-New Jersey region has already had be axed from the 2013 calendar because the street circuit could not be readied in time, but Ecclestone is already talking about taking F1 back to the west coast as well.
"We need to get that New Jersey-New York event working," he told Sky Sports News, "and maybe one in southern California as well. We want three races here."
While the addition of extra races in both the USA and Mexico would probably impact on the sport's European heartland, Hellmund has no doubt that the two neighbours could be at the forefront of an F1 explosion on that side of the Atlantic.
“The Americas are probably big enough to have five or six grands prix,” he concluded, “[Mexico] could complement [Austin]. The smart thing would be to work hand-in-hand.”
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