24 August 2013
Ecclestone to call time on New Jersey – again?
Bernie Ecclestone has compared plans for a second US F1 event to Donington Park's failed bid to wrest the British GP from Silverstone, but refuses to rule the event out just yet.
Bernie Ecclestone has conceded that plans for a second F1 race in America are unlikely to reach fruition – in New York at least – after appearing to can plans for a race in the region for the second time in as many years.
Despite lending financial, as well as moral, support to the group attempting to establish the Grand Prix of America on the streets of Weehawken, Ecclestone has apparently realised that the event is a non-starter, even though facilities have slowly been taking shape. The race was originally supposed to have formed a double-header with Canada this season, but withdrew its application because of a combination of financial shortfalls and red tape.
Despite the cancellation causing upheaval – not to mention some unsightly interruptions – to the 2013 schedule, Ecclestone was confident enough in its viability to include it among his plans for 2014. Race organisers recently appointed investment bank UBS in a bid to raise the $100m they estimated was required for the race to go ahead, but Ecclestone suggests that they have now run out of time to convince him that the event is realistic.
"It's not on the cards for next year," he told CNN on Friday, "They haven't got any money. It's like Donington all over again - it is such a muddle and a mess that it is not worth doing."
The reference to 'Donington', of course, ties the New Jersey event to the last grand prix venue to fail to make it to the calendar when a lack of finance scuppered necessary development. Having been awarded a 17-year contract to take the British Grand Prix away from Silverstone, the circuit – then under the guidance of Simon Gillett and the ill-fated Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd – hired Citigroup to raise the $210m needed for a substantial makeover, only to fail spectacularly, handing the long-term deal back to its rival.
Ecclestone, who tore up the New Jersey race's original deal and implemented a new contract in a bid to kick-start the venture, is known to have put a lot of faith into the involvement of businessman and racer Leo Hindery Jr as promoter. The hiring of Long Beach GP founder – and Ecclestone ally - Chris Pook gave the event added impetus as recently as May, but even Hindery's efforts in providing an initial $10.3m and being granted an additional $10.1m in loans appear insufficient to convince F1's head man to provide Port Imperial with another stay of execution.
Despite Ecclestone's claims, organisers insist that the event can still be ready for next season.
"We don't comment on financial matters, but we are on track for 2014 and will have a statement following the announcement of the official 2014 FIA Formula One World Championship schedule," event spokesman Alex Howe countered.
By Saturday morning, however, Ecclestone appeared to be backtracking on his earlier claims, suggesting that his initial quotes were again designed to elicit a response from the Americans.
"They have got conditions and they know what the conditions are," he told Reuters at Spa, denying that he had written the venture off completely, "If they haven't got any money, it won't happen for sure, [but] I don't look into their bank accounts, so I don't know whether they've got the money or not.
"They have a contract. If they comply with the contract, the race will take place, [and] we would be very, very happy if it does."
The loss of New Jersey would ease pressure on next year's calendar amid fears that the schedule could soon take in more than 20 stops in an increasingly congested season. Russia is already expected to join the fray in 2014 – despite organisers of the Sochi event having missed the deadline to lodge an application for a place on the calendar – while Ecclestone is known to be entertaining the possibility of a return to Mexico. Austria has also been announced as another likely addition for next year, but doubts exist over the future of events in both India and Korea.
The 2014 calendar is not expected to be confirmed until the start of December.
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