I’ll give you the links to all of the stories, so I don’t have to background everything that’s happened in the last week or so, but the moment they announced there would be a Formula One Grand Prix through the streets of New Jersey, with the TV cameras showing the skyline of New York City in the background, you knew that the Grand Prix planned for Austin, Tex., was toast.
As the late Mayor Jimmy Walker once said: “Who would want to be president of the United States when you can be mayor of New York?”
Or, as the greatest newspaper columnist in the world, Jimmy Breslin, once wrote: “The only place in the entire world that matters is New York City.”
F1 czar Bernie Ecclestone has been lusting after New York for years. Ever since he came to the realization that all Indianapolis has is the Speedway and St. Elmo Steakhouse, and subsequently refused to go back (that business about the sanctioning fee was just a smokescreen; F1 hated Hicksville, U.S.A.), he’s been conniving the get his New York race.
When the Grand Prix in Austin was announced, who knew there were – in fact – two groups involved? People who would build the permanent facility for Formula One and Moto GP racing (and, perhaps eventually, IndyCar and NASCAR) and people who would own the rights to, and promote, the race.
That’s a recipe for disaster right off the bat, if you think about it.
Anyway, the first signs of real trouble in Austin (as distinct from some short-term track construction problems) came shortly after the New Jersey race was announced with Ecclestone suggesting to team owners at the Indian GP that there was “friction” between the two Austin entities.
The smoke had barely settled from that little shot when the state itself dropped a bombshell.
Ecclestone had demanded a $25 million sanctioning fee, in advance. The state of Texas, in the face of fierce opposition, agreed to underwrite it. (People in Texas couldn’t figure out how teachers were being laid off in the state’s school system and yet the government just happened to have $25 mill. lying around to give to a bunch of European millionaire car racers before they’d even shown up.)
So earlier this week, the state announced that it was still in for the $25 million but would only pay it out after the race was held and after a study determined that the economic impact forecasts had, in fact, been accurate.
In other words, the state backed out of the deal.
The word today is that construction at the track has stopped.
Which means, the Austin GP is over before it ever got started.
This is as embarrassing to F1 in the United States as was the U.S. F1 project, in which a Formula One car was going to be build in Charlotte, N.C. There are still all sorts of red faces around over that fiasco.
Now, F1 will soon be left with just the New Jersey race.
1. Does anybody want to bet that the New Jersey/New York race will, in fact, ever come off? The opposition to shutting down communities directly across from Gotham for four days is just getting geared up.
2. This is good news for Montreal and the Canadian Grand Prix. One less U.S. race means less competition for audience and sponsorship.
And, actually, I'll add a third one: if F1 is truly serious about racing in the U.S., they will eventually have to go back to Indy. Like it or not, it's the only place.