After the past few days of speculation about the future of Formula 1 in Austin, it's hard to begin this with a level head.
I've seen the articles from Reuters, Autosport, Autosport (pay for access), Autoweek, ESPN (AP source), SPEED, our local newspaper Austin-American Statesman, and countless other sources. If you walked into the world of Formula 1 in the last four days, you would probably think the Austin race would not be happening and might even expect to see at least one lawsuit come out of this situation. Truth is, I wouldn't blame you for reacting this way even if you've been following the news since May 25th, 2010 when Austin first became a reality.
I am, however, not at all surprised by the flamboyant statements made by Ecclestone and the frantic media that bows to his demands for a controversy. Bernie has fully mastered this art, there are few others in the world who can utter a casual comment and watch the reaction spread like a wildfire. From the spectator's point of view, it's sold to us as fact, growing quickly out of proportion and turning into a full-on scandal. Like rubberneckers captivated by an accident on the highway, we end up staring at the story as if it's our only chance to see this, ever.
But the reality is this is nothing new, and what we are really witnessing is not a cover-up or controversial truth telling, but instead a very public and high-stakes negotiation between a couple of powerful people with deep pockets. Out of all of the stories this past few days, one thing is apparent: Tavo Hellmund and his company Full Throttle Productions, who negotiated the 2012-2021 contract with Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, own the rights to the USGP independent of Circuit of The Americas (though Tavo is clearly part of the COTA team according to their website).
What is on the line is hundreds of millions of dollars in jobs, investment, ticket sales, and TV viewers that all hinge on the ability of these parties to come to terms.
If you have followed Formula 1 for the last decade or longer, then this is nothing new to you. If you're just joining, then go ahead: spend an afternoon on Google reading about each time "Bernie Ecclestone casts doubt" and the claims Bernie's made in his defense; the man is an expert at controlling the conversation and maintaining power. So is it any surprise we're being taken for a roller coaster ride right now, knowing that there are some hard-core negotiations going on?
Absolutely not. In fact, I'd be a bit surprised if we didn't see this given what's at stake.