We were all lead to believe that today the world would learn the real fate of the Formula One United States Grand Prix in Austin. Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone has made it public that Circuit of The Americas investors needed "money and a pen," but now he tells the AP that "the deadline hasn't been met so we are still trying to make it happen."
Whoa - before it was "Deal or No Deal" - "If you don't meet the deadline, no deal" and now it's "the deadline hasn't been met, so we'll still work towards the deal"? This is quite a drastic shift and maybe a sign of Bernie's secret soft spot for the US, despite the many rollercoaster comments over the last month.
Now, I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that we won't get our fair share of negative speculation until the World Motorsport Council meeting next Wednesday - the revised deadline for Circuit of The Americas to sign Bernie's contract - but I would suggest that the seemingly disinterested Bernie is not as done with the prospect of our race as most media portrays.
As we highlighted before, Bernie is often known for this flamboyant use of negative vocabulary for the sake of hardball negotiations when millions are at stake. As long as negotiations are underway, he'll continue to use media as a heavy-handed tactic to put pressure on other parties. Joe Saward published a nice piece and looked at these tactics with Bernie's latest victim: western European tracks like Belgium, Valencia, and Barcelona just to name a few. He urged readers to consider that Bernie is a master of his art; he chooses his words wisely and doesn't casually comment on something. He specifically picks the media outlet to discuss and convey the message he wants delivered.
It's still unclear what lead to today's delay in the delivery of the contract to Formula 1, and what outstanding issues need to be resolved between Bernie, COTA and promoter Tavo Hellmund. Since Tavo's press conference a few weeks ago, we haven't heard much about the relationship with the Circuit investors and his involvement, if any, with the re-negotiations of the revised contract. Given the difficulty in getting a new contract signed, we do however speculate that Tavo is actually the missing piece of the puzzle, and like Adam Cooper's interview with Bernie earlier this week, Bernie has a softspot for Tavo that has been undermined by the negotiations with COTA, whether on purpose or not, and his involvement in the Formula 1 contract may be more of a requirement than a preference.
So what's next? That's a good question, and likely to be much more complicated that we wish it would be. Is sending a briefcase full of cash going to solve the problem? Not likely; there must be some terms in the Formula 1 Contract that are causing concern on both sides. Whether they can reach an agreement before the revised deadline remains to be seen, but the movement of the deadline alone suggests that things are progressing. Since we don't see Bernie as the type to change terms last minute to benefit the other party, there must be a reason for the change which could well benefit our Austin race.