We've read a few reports suggesting that the ten year contract for Formula 1 in Austin may not have been drafted as originally anticipated. With recent quotes from Bernie Ecclestone playing to the rumor bandwagon, speculation on the future and stability of the race contract have been brewing around the world.
Just to give background, the finalized F1 contract between Circuit of the Americas and Mr. Ecclestone was rumored to be executed a day before the World Motor Sport Council met last Wednesday. Following a deadline extension by Bernie himself, the deal was reached in private with little details about the terms negotiated between the two parties - but rightfully so, as this is a private business venture, after all.
In the days following this release, Jeff Hahn (speaking for COTA) spoke with local news channel YNN, and said the details about the new contract with F1 were confidential but there is "an agreement, and the agreement calls for a ten year run of Formula 1 here at the United States Grand Prix." This was very welcome news to local and worldwide fans, all excited to see the return of F1 to America in 2012.
Recent details from Mr. E, however, have suggested that the financial aspect of the contract with COTA does not include a ten year commitment. Pit Pass reports Bernie said:
They gave us the money for next year and guarantees for the future but not for the whole ten years.
Pit Pass also asked if he's confident the 2012 race will happen...
They've paid us the money. I'm confident we'll keep the money if the race doesn't happen. It's an incentive isn't it?
Pit Pass let Bernie continue with some positive remarks...
I don't think they would have paid the money and given us the guarantees we wanted if they weren't sure the race would happen.
From these quotes it sounds like the ten year term may not be guaranteed in the signed contract, but there's a missing link in this Bernie-Quote-A-Long. Given that Bernie is speaking almost exclusively about money in his three quotes in the Pit Pass article, we believe his first quote is in regards to the financial, and not time, aspect of the contract, which probably does not equal up to ten years of monetary commitments.
It seems as though Bernie shed more light on the matter while speaking with Al Jazeera UK (via Statesman):
"We’ve been there, years ago, and it’s a little bit like the rest of America, they want to see a profit before they start something and it’s not easy to do that. Ecclestone said, according to the Press Association. "When you consider the country is as big as Europe and we’ve got (eight) races in Europe, it’s difficult. If we had a lot more races there and a lot more television, it would be OK."
With Bernie's recent quotes in mind, it sounds like these ramblings about money are being exaggerated quite a bit. I mean, come on; it's pretty obvious that COTA is planning on taking in some profit before the end of the ten year deal with F1. Since this is a private venture with almost limitless potential, one would expect them to build a sustainable business as quickly as possible. Heaven forbid a private company make some profit along the way and reinvest it into the long-term success of the facility! <insert sarcasm>
The bottom line is that only a handful of people know the terms of the contract between COTA and Bernie Ecclestone. The World Motor Sport Council ratified the 2012 calendar and it includes our Austin race at the Circuit of The Americas on November 18. Although we'll probably see more rumors of this type surface before race day, it's important to Keep Calm and Race On.
//Updated to include reference from Austin-American Statesman article, "F1 Boss Makes Waves over U.S. Grand Prix"