Many in the motorsports industry were quite surprised when the FIA World Motor Sport Council established the preliminary 2012 calendar a few months ago and set the Inaugural Austin F1 race date for June 17th, 2012. If you were to ask any Austinite about holding a major event outdoors in the summer, they would have just about died laughing. Clearly, the WMSC and other primarily European F1 decision makers didn't quite understand the gravity of the heat in Texas, and what it would mean to the many international travelers whom would be leaving 21º C (70º F) average highs in Europe, would be very surprised with Austin's average of 33º C (91º F) for the month of June.
We expressed our same concern when we first heard about the June race date, but didn't bring it up, expecting it to be changed later in November, when the official 2012 calendar is set. Well as Autosport is reporting today, Bernie Eccelstone has sent out a message to the teams about modifying the calendar for the 2012 season and is expected to push for Austin to be moved to November, just before the Brazilian GP.
This is very welcome news from our point of view and also makes a lot more sense logistically. Granted, the Canadian GP in Montreal is in early June and holding the USGP just back-to-back is logical. However, this would force the teams to either drive from Montreal or pack up and fly to Austin.
Transporting the teams is a costly and logistically complex operation, employing many people dedicated just to move the teams around the world. Thankfully, the F1 fleet of DHL planes on their way to Brazil in November, stop over at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) for a layover. It's no coincidence that COTA picked a parcel of land so close to the airport here in Austin, whereby having the F1 fleet fly through Austin would be cost effective and efficient. Things just keep falling into place, huh?
So what does this potential calendar change to late fall really mean?
1) It will be significantly cooler and more enjoyable for you to walk around the track, explore the various events at Circuit of The Americas and in downtown Austin, and allow you to focus on having fun in our fine city; not spend it hopping from shade spots to shade spots, searching for water, misters and A/C.
2) This will allow COTA to meet more of the deadlines with ease and ensure that the facility is at its peak operational capability when the teams arrive early the week before the F1 race.
3) As our friend John Maher at the Austin American-Statesman reported in April, the University of Texas at Austin (UT) stated it would consider moving a 2012 Longhorns football (American) game if it conflicts with the F1 race in Austin. A reminder that each UT Longhorns football game draws a crowd average of 100,000. Also, the F1 calendar is set prior to NCAA football schedules, which would prevent logistical change of schedule nightmares. More great news, unless of course, you were hoping to double book your trip here to see F1 and some great Texas football.
4) Ozone levels are lower in the fall than in the summer and will have less environmental impact. As discussed in the City of Austin's agreement with CELOC (the organizing entity for Circuit of the Americas to receive state funds), the Central Texas ozone season is April 1 - October 31. Therefore, a November race would complement environmental initiatives established by Council Members Chris Riley and Mike Martinez.
And to keep the ball rolling, Austin businesses in cooperation with the Austin Chamber of Commerce are working to get Austin Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) to accomodate direct international flights instead of going through Dallas and Houston. This of course means less layovers for travelers and a more internationally friendly atmosphere, so lets hope this happens as well!
After calling attention to the Autosport article, we spoke with COTA and they have expressed the following:
"Until such time as we receive an official announcement regarding changes to the schedule, we are proceeding as planned toward the June 17, 2012 date."
As noted in the original article, we support and predict numerous advantages of an Austin F1 race date that falls later in the 2012 season. We will, of course, continue to support COTA's moves to stay on track for a June 2012 inaugural race!
Autosport is reporting that the teams have not agreed to the revised calendar for the 2012 season citing "logistical nightmares" for the end of the season. We sure hope that this can be solved and still keep the USGP in the fall timeframe, but ultimately the teams have some very real concerns about moving their staff and equipment from Austin to Brazil in just one week.