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Casey Dobson

Tavo Hellmund Speaks About Future of F1 in Austin

 /// Audio Recording of Tavo Hellmund Press Conference

/// Overview of Press Conference

Just a few hours ago, Tavo Hellmund called a press conference to address the growing concern about the future of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix to take place at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas next November.  In this conference, he explained the complicated situation that has lead to increased scrutiny by Formula 1 head Bernie Ecclestone and spoke more about his own relationship with Circuit of The Americas.

In a tiny room packed to capacity in downtown Austin, Tavo and his attorney, Casey Dobson, began by calming the waters which have lead to a full scale media assault on the future of Formula 1 in Austin. Tavo was confident in his belief that this will be sorted out, but conveyed a sense of frustration with his partners in order to get FOM (Formula One Managment) their sanctioning fee for the upcoming race.

Unlike the speculation by many media outlets that Tavo has been solely to blame and responsible for the events leading up to this situation, Tavo enlightened us on the past several months leading up to this day.  Most notably that the race was always supposed to be post-Montreal (in June), and due to concerns about circuit completion schedule, Bernie was helpful in accomodating the move to November on the calendar.

However, this schedule change did not effect the initial $25million payment to Bernie which was still due in late July, and though Bernie was very patient, the investors have been unable to provide these funds even several months afterward.  Thus, the contract Tavo had with Bernie is now considered breached and Bernie has still not been paid.

At this point in the press conference, Tavo expressed several times that the money just isn't there, and the Circuit of The Americas has put him in a difficult situation.  He conveyed several times that he is not a money man, and though his expertise in motorsports and promotions are very, very valuable to the success of Formula 1 in the US, he has been sidelined by his own partners due to a "difference in vision for the project."  Tavo did not elaborate on what this difference is, or what portion of the project has caused this conflict, but it's clear that Tavo is confident he has gone above and beyond his duties to his partners and is the primary man pushing for this work work out.

Many of the other reporters asked Tavo questions about his status with the team and whether he had been 'pushed out' of the project.  Tavo did respond with a simple statement that he had been offered a buyout but he did not disclose any details.

/// Conjecture

Today Tavo spoke more about the internal conflicts involving a "difference in vision for the project" which fall in line with Bernie's claims a few weeks ago.  Whether the nature of these conflicts have made solidifying the funding for the project difficult has not yet been proven but it's likely that the other partners are looking to solidify their race contracts before investing any more money into the project.  What remains to be seen is if COTA is willing and ready to work with Tavo to make it happen, assuming of course that they aren't trying to get their own race contract on their own.

All statements from COTA the past week have indicated they are ready to do so.

Of course all anyone really cares about is if this race is going to happen, and at this point there are still some things that we need to see before we know for sure.  The first would be the funding for the race contract to be secured and sent to Bernie ASAP, this would solidify the race on the calendar and cast the doubt aside.  The second is for the Circuit and Tavo to iron out the details of their relationship to ensure a positive outcome for all parties.

As Tavo said in the conference, no one has put more blood, sweat and tears into this project than him, and his background combined with his connections within the industry make him THE person to ensure the Grand Prix is a success.  When I first met Tavo in July 2010, following inital F1USGP Press Conference, I immediately felt confident that he was the man with the vision and determination to see this project through and it would be a severe tragedy to see Tavo left behind on this project for problems that can be worked out.

You can read our live tweets from the press conference by clicking here.

Given the gravity of today's press conference, we expect more developments from all parties involved and will continue to bring them to you for the latest updates.