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Entries in Formula One United States Grand Prix (13)


Internal Conflict at COTA

Late last night media reports throughout the Formula 1 industry were packed with news of Tavo Hellmund, Founding Partner of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, taking legal action against COTA to regain his foothold there.

Tavo Hellmund reveals the newly named Circuit of The Americas F1 project with Red McCombs and Bobby Epstein on April 12, 2011.You may recall that in November 2011, Hellmund called a press conference where he established his position with COTA and voiced his frustrations with execution of the F1 contract outside of his control.  Things have been quiet since that announcement and Tavo has only been rumored to be procuring new investors, presumably for other track locations and not COTA.

Saturday's news has ignited a new controversy that's likely to create more distractions from the world class facility under construction just outside of Austin, Texas.  The details of the relationship between COTA and Hellmund have been discussed in more detail by the Austin American-Statesman, whose coverage has insight into this relationship before these troubles became public. 

Tavo states that he was due $18 million as part of a buyout agreement for his share of the project and the race contracts with Formula 1 and MotoGP.  As Tavo claimed in the press conference in November, that contract has not been executed and he is still legally the Chairman of the circuit, according to the lawsuit fillings.

Additional details are likely to emerge as the week progresses, but the project is not necessarily hindered by this announcement.  COTA reaffirms that construction is on schedule in the following statement we received today:

"This is just a latest step in a pattern of behavior. Mr. Hellmund uses negative press to try and create an advantage for himself at every turn.
The fact is, he has has been found to be in breach of contract by Formula 1 and he has not fulfilled his agreements with Circuit of The Americas. Our focus remains positive. We are creating the most incredible entertainment and racing venue in the world, construction is on schedule and seat license and suite sales are very strong."

-- Circuit of The Americas Management
This is not the first lawsuit or threat thereof, but it is likely to cause the most rubber-necking because of the parties involved. When building a project of this magnitude there are bound to be disagreements and setbacks. While it may be some time before we have a clear and concise understanding of the behind the scenes work to bring our inaugural race to fruition in November, we hope for an amicable solution to keep this dream alive and on track (pun intended).

Hold on to your seat licenses - while Tavo had no further comments for Autoweek, he did say he would have more to share "soon."  And, the suit "does not seek to halt the F1 race scheduled for November."

Turn 1: Austin's Zenith

From the temporary observation platform at the top of turn number one, looking back at the whole project. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. But the only word I can utter after yesterday's tour of Circuit of The Americas is: WOW.

Not having been inside the construction zone since April, I was semi-prepared for a different perspective. The last video we shot in Elroy was back in October, but it was outside the fence; we've been keeping up with the photos floating around in cyberspace like vultures circling their prey, but nothing could prepare me for this.

Paddock Building view on the way up to turn number one.From the open-aired comfort of our off-roading taxi, our Austin Commercial guide started pointing out the favorite features of his outdoor office. Bits and pieces started to look familiar: that's the tunnel, I recognize it from COTA's Facebook photo album; those are retaining walls, and there's Turn 1.

My whole perspective shifted when we were halfway up the incline of what's sure to be the United States GP's zenith: Turn 1.

The miniature city grew smaller and smaller on our steep ascent. Bulldozers and Tonka truck lookalikes whizzed by. This looked very different from our first trip up Turn 1 back in April; what was once large masses of dirt has taken shape. Turns are easily identifiable with large numbered flags and berms have been carved out which will one day seat many of us reading this. You finally get a grasp on the magnitude of this project from atop Turn 1 because you can see it all: the 300-400+ construction workers, the positioning of the future Grandstand and Paddock building, the downtown Austin skyline in the background, and my new favorite feature: The Grand Plaza.

To put it simply, the Grand Plaza is going to rock. In the past 3 days they have created a sunken ampitheater by digging a hole that is roughly the width of a football field, the length of two football fields, and 50 feet deep. At the east end of the ampitheater will be a round tower that will soon make its way to the top of Austin's destination list. A large observation deck, designed by the Austin architecture firm Miró Rivera Architects, will give viewers a panaromic perspective of the entire Circuit of The Americas dreamland set against Texas Hill Country. To the west you will have unparalleled views of our iconic Frost Tower and its neighboring buildings in downtown Austin. The tower and observation deck should be complete the first year with future plans to finish it out to include a banquet hall for 600 people, a club on the top floor, a museum and unrivaled suites on the first floor.

Excavation for the grand plaza started this week...and the site is huuuge!
To the west of the tower and observation deck sits the ampitheater. I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite places in the world, Chicago's Millennium Park. COTA is working to have our newest Austin ampitheater ready this year and should accommodate 14,000 live performance viewers. Like many ampitheater settings, there will be floor or standing room tickets for 1,500 (sometimes also referred to the mosh pit), then directly behind that, 3,500 permanent seats, and then it opens up to about 9,000 lawn seats. Continue moving west and you'll hit the reflection pond which might tempt unwanted swimmers when we hit our famous 100'F+ heat streaks.

I'm a huge live music fan so it's no surprise that I'm drawn to the outdoor ampitheater. But I think COTA is doing something very smart by creating an expansive and multi-use space in their mini-city. How many visitors will come to see Willie Nelson and Lyle Lovett perform and be intrigued by the racetrack? Or parents bring their kids to the observation deck and the kids get a different view of the world than from Austin Duck Tours? Huge potential to introduce non-oval style racing to an entirely new fanbase.

We covered a lot of ground out at the Circuit yesterday and this is just part of it. Over the next week we'll hit on the pit/paddock area and share our interview with COTA spokesperson Jeff Hahn as he goes into more detail about the progress. Until then, enjoy our photographs taken at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on January 12, 2012 - 311 days until our United States Grand Prix, in case you're counting (and we know you are).




New Year, New Toys

As we await F1 Winter Testing to begin, we're working on other creative ways to keep you engaged.

Pinterest - the virtual pinboard

New on the social networking scene is Pinterest. It is a virtual pinboard: you find things that you are interested in or inspired by on the internet, and you "pin" online images and videos of the objects to your virtual bulletin boards. Like tumblr, other users can "re-pin" your objects to their boards if they share your interest. Broken down, it is another way to socially interact over shared interests on the web.

Between August and December 2011, Pinterest has grown from 1.2 million users to over 4 million.

The majority of Pinterest users appear to use it for style, design and cooking inspiration. Instead of creating 537 internet bookmarks for every gluten-free recipe that you find, you can "Pin" them to your self-titled "Gluten Free Pinboard" and have them in one spot.

What does this have to do with racing?

I created an Austin Grand Prix Pinterest account in December with the intent of organizing pictures and videos of motorsport and everything related - What books can I read about Formula 1? What movies are out there about historic motorsport moments? Who are the F1 drivers and teams? Instead of getting sucked into a black hole of F1 info, you can peruse our boards and if you're interested on knowing more about a specific topic, just "follow" that Pinterest board for updates.

What appeals to me the most about Pinterest is that you can find others who share your interests and discover related content that you may never have known about before.  To learn more about Pinterest, check out their website, read this beginner's guide from Mashable or the Wikipedia entry.  Other racing brands are jumping on the bandwagon, as SPEED TV announced their Pinterest account today.  As they say in the Pinterest world, Happy Pinning!

Here is a link to The Austin Grand Prix on Pinterest. I will be updating our "Pins" frequently so check back for new content weekly.

TIP: You must request an invitation to join Pinterest. If you need one, send me your email address at Pinterest {at} TheAustinGrandPrix.com

The Austin Grand Prix on Pinterest.com