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Keep Calm And Race On

 

There's some news breaking about "the future of grand prix racing in the United States" coming from Autoweek, saying that a special announcement will air on Speed TV this Tuesday.  Much of the speculation about this announcement is rumored to be involving a grand prix race in New Jersey, and expected to be for the 2013 race calendar.

While little else is known about this news, we expect it to attract much attention leading up to Tuesday's press conference, but don't expect any wild speculation on our part.  We don't foresee a project on the same scale that Circuit of the Americas is undertaking.

While I can say that a race across the Hudson River from New York city would be exciting, we'll have to wait and tune in to Speed TV at 2pm Eastern time this coming Tuesday, Oct 25th.

This announcement does not mean or even imply a cancellation of the return of the F1 USGP in Austin; all of our sources confirm that Circuit of the Americas is on track for a November 18, 2012 race.  So lets see what happens on Tuesday and until then, Keep Calm and Race On.

David Coulthard To Drive F1 Car in Austin

Before Saturday's qualifying session, the BBC's F1 crew was catching viewers up on the progress at the Circuit Of The Americas and did a plug for an event DC is doing in America.

Here's the transcript:

Jake Humphrey - "But you're off to Texas soon to drive an F1 car, right?"

David Coulthard - "Indeed, I'm heading out there during the summer break whilst everyone's taking two and a half weeks away from Formula 1. I'll be doing a little demonstration with a Formula 1 car in L.A. and then heading down to Texas to do downtown Austin, to try and get a flavor of Formula 1 and show the people..."

JH - "Nice, so make a bit of noise?"

DC - "and make some noise"

 JH - "...and make some smoke, brilliant, we'll show you that on the BBC as well..."


Well David, we are ecstatic and can't wait for you to COME AND RACE IT™!

We're expecting the official news for this event to be released very shortly and hope that you all can join us on the streets of downtown Austin at this exciting event. Given Red Bull's experience in the Austin community at holding large events (i.e. Red Bull Flutag) and several others, we also anticipate this will be a RB event, which should make it an instant success.

Here's a little taste of the Red Bull Showcar with DC driving:

 

Would You Tolerate a 'Day of Rage' To See A Race?

While last Friday's announcement of the 2012 schedule caught everyone by surprise, we reacted quickly by focusing on the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix and the June 17th date for the race.  Since the news has settled down a bit and I've had some time to go back and look a little closer, I think the issue of the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix needs to be explained a bit.

Citizens rally in protest of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Source LA Times

'A Day of Rage'

With the announcement the Bahrain Grand Prix being reinstated on the 2011 calendar (it was canceled earlier this year), protesters and human rights groups in Bahrain are calling for a 'Day of Rage' to counter the decision by the Kingdom of Bahrain and the FIA. 

As the FIA World Motor Sports Council announced on Friday, the 2011 Bahrain Grand Prix is now back on the calendar this year and set for October 30th.  In order to make room, the Indian Grand Prix has now been pushed back to December 11th following the Brazilian Grand Prix over the U.S. Thanksgiving weekend.  Not only does that leave a short 13 weeks break period between the 2011 and 2012 season, it also means that Bahrain will be 19 weeks apart from its 2012 position at the beginning of the next race season.

According to the press release, FIA Vice President Carlos Gracia spent May 31st in Bahrain to assess the situation and visit with officials from various Ministries, Circuit officials and a representative from the National Institute of Human Rights.   All of these reassurances however, are not enough to truly shed some honest light on the situation.

One Day On-Site Inspection Enough?

Bernie Eccelstone talks with Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who was the main advocate for building the Bahrain International Circuit to host Formula 1. Source Yahoo NewsFirst, I have to question the thoroughness of such an on-site visit.  Could this on-site visit that lasted just one day really be enough to determine the appropriateness of the race?  An F1 race is no small impact on a city, on the contrary, officials from FIA and Bahrain proclaim that the impact to the economy is nearly $500 million dollars.  With over 100,000 people attending the race, the presence of F1 will be nearly impossible to ignore, and for the citizens of Bahrain, an easy target of criticism and anger as their brothers and sisters are standing up for their rights against the oppressive regime.

Now it would be a mistake to assume that politics and F1 are independent.  After all, business and politics are closely intertwined with F1.  A similar problem faced Formula 1 for the 1985 South Afrian Grand Prix, when several teams protested the GP due to the existence of apartheid in that country.  Following this race, F1 did not return until 1992 following the end of of the policy in 1991.  But the remains of the discussion and lingering attitude of the ignorant Formula 1 policy still tarnishes the return of Formula 1 to South Africa.

Reactions From Citizens, Drivers and Teams

Since the announcement, several people have come out and declared their disapproval of the decision.  F1 has been warned by Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, that protesters are calling for a 'Day of Rage' to protest the reinstated grand prix (see Planet F1). 

Red Bull Racing Team Driver Mark WebberFrom the driver's perspective, one of the most vocal advocates for a more sensitive approach to Bahrain has been Red Bull Driver Mark Webber, and with a tweet-heard-around-the-world from his official twitter account @aussiegrit, he said "When people in a country are being hurt, the issues are bigger than sport. Let's hope the right decision is made..."  Clearly, Mark has a good point...

Red Bull Racing released a statement on their website saying "We will go through the correct channels and discuss this decision within the appropriate forum with the other F1 teams and our fellow FOTA members."  It's expected that the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) will be meeting again soon to discuss their position on the decision to return to Bahrain.  This may be the early warnings of a possible rebellious decision to not participate, similar to the threats by Ligier and Renault preceding the 1985 South African Grand Prix.  One of the major concerns that a team would likely endure is the ability to get insurance to take the team and it's assets and employees to the race.  This would likely be extremely expensive given the current situation and could prohibit the teams, especially lower budget teams, to travel to Bahrain.

Fans and non-fans are speaking their mind as well.  Even before the announcement of the schedule by the FIA, the online petition giant AVAAZ.org was well underway to expanding their plee to help stop F1 going back to Bahrain.  Their petition has reached nearly 450,000 signatures in just 72 hours, and continues to grow steadily.  This kind of pressure is hard to ignore and if it continues, will be a highly effective tool at reaching the world's media.

Keeping It In Perspective

Is a human life worth the sponsorship money and global exposure of the sport?  Clearly not; this is the extreme case but the sensitivity of the situation should be handled with extreme care.  Formula 1 does not want to have blood on it's hands should protests about the sport turn violent and result in more bloodshed.  This would forever tarnish the relationship of the sport with Bahrain, and potentially interfere with Middle-East relations with Western Countries  (the last thing anyone wants right now).

No different than the earlier season decision to postpone the race until later in 2011, it's still too early to hold another race in Bahrain.  Formula One should respectfully decline the invitation to return.  If the teams are unwilling to spend the money to travel to Bahrain and see the race, are regular citizens going to risk getting caught up in civil unrest to attend the emotionally-charged and debated race?  We need to keep things in perspective; this is, after all, a sport. It's not our place to get between the citizens of Bahrain and their Government.

Conning your friends and loved ones into seeing a great film (about Formula One)

Image Courtesy Working Title FilmsJalopnik has posted a handy dandy guide to convincing others, who probably don't maintain the sort of fevered emotions about racing that we do, that they should go and see Senna. We here at The Austin GP are ardent supporters of this film, not just because it's about the demigod Ayrton Senna, but because it is quite simply a great film. You should go see it at any and every opportunity, then send Asif and Manish an email thanking them for doing the impossible - making the esoteric accessible and captivating to the average person.

Be sure to check out the interview with Asif following Senna's premiere at SXSW.

Anyway, as promised, here's the link to Justin Hyde's three-point methodology for tricking others into doing what they ought to, anyway... go out and see Senna in theaters right now.

Call to Action! - Support Formula 1 in Austin Zoning and Platting Commision Meeting

Loyal Formula 1 fans and Austin Grand Prix readers, we need your support for the Formula 1 United States Grand PrixTM in the next meeting with the City of Austin!  On Tuesday, November 16th, there will be a meeting for the Zoning and Platting Commission to discuss proposed changes necessary for the event.  

We need anyone and everyone to do two things to help this happen:

1. Email the Zoning and Platting Commission members at

bbaker5@austin.rr.com

sbald@sbcglobal.net

gbourgeois@jonescarter.com **Email address updated 11/16/10

trabago@austin.rr.com

prseeger@austin.rr.com

crbanks@hotmail.com

donna.zap@gmail.com

 

Below is a draft email that you may use. Feel free to edit as you see fit.

 

Dear Zoning and Platting Commissioners: 

 As a strong advocate for bringing Formula 1 racing to Austin, Texas, I urge you to approve item #4 on the agenda for November 16, the cut and fill variance along with the slope variance for the United States Grand Prix site. City staff and the Environmental Board have recommended these two variances for the project.  And the variance requests are consistent with past requests made throughout Austin.  In addition, this project will serve as a catalyst in the City of Austin’s Desired Development Zone that has long been needed.

 Supporting these variances will bring this project a step further to becoming a reality. I am eager for the arrival of Formula 1 in Austin, Texas, and urge you to support these matters.

 Sincerely,

 Supporter of the Formula 1 United States Grand PrixTM in Austin, Texas

 

2. Attending the ZAP Commission meeting Tuesday, November 16 at 6:00pm.  The meeting will be held in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 301 W. 2nd Street.   Please plan to arrive by 5:45 in order to sign up in favor of item #4. You may also sign up to speak in favor at this time. Garage parking tickets can be validated inside City Hall.

 

Politics is fun, right?  We are hoping for a big turnout and lots of supporters willing to talk about the future facilities and the positive impact felt by having this event in Austin.  Don't forget, wear your Come And Race ItTM shirt to the meeting as well and show your support to everyone!

Thanks!

Kevin



Susan Combs Visits Silverstone On Her Own Dime

We've got some very interesting news from the Austin American Statesman about Susan Comb's recent visit to Silverstone, the British Grand Prix:

It turns out that Susan and her husband Joe spent their own money to travel to the grand prix and meet with Bernie Ecclestone and Tavo Hellmund.  Susan even joked a bit about spending 300,000 frequent flyer miles to get there, but it looks like the trip was worth it.  This news wasn't a big surprise to us, but we are feeling very relieved that this fact was made public and even more excited about her enthusiasm and interest in the sport.

Furthermore, Susan's husband Joe is a computer scientist who used to race a while ago.  The article points out that he was also just as excited to be there, another good sign.

One of the most interesting aspects of the article is this point Susan made about the track, "It's huge. It's spacious, and it's green...This is not a concrete jungle. It is very respectful of the terrain."  Hopefully we'll see the same kind of track here in Austin, one that is respectful of the environment, well designed into the landscape and a pleasure to visit.

Read more about Susan's visit to Silverstone at the Austin American Statesman.

KO