Austin promoter promises ‘grand’, ‘amazing!’ track. And Bernie?

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Bernie Ecclestone and USGP promoter Tavo Hellmund are the latest unlikely duo to be paired for an interview at the official Formula 1 site.

That must make the USGP official! Now, if only Bernie would sit down with the Korean Grand Prix’s promoter… but I digress.

We’ve brought you these conversations in the past, with Bernie teamed with Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and others. And I pretty much always think, “This is the one that can’t be topped.”

I’m thinking it again. But this time it’s … ah, I’m still coming down from vacation, so I’m not sure the right words. Here’s the piece in full and, below, selected excerpts:

Q: Bernie, what impressions did you take home from Austin?
Bernie Ecclestone: First of all, when Formula One returns to the United States we wanted to go to a place that has global recognition. Texas fulfils that perfectly, so Tavo’s plan and our needs matched perfectly. And Austin is so beautiful. Anyone visiting for the first time will be very impressed. And now comes something important: I’ve known Tavo since he was born.

That’s right, folks. Bernie was in the delivery room. We’re tracking down whether he was a licensed doctor at the time.

Q: What needed to happen for the Austin F1 project to take off?
BE: We had to verify if it was feasible – from the security aspect of such a mega event down to the most peculiar facet, until we were confident that it would work perfectly.

I just grabbed that because Bernie says “mega.”

Q: That’s all well and good, but isn’t NASCAR too strong a competitor?
BE: Stop! Whenever we’ve raced in the US we had legions of fans that were fascinated and thrilled. It was the case in Long Beach and in Dallas, also in Indianapolis. But the promoters there believed that they could make a better cut financially. The problems in Indianapolis had nothing to do with us. We’ve been always popular with the fans in the United States.
TH: That’s true. What you need to have is the total package, which is extremely difficult to do. Fortunately that is the fact in our case. And what could be better for a city or region than to have this ultimate high-tech-sport with a global audience in your backyard? And with a permanent facility…
BE: Exactly – that’s what is needed. Let’s face it, it’s no big deal for a promoter to build fences and crash barriers around a street circuit, tear them down again and pocket the profits.
TH: We are planning something grand, something that has permanence. Bernie has brilliant ideas on how to inject thrills into the race weekend with support events, mega parties in the park. This is no fairytale or witchcraft – I know that we can do it, but hard work lies before us.

They are leaving the witchcraft to the Korean GP people, of course.

Q: Many American motorsport fans love that barbeque-type atmosphere at a race, where they can bring their camper and have their own evening entertainment…
TH: Absolutely. That’s exactly what we are planning, as we are not only staging a race but a happening where racing is just a part of it.

Q: Bernie, how important is it for you personally to bring F1 back to the US?
BE: It’s very simple: we call ourselves a world championship and that implies having a race in the US. But we would not come here at any price and we would not be willing to settle for a rotten compromise. Now we have found someone who thinks the same way, and that means first class, in every respect.

I know I can speak for all Americans when I say there’s nothing I like better than anything with a barbecue. Weddings? Take ’em or leave ’em. Weddings with barbecues? I’m there. Work? Always better with a barbecue. Jury duty? Add a barbecue, people! Jail time? Not so bad when there’s barbecue.

I do believe I can smell what Bernie and Tavo are cooking.

But then we take a turn for the … weird business?

Q: Car manufacturers like Mercedes must be cheering the return of F1 to the US…
BE: Of course they do.
TH: And they will recognise immediately why they have good reason to cheer – because I don’t want to make just Bernie or myself happy, but more importantly our fans, the region and our partners. And the manufacturers I consider our partners. I could not rest easy knowing that anyone in this chain is not happy. Or to use a metaphor, I would not sell you a Budweiser with no Bud in the bottle…
BE: Tavo, hold it – no advertisements please…

Q: Do you think manufacturers and teams will support you?
TH: I am positive about it. They will send show cars and people over because it’s the logical thing to do. Everyone involved can only win: Formula One, the teams, the manufacturer, the State of Texas, the fans – simply everyone!

OK, so it’s safe to assume Bud isn’t an F1 sponsor, huh?

Q: Wouldn’t it add to the picture if there were an American team or an American driver? Just to cement the success…
TH: Bernie thinks so I guess. Of course it would be fantastic to have an American driver. A team would great, sure, but it’s no real necessity. But I see different options. There is that young Mexican driver Perez who is doing a great job in GP2 right now. For him the 2012 US Grand Prix could be a sort of home race: the distance from Austin to Mexico is a mere 250 kilometres!
BE: His career is followed in Mexico with huge interest, that I can confirm. Regarding an American driver, we have tried that lately but obviously what’s missing is the right attitude. You can race successfully in the US without the huge effort you need to succeed in Formula One. But to have someone like Danica Patrick in F1 would be a perfect advert.

I probably need to translate that for you. Tavo says: “Bernie has told me he’ll only OK a USGP if there is an American team or driver. Do you have Scott Speed’s number?”

Finally, you can start narrowing your travel window… and an interview with Bernie wouldn’t be an interview with Bernie without some major hedging:

Q: Bernie, have you already been thinking of a slot for the 2012 race in the calendar?
BE: We have to wait and see, but it would be logical to place it close to the race in Montreal and that would mean somewhere in June.
TH: Of course I have a preference, but feel confident that Bernie will do what is best for us to ensure the success of the USGP.

Q: Will there be more than one race in the US in the future?
BE: Let’s make one thing clear: Austin will be the US Grand Prix. But that does not mean that we cannot have another race in the US with another label. I would be insane if there were the option to race in New York and I said ‘no thanks’. But for now that’s nothing more than a pipe dream. The reality is we have a contract with Austin and it is there where the US Grand Prix will be staged.

Seriously, the only thing that interview is missing is some barbecue.

And seriously again, I think it is heartening anytime F1 officially shines some light on the USGP. It gives it some tinge of legitimacy.

I miss anything? Something jump out at you? Or should be just debate barbecue styles?

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