Nick Craw, who you might recognize as also being the president of the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States, praised the track’s plans and design:
“It will be great,” he said. “This has some of the most interesting, exciting and different features, drawn from other successful venues around the world. It is a very strong team theyâ€™ve assembled here. I think itâ€™s a very good plan and a very solid business model. Theyâ€™ve set the bar pretty high.â€
The news via the Formula 1 official website also reports Craw met with the following: Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Travis County Judge Samuel T. Biscoe, and Peter Wahl, managing partner of the trackâ€™s design firm, Tilke GmbH.
It’s smart of the FIA to keep those lines of communication open with the politicos. No word if his visit was entirely coincidental to the release of old, confidential documents between race promoter Tavo Hellmund and Austin city leaders, though that seems to be the case.
There are two interesting pieces to this story. But first, let’s burden you with the rote statements from Craw and then Hellmund:
“It will be great,” Craw said. “This has some of the most interesting, exciting and different features, drawn from other successful venues around the world. It is a very strong team theyâ€™ve assembled here. I think itâ€™s a very good plan and a very solid business model. Theyâ€™ve set the bar pretty high.â€
â€œWe were pleased to have Mr. Craw and Tim Mayer, alternate FIA delegate, visit the facility site and meet the incredible team assembled to build and operate what we believe will be one of the premiere racetracks on the circuit and a world-class venue,â€ said Tavo Hellmund, chairman of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. â€œOur team is committed to building more than a race track, we are thinking far beyond the expected and are developing an environment that will provide an entertainment experience for both participants and spectators alike.â€
Wahl actually says something that should please the hearts and minds of F1Bers:
Wahl added: â€œThe track design has been developed with the drivers and spectators in mind. The drivers want to have high-speed corners; thatâ€™s what they like. We want to force them to faults and errors; otherwise, the race is not interesting for the spectator. When we design a racing experience, we must consider both points of view to have a truly successfulevent.â€
It’s that “fault and errors” statement, in particular, I’d focus on. That seems an alternative way of describing an “imperfect” track, which we’ve repeatedly talked about here as a key to a memorable circuit. If everything is highly engineered — ala a Bahrain, perhaps? — then it may as well be a simulator. It is the quirks — Eau Rouge, anyone? — that give a track character.
Now, I’m not sure that engineering quirks will be the same as designing a track on an old airfield — or produce the same result. But I hope that is what Wahl is getting at here, and that a track that does not feel sterile is the result.
The second bit of interest involves the FIA’s rules for track inspection:
According to recent reports, the FIA will consider a proposal in November to return to the former requirement that new Grand Prix facilities pass inspection at least 90 days before a race. â€œIt probably protects everybodyâ€™s interest a little better than running right up against the event,â€ explained Craw. â€œIf the U.S. Grand Prix didnâ€™t want that rule, I will lobby against it.â€
Wahl, meanwhile, stated in an interview last week that he wouldn’t be a fan of a 90-day rule. “We always get a time frame that is very short these days,” he said. “If the (US) race was held in May or April, that would give only one year for construction.â€
Hellmund was equally unconvinced a return to the 90-day rule would be necessary.
â€œWhile we would love to have the luxury of having a completed track 90 days in advance of the event date – the schedule, much like the construction schedule for the last five Grand Prix track developments and races added to the schedule, will potentially not afford us this opportunity,â€ he said. â€œAll of these events have been successful in their own right and it wouldnâ€™t make sense to invoke a 90-day mandate now, that would affect only one track in the world – ours.â€
So, this is interesting because those old documents linked to above mention a 24-month construction time frame. Clearly, if that is true, the developers are way behind. It also suggests that the USGP promoters are realistic. They know they can’t be ready in what about be about 17 months at this point.
My pessimistic side is sensing an initial USGP that is somewhat like the Korean race from a week ago: track complete (and more complete than Korea) but the surroundings beyond the most basic infrastructure not done before the 2013 event.