Op-Ed: Wow, it only took Bernie a month to start knocking USGP plans

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Well, maybe the fact that it did take Bernie Ecclestone a whole month — even a few days more — to begin with his usual comments about plans for a U.S. Grand Prix in Texas is a good sign.

Normally, I’d expect him to start throwing icy water on the possibility much faster than that.

Well, here’s Bernie, being Bernie, this time with the hearts and souls of American Formula 1 fans firmly under his heel:

It has also been suggested that 2012 is an overly optimistic race debut date, but Briton Ecclestone insists it will take place then.

“That’s what the contract says,” he said. “It might turn out to be expensive for Tavo. We’ve got some penalty clauses, although I wouldn’t want to use them.”

Ecclestone said he is confident Hellmund’s project will succeed.

“Until he doesn’t [succeed], we won’t know,” Ecclestone added. “You might say I couldn’t run the 100 metres in seven seconds, but until I try, you don’t know.”

OK, so my telling Bernie to shut up isn’t the most insightful commentary, but that’s the first reaction that comes to mind.

Now, I know there have been some F1B readers who have complained about our having a negative attitude toward this race, when I can assure everyone that there is nothing more that the U.S. staffers want than F1 back in America. (Well, F1-related, anyway, that’s at the top of our list.) I think our skepticism, our inability to be unconditionally enthusiastic, comes from experience. F1, for all the pleasure and interest it provides, breaks our hearts just as often with off-track nonsense.

We love the sport, but also we see its every flaw.

And I think I can speak for all, or at least most, of the F1B staff when I say: This type of stuff from Bernie is at the top of our list of what those flaws are. He’s done it in Britain, he’s done it with Spa, he’s even — throwing Rome into the mix — done it to Monza.

I know, I know, that this is typical, usual Bernie talk as he puts pressure on promoters and developers of tracks. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

In this case, I’d also argue, to Bernie and F1, that it is a great way to keep enthusiasm low for a U.S. Grand Prix. Yeah, put a bunch of question marks around the race, that’s getting me excited and getting me online to book my plane ticket and hotel room.

Seriously, F1 needs to be building up to the 2012 grand prix right now. Beginning yesterday. It isn’t going to be an easy sell to non-F1 fans, and this is Exhibit No. 1 on why. If you’re a motor racing fan, and you see this story — not F1B’s, but a story saying that Bernie’s skeptical about the race — what’s your reaction going to be?

Exactly.

Instead, F1 should be building up its marketing. We’ve mentioned having NASCAR drivers test F1 cars. Put them in old F1 cars at some NASCAR road race. I don’t care if it is the smallest, least watched race of the season, chances are there will be more eyes on that race than the F1 grand prixs (I hate to say).

Do something at the 2011 Canadian Grand Prix, too. Have some special U.S. packages, put all the American fans in one section so they can collectively build each others’ enthusiasm level.

Encourage Red Bull to throw just a few F1 PR pieces America’s way. Same with Tag Heuer. Oris. Shell. Marlboro.

OK, maybe not Marlboro!

But the usual Bernie way of going is not going to help. Unless things really are that bad, and the money to build the track isn’t there and the whole thing is already teetering off course. Oh no!

See what happens when Bernie opens his mouth?

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