Former IMS chairman Tony George has been busy lately. After being fired from his post as IMS chairman last June by his sisters, Mother and a family lawyer (IMS board), it was unclear what George would do next. It seems he may have found something to occupy his time.
According the the Indianapolis Business Journal, George met with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone at the Chinese Grand Prix to discuss options for bringing the F1 series back to the US.
As an ousted IMS chairman, it is also assumed that the IMS circuit, which spent $30m in building the road course for F1, may not be his prime concern. Ecclestone has said he is keen on a New York GP and perhaps George is working towards those ends.
George, no stranger to motorsport, sponsors and the people to make things happen in the US with regards to racing, is perhaps best seated to organize such an endeavor. Ecclestone’s relationship with George is apparently still sound after the two could not reach an agreement on a financial basis fo the continuation of the US Grand Prix back in 2007.
Apparently George and Zak Brown, founder and CEO of Just Marketing International, traveled to China to discuss the possibilities. Brown was more than happy to share his thoughts on George’s involvement in the process and specualtion on the results of an Ecclestone/George collaboration to bring F1 back to the US.
â€œWould Tony George love to broker a deal to bring back a U.S. Grand Prix? Sure,â€ said Brown, who confirmed his part in the discussions between George and Ecclestone.
â€œTony has a lot of contacts in motorsports, and he knows how to put on a U.S. Grand Prix,â€ Brown said. â€œI think if thereâ€™s a role for Tony in trying to bring Formula One back to the U.S., heâ€™d be willing to help. Tony and Bernie have a very good relationship, and Tony has a lot of interest in seeing F1 return to the U.S.â€
Certainly the Indianapolis Business Journal is going to focus on the locality and meaning to the businesses that would benefit if the race were to return to Indy. The Biz journal went as far as to ask new Indycar president Randy Bernard his thoughts on a possible return of F1 to IMS:
â€œAnything in the entertainment world from the NFL to F1 is a competitor,â€ Bernard said.
â€œIf it is good for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the city and the state, who am I to make a formal opinion to the contrary?â€ Bernard said. â€œBut if it failed â€¦ the last time it was here, why would it come back?â€
Why would they come back indeed. The road course was marginal at best and attendance waned in the latter year culminating in one of F1 most embarrassing moments in 2005 when Michelin-shod cars failed to start the race due to tire problems on the rough surface of the track.
Here is the questions at hand:
Would F1 do well to return to IMS? Is this the type of track F1 needs to display its prowess to a collectively lukewarm fan base in the US?
Tony George, right or wrong, has many detractors within the open-wheel racing world due to his separation from CHAMP car. Is he the man to represent the US in bringing F1 back?
I commend both Zak Brown and Tony George for their willingness and interest in F1’s return and I trust they will seek some real wisdom beyond the dollar because that is what it will take to make F1 successful in the States.
There’s no question that the race must be profitable but that will come in time. What the organizers of in the US must understand is building the base. Or should I say re-building the base? There will be some “goodwill” expense on the P&L for some time. You have to be prepared to take that financial risk int he first 3-5 years in order to make this work.
Ecclestone certainly won’t take any of the Cap Ex or goodwill expense so this falls on the organizers to absorb. Just how much they will be wiling to take on themselves remains to be seen but I can say with certainty that the venue will b crucial to the success of another USGP and if any organizers are willing to carry the note; the venue should not be the reason or risk that they may not make a return on their investment.