The future of the US Grand Prix in Austin has gotten a bit of good news today as Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone said the race will happen even though it is provisional on the 2016 calendar and is still struggling to secure state funding via the Major Events Trust Fund (METF).
The METF was calculated differently for this year’s event and $5.5 million was deducted from the original amount of $25 million annually. The circuit was given more time to secure financing and Ecclestone feels it will happen.
The 2015 USGP was faced with torrential rains and that hurt attendance and financial impact to the area but in many F1 fans minds, it was one of the best races of the season and the race in which Lewis Hamilton was crowned champion for 2015.
I have no knife in the fight over circuit boss Bobby Epstein and the local anti-COTA/Epstein crowd but yet again, the sniping and harsh words continue to flow. This past week the circuit was rented by Bernie. No, not THAT Bernie, the other one named Bernie Sanders. Here was the introduction:
“Welcome to this palace of populism,” former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, who introduced Sanders, said in a sarcastic nod to the venue. “It was built for the rich people, but today it belongs to real people.”
How charming. Rent the place and then take a swipe at it as some shameful place of corporate welfare. I’m not rich and I’ve been to COTA three times and enjoyed it immensely. Even last year when it was an absolute wash out. I’ve met and spoke with Bobby Epstein and he was perfectly nice and seemed genuinely committed to the circuit and Austin on both occasions.
For $99 you can get a GA ticket for the F1 race and sit at the best place on the circuit (corners 6 through 11) and have a terrific day with your friends for very little money. I assume Mr. Hightower gets better seats than that when he attends an event there.
I don’t mind fair conversation about the only FIA grade 1 circuit in the US that can host a F1 race but the rhetoric is really base behavior. While one Bernie and his minions are using COTA as an example of shame, the other Bernie is trying to make the F1 race happen and give time for its financial situation to resolve itself. Two sides of the coin I suspect but one is providing fantastic entertainment for thousands of race fans while the other would have the circuit mothballed and overgrown with weeds as a headstone to the USGP grave.
I guess it depends on what you value more, politics of Sanders or professional racing. I know which I would choose but I tend to like fast cars and a day at the track with friends. I also like COTA and I have more time for one Bernie the the other Bernie. They are both close in age but one of them produced Formula 1 and I’ll take that over politics.