The Formula One map is set for more change with the confirmation of plans to host a street-circuit race in the state of New Jersey, with the Manhattan skyline as its backdrop.
Bernie Ecclestone has been trying to break into the Big Apple since before his Beatles haircut turned white and now, with Austin, Texas, scheduled to host a race next year and New Jersey set to join the calendar in 2013, the ringmaster will have two footholds in the US.
“I’m pleased that New Jersey will play host to Formula One beginning 2013, bringing one of the world’s most popular and exciting sports right to our backyard,” the governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, said on Tuesday night.
“The race will be a 3.2-mile road race, run on existing roads through Port Imperial and at the top of the Palisades in Weehawken and West New York. Up to 100,000 people are expected to attend each race, starting with practice Friday, qualifying on Saturday and racing on Sunday.”
Ecclestone, Formula One’s commercial-rights holder, will be 81 on Monday and is not expected to be running affairs for too much longer, but changes to the calendar have been gathering pace. This week the inaugural Indian Grand Prix will take place on the outskirts of New Delhi, representing another conquering of a Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economy; Brazil and China have already been gathered in, while Russia waits in the wings for 2014.
But it is the US that still carries the most allure and the sport’s stakeholders, the FIA, the teams and their sponsors, have been putting pressure on Ecclestone. When Austin was still in the planning stage, Ecclestone showed interest in bringing a grand prix to New Jersey should the Texas race fall through.
Nonetheless, there are already 20 grands prix on the calendar for next year, and there will be resistance to racing any more than that the following season, with 20 the unofficial maximum. The addition of New Jersey would take that to 21, which could have implications for other grands prix if the teams do not agree to an increase to the calendar.
The future of some races is already in doubt. Turkey has dropped off next year’s roster and serious doubts remain about the viability of racing in Bahrain and South Korea.
While Formula One has deserted many of its traditional homes, such as Portugal, France and South Africa, it has moved into areas where some believe it is more concerned with the advertising platform provided than the sporting landscape.
The US, though, could prove a great success, even if some fans there think IndyCar is better because the cars are faster. It is not as if Formula One has not been here before, of course. It has, but much of the experience has been airbrushed from the memory, especially since the 2005 event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when only six cars took part after a row about tyre safety.
Tony Jardine, the Sky Sports News F1 expert and someone with vast experience of the sport in the US, says: “It was often successful over there, in places like Long Beach and Detroit. But the tracks couldn’t always meet the increasing budget demands.
“But I think New York could be very good for the sport. It has already got Texas on the way, which will take interest in F1 into Latin America. And now this move could really open up a lot of opportunities in North America.
“It’s not as if people over there haven’t heard of Ferrari and McLaren and Lewis Hamilton, because they have. Now I think they will really take to European chic.”
US racing could be, should be, a great success. But the trouble with Formula One is that it too often squeezes every last penny from “clients”, before asking for a little bit more each time they go back. If F1 and Ecclestone can curb that propensity then the move to the US – both in Austin and New York – should be a spectacular triumph.
The concerns about the Indian adventure have still not been entirely dispelled, with the race only four days away. As recently as two weeks ago, Ecclestone was pessimistic over the readiness of the track to host its inaugural grand prix. That is unlikely to be the case in New Jersey on a street circuit.
“It will provide a very challenging course,” the West New York, New Jersey, attorney Joe DeMarco said on Tuesday. “They compare it to Spa in Belgium but it will have the feel of Monaco.”
The West New York mayor, Felix Roque, said: “It’s incredible. This is going to be an economic boom for this whole region. While political and public servants talk about creating jobs, the governor has put the pedal to the metal and delivered.”
Roque and the mayor of Weehawken, Richard Turner, whose district is also involved in the race project, have stressed that no taxpayers’ money will be spent to host the grand prix and it will instead be dependent on private investment. The Wall Street Journal reported that talks had taken place with a consortium of investors.
But before everyone starts whooping and hollering it should be remembered that previous F1 adventures in the US have not ended well.
Tags: bernie ecclestone
, bric brazil
, china economy
, gathering pace
, manhattan skyline
Categories: The Western Press