Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, thrice, four times?
With Bernard Charles Ecclestone buying his way out of bribery charges - proving that one can bribe their way out of a bribe - and declaring himself to be back in charge at F1, the summer break gave us pause to consider how easily he has been fooled into believing that it was a good thing for the 'circus' to go to such hotbeds of F1 fandom as Turkey, India, Korea, China, Sochi - with its 25,000 grandstand seats - and now, of all places, Azerbaijan while he threatens historic venues like Monza and France, arguably the birthplace of motorsport and headquarters of the FIA doesn't even have an event. And yet Mr. E still believes that these now or soon-to-be gone Tilketoy tracks show Formula 1 as a "world-class" sports event. With this in mind we now ponder the latest foolery coming from New Jersey and ask how many times Mr. E needs to be fooled before he finally gets it.
We digress with a bit of Hindery history...
October 2011, to much fanfare and accompanied by his 'wing man', Humpy Wheeler, Leo Hindery, erstwhile racer and would-be promoter, announces that F1 is heading to New Jersey in 2013 to another Tilke-penned track. Mr. E declares that this spectacle will have the New York City skyline as a backdrop. The Governor of New Jersey gushes about how great it will be to bring a world-class event to his state. The local Mayors proudly assign themselves the roles of Prince Albert overseeing their realm... Monaco on the Hudson. In the meantime it appears that no one has bothered to consider the impossibility of the proposal from its reliance on using land slated for other development to its need to cut off all local road access for weeks (Hindery fools the locals into thinking it's just "three days").
Fast forward one year and Mr. E declares that the much-touted event has been postponed to 2014 because: "They didn't quite know what they were doing. They got all the permissions together. Everything was done, that was all fine, but then they missed the boat a little on some financing that was coming in. Everything is set up, but it's now too late to finish on time."
At that time, according to Bloomberg News, Ecclestone also said that race officials had "misjudged" the commercial and logistical requirements of being host to an event that was expected to draw more than 100,000 people. Bloomberg News also quoted the New Jersey Governor as confirming that just a week prior Hindery has assured him that the 2013 event was "absolutely happening". We were unconvinced by assurances from Mr. E and Hindery that everything was then fine considering that as early as January 2012 Pitpass had challenged the American to "show us the money".
Despite the doubts raised by Hindery's lack of public disclosure an investigation that showed that he in fact had no "permissions" to stage the event, by March 2013 he was declaring to Sports Business Daily: "We are back under construction" and "We have the consents in place that we didn't have last fall, and we will quite comfortably put the race on, now probably in the mid-year of 2014 with (Bernie Ecclestone's) support."
Hindery's announcement was accompanied by the release of photos purporting to show paddock and garage construction underway. That claim was debunked when a respected F1 photographer en route to Montreal stopped by the New Jersey site and reported that the construction was actually condominiums and a car park and had nothing to do with Formula 1. Pitpass ran photos (also) of the actual construction. Hindery remained silent whilst Wheeler was long gone.
Fast forward to June 2013 when the Wall Street Journal quoted Hindery as claiming the 2014 race is "definitely on" and that paddock and garage facilities are "nearly completed".
Sixteen days later Mr. E asserted that the contract with Hindery's "Port Imperial Racing Associates" has been torn up because Hindery didn't comply with its terms meaning he didn't show the F1 supremo the money either.
At this point one would think that a smart guy like Bernard Charles would recognize when he's being fooled. But when you're desperate to be in the US market in a bigger way than Austin, Texas, maybe there's a tendency to be foolish.
A mere month later, Niki Lauda, clearly a gentleman who knows F1 and has Mr. E's ear, declared to Austrian television station ORF that New Jersey had been dropped from the 2014 calendar. Pitpass reported at that time that Hindery was in a race to find money and had hired UBS to help him sell 100% of the event he believed was such a sure thing two years earlier.