Two F1 races on the chopping block for 2013?

25/09/2012
NEWS STORY

Over the weekend there was a fair bit of media excitement when a certain motorsport website revealed what it believed to be the first look at the 2013 Formula One calendar. Pitpass and, in particular our business editor Christian Sylt, knew better and realised that unless the calendar comes from F1's boss Bernie Ecclestone it is totally worthless. Pitpass' Mat Coch was in Singapore so he managed to have a word with Ecclestone and got the first indication that our suspicions were bang on the money.

"I haven't seen it, and I produce calendars," Ecclestone told Coch. Further to this, Sylt sat down with Ecclestone and asked the F1 boss directly whether the promoters of the troubled Grand Prix of America in New Jersey even have a contract with him, let alone whether the race will take place next year as claimed on the calendar. Unsurprisingly, the response was no and in an instant the supposed 2013 calendar was rendered fundamentally flawed.

Sylt's news has been laid bare in an article in the Guardian and, ironically, the website which originally reported the 2013 calendar was one of the first to follow it up claiming that there are 'Fresh doubts over New Jersey GP'. It is not only ironic but an understatement too.

Ecclestone revealed that the contract to host the Grand Prix of America has been torn up after the organisers missed deadlines in their agreement. His revelation followed months of speculation about the financial situation of the race and the resignation in August of its president Tom Cotter.

The race is due to take place in June 2013 on a 3.2 mile street circuit which snakes alongside the Hudson river opposite Manhattan's historic skyline. However, Ecclestone says that the organisers "have not complied with the terms and conditions of the contract which is now gone anyway. They don't have a contract."

It is a big blow to F1 since the the total income lost from the race would be as much as 150m. This is because the organisers had a 10-year contract with the annual fee estimated at 15m. However, the vacant calendar slot could be filled by another new race and Ecclestone is known to be in discussion about a Mexican Grand Prix. He adds that "after Mexico we want to go to South Africa."

Construction on the New Jersey site has begun and earlier this year two-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel and former driver David Coulthard drove demonstration runs on the circuit. However, the race has been beset with problems since it was announced in October last year and in May Ecclestone expressed doubts that the organisers would be ready on time. The following month he told Sylt "they are sorting things out internally with some of their funds. If they are ready for 2013 we will have them."

The boss of the race is US fund manager Leo Hindery and although it has been confirmed that public money will not be used to support the project, its backers have not been named. A senior motorsport industry source told Sylt that "pricing for sponsorship etc was unrealistic and not obtainable in the current market; hence the malaise."

The real 2013 F1 calendar will be finalised on 28 September by the FIA's World Motor Sport Council and Ecclestone says that if the New Jersey race organisers cannot get financial support by then it will be impossible for the race to take place next year.

"We are pretty close to the final deadline. We have got a World Council meeting coming up. I think if somebody got behind them it could happen in 2013 because they have come a long way with the circuit."

Interestingly, Sylt says that Ecclestone told him New Jersey is not the only race which was on the supposedly exclusive 2013 calendar but has no contract. Stay tuned for that news over the next 24 hours.

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Published: 25/09/2012
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