F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has indicated he will have no hesitation to axe next year’s inaugural Austin Grand Prix if circuit bosses and event organisers cannot resolve their ongoing disputes, which led to construction work at the Texas being suspended.
Having previously hinted that construction work was behind schedule and the event was at risk of not going ahead, the matter has escalated to all-out trench warfare between the event’s promoters and the track’s organisers.
“We’ve done everything we bloody well can to make this race happen,” a furious Ecclestone told the Press Association.
When pressed on whether the event was at risk of being dumped from the calendar, his reply was: “Yes, it will be for sure, 100 per cent.”
Ecclestone confirmed that he had recently cancelled the original contract with Tavo Hellmund’s Full Throttle Productions group – the company that owned the rights to stage the Grand Prix – and kickstarted negotiations with developers from the Circuit of the Americas.
“Everything was signed and sealed [with Full Throttle Productions], but we kept putting things off like the dates, various letters of credit and things that should have been sent, but nothing ever happened,” Ecclestone added.
“Then these other people [COTA] came on the scene, saying that they wanted to do things, but that they had problems with Tavo [Hellmund]. They said they had the circuit, and that they wanted an agreement with me.
“I told them they had to sort out the contract with Tavo, which they said they would. But that has gone away now because we’ve cancelled Tavo’s contract as he was in breach.”
The matter is now seemingly at an impasse: Ecclestone won’t issue a contract until he has a guarantee of payment from COTA officials, while COTA won’t proceed with further works until they have a contract.
Furthermore, the Texas state government, which has been instrumental in brokering the race to begin with, won’t issue any more funding to COTA unless there’s a guarantee the race will go ahead.
Ecclestone, as ever, holds most of the trump cards. If the organisers don’t commit to his terms, he’ll simply scrap the event and find a suitable replacement. In turn, that’s simply not an option for COTA, who have already invested millions in the construction effort to-date.
Now in a position to turn the screws, Ecclestone has given COTA a three-week deadline to come to the party, or he will push for the race to be dropped from the 2012 calendar when the FIA World Motor Sport Council meets on December 7 at Delhi.
“These other people [COTA] haven’t got a contract. All we’ve asked them to do is get us a letter of credit,” Ecclestone continued.
“We are looking for security for money they are going to have to pay us. That is via a letter of credit, normally from a bank. If people don’t have the money they find it difficult to get the letter of credit, and so we don’t issue a contract.”
[Original image via Sutton Images]