Many people in the Hungaroring paddock ask me what I think about the latest aborted attempt to get a US team into F1. I have only one answer to that: what attempt?
This Cypher Group or whatever they’re called not being able to rustle up the necessary capital tells me that there’s still a shred of common sense among US investors. Who in his right mind would dump countless millions into an outfit that sits thousands of miles away from the necessary technology and know how to get a proper F1 racer on the track?
But Bernie, I hear you say. The United States are a technologically advanced country. Surely they have all that’s needed to build race cars?
Well, they may have it but they’re bloody well not using it. Their main series still races with carburettor cars. Carburettors! Outside the US, Africa and some parts of Southeast Asia nobody under 35 has ever seen one. OK, I’m forgetting Russia. It’s an engine technology that dates from the 19th century, which makes it even older than me. Nobody, or nothing in F1 should be older than me.
And why do NASCAR prefer carburettors? Because it’s easier to regulate. Thing is, some of their biggest races are on ovals, where you don’t need to actually drive a car. You just need to propel it with great speed along a pre-determined trajectory, so all that matters is engine power. Try to imagine, outdated race cars with Vietnamese suspension hurtling along a giant oval with speeds of up to 200 miles an hour. NASCAR’s answer to this is restrictor plates. It’s a metal plate with holes that you stick in the middle of a carburettor. Who needs high-tech when you can get away with power tools?
But the thing they fear most is Continue reading
Enough with all this navel gazing. Here it is: the first purpose-built US F1 circuit. Behold the site of the future Austin, Texas Grand Prix.
It’s becoming a little tradition on this blog to give you the scoop on future circuit plans. I will admit to you, my dear readers, it’s my favourite pastime: planning and negotiating new and exciting races.
I get a lot of satisfaction out of charting the course of F1’s future. Finding new places to plan F1 races, developing the plans,
finding a sucker to guarantee the money up front negotiating the deal that will make it all possible. Unlike other parts of my job it’s very grateful work.
This is what the plot looks like right now. It’s called Wandering Creek, in a Godforsaken backwater called Elroy. Try to picture Continue reading
Late night call from Sir Big Swinging Dick. He’s on of his Big Branson Ideas again. “Bernie'” he says, “Are you still worrying how to get enough spectators to that US Grand Prix of yours?”
I point out that it’s not me worrying about that, but Tavo Hellmund and the Comptroller of the State of Texas. But he’s not listening. Probably had a couple of Martinis too many at the Paddock Bar.
“D’you know what’s drawing the big crowds in California right now?” he blares. I must admit that nothing in particular springs to mind. The World Soccer Championship, perhaps? “Nope. It’s mooning.”
“Yep. Organised mooning. I’m not making this up. They moon trains. Gather at the tracks and wait till the train’s coming. At the signal they all drop their pants and moon the train. You know, full Moon? Two each, actually. Get it?
I get it. So what do you want to do, have people moon the drivers when they race by? Won’t they be going a little bit too fast for that?
Uncle Bernie, he says, I’m here at Silverstone with Aunt Susan and we’re having a great time but she’s getting worried about all these plans surfacing about a second US Grand Prix.
Aunt Susan? I ask. Who’s she? Do I know her? “Don’t you remember?” he says. “She’s the Comptroller for the State of Texas, she’s the nice lady who promised to pay those $25m in penalty clauses if we don’t have a race in 2012.”
Ah, that Aunt Susan. And why would she be worried? Another GP wouldn’t slow down your plans in Austin, would it? He says no it wouldn’t, but she’s an elected official and it wouldn’t make her look good for the voters if we would be, say, a year late and you’d pocket $25m and still get your US Grand Prix elsewhere.
So I tell him, listen, Tavo, the reason you got that contract in the first place is you’re a good lad and you’re going to make sure that Austin circuit gets finished on time. And by the way, since you’re already in business and nobody else has even started yet, your chances of having a Grand Prix up and running in 2012 are better than anyone else’s. So just do your job and neither you or auntie whatshername have anything to worry about.
Wimp. Whatever happened to that famous American pioneer spirit?
(Thanks reader David, for sending me the picture.)
I’d really wish there were as much interest in US F1 inside the US as there seems to be outside of it. Everybody and his mate keeps buggering me about Austin, Texas. Why Austin? Why not Monticello or Las Vegas? Is it a done deal? Will they be able to build a circuit? If so, where?
Listen, my friends: the way it works is this. I do the deal, others do the homework. And I only do the deal if I trust the blokes who were supposed to do the homework to’ve done it properly. It’s that simple. Plus, there has to be enough money in it of course, but that’s stating the bleedin’ obvious. We’re talking F1 here, the biggest money machine in sports. So Tavo Hellmund says he’s done the homework, and since I’ve known his father since we were both wearing plus-fours I trust him. End of story. The rest I leave to the experts. Full throttle, my boys!
I’m not one to care much for justification after the fact anyway. Austin in the middle of three big population centres?If you say so. City of 1.3 million people with the right demography? Demography’s fine by me. Republicans would’ve been fine too.
Most important thing is, the money’s on the table and a group of people I trust is busy making it work. That’s why I went into business with Tavo, and in case you were wondering, that’s why Hermann Tilke is the one designing the circuit. Tried and trusted, is my motto.
That’s how you become a supremo, and that’s how you stay one.