Today, in a surprise move, Bernie Ecclestone announced an agreement between Formula One World Championship Limited and Formula One Administration Limited, who jointly own the rights to F1, and the American promoter Full Throttle Productions, to host an American Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, beginning in 2012. The term of the agreement is 10 years, extending through the 2021 season.
There had been recent speculation only last week that Formula 1 might move to either New Jersey or New York, at the foot of the Catskills. Formula 1 supremo Eccelstone has long been smitten with the idea of using the skyscrapers of Manhattan as a backdrop for an F1 race, but the earlier rumors were apparently no more than red herrings. Clearly, the Austin deal has been in the works for some time.
One of the most surprising aspects of the new deal is the fact that the actual race track is as of yet no more than a concept. The track hasn’t been built, and the exact location and configuration have not been revealed. It is set to be a purpose-built track for Formula 1.
In an official statement, Eccelstone said, “For the first time in the history of Formula One in the United States, a world-class facility will be purpose-built to host the event. It was 30 years ago that the United States Grand Prix was last held on a purpose-built permanent road course circuit in Watkins Glen, which enjoyed great success.
“Since then, Formula One has been hosted by Long Beach, Las Vegas, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix all on temporary street circuits. Indianapolis joined the ranks of host cities in 2000 when they added a road course inside the famed oval. Lewis Hamilton won the last Formula 1 United States Grand Prix in 2007, signaling the end to eight years at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This however, will be the first time a facility is constructed from the ground up specifically for Formula One in the US.”
As reported on ESPNF1, managing partner of Full Throttle Productions, Tavo Hellmund, said of the deal of FIA officials who had made exploratory visits to Austin, “You don’t put Austin in same sentence as Monaco or Singapore, but everyone was blown away. Austin has grown up. I think they fell in love with the city. It isn’t a one-trick pony where we’re going to set up a street course.”