Thursday, 01 December 2011 13:31
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has set a deadline of one week for organizers of next year's US Grand Prix to save the Texas race by proving they have the finances in place to sign a deal.
Ecclestone had wanted organizers to sign a contract by Wednesday, but extended his deadline to next Wednesday when the World Motor Sport Council will ratify the 2012 calendar.
Ecclestone told The Associated Press in a telephone interview: "The deadline hasn't been met, so we are still trying to make it happen. They need to get some money and a pen ... as soon as possible. They know full well. Deadlines are terrible things because people always go to the end of the deadline. But if it isn't all signed before the World Motor Sport Council meeting, it can't happen."
Financial backers of the race in Austin, Texas, include billionaire businessman Red McCombs. The race would mark Formula One's return to the United States for the first time since 2007 where it was hosted at the Indianapolis Circuit in Indiana.
The Circuit of the Americas officials, the track developers, have said they will pay Formula One's sanctioning fee. However, a dispute over signing a final contract and the long-term financing has not been resolved.
Ecclestone said: "They are struggling to get the financial side sorted out — that's the problem," . "They are trying to do it. It would be a loss to everyone (if it didn't happen). They would like the race to take place ... I'd rather see the race happen than not."
Circuit of the Americas spokesman Jeff Hahn said track officials would have no comment on the deadline extension.
The dispute has been caused by F1's decision to scrap a previous contract it had with Tavo Hellmund, a former race driver with long family ties to Ecclestone who was originally granted the right to stage the U.S. Grand Prix.
The deal with Hellmund was recently canceled over a contract breach, and F1 officials instead have been negotiating with Circuit of the Americas.
If the 2012 race in Texas is canceled, F1 will still return to the U.S. the following year in New Jersey. A 10-year deal will put the race along the Hudson River waterfront, providing views of the Manhattan skyline.