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Austin Remains On 2012 F1 Calendar, But Hurdles Remain

 

Circuit of the Americas logo

Circuit of the Americas logo

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Officially, the Circuit of the Americas had until today’s FIA World Motor Sport Council Meeting in India to deliver a check to Bernie Ecclestone, for an amount said to be between $25 million and $30 million, accompanied by a signed (original) contract.

It appears that those conditions have been met, since the 2012 F1 schedule still includes a stop in Austin, TX on November 18. That means that work on the Circuit of the Americas track must resume at once, with no further delays, if the race is to occur as scheduled.

As Autoweek points out, completion of the track is hardly the only obstacle remaining to the future of Formula 1 in Austin. The Texas trust fund that was to advance $25 million towards the sanctioning fee only allows financial assistance for an event held once per year. The addition of the New Jersey Grand Prix adds a second U.S. Formula 1 race, begging the question of whether the once-per-year rule applies to events in Texas or the entire United States.

Officials are concerned that having a second race on U.S. soil could reduce visitors to Austin, making the event at the Circuit of the Americas less profitable (or worse, unprofitable). The New Jersey race isn’t the only concern for Texas, either, as rumor has  it that Mexico is pushing hard for a Grand Prix of its own.

Such an event could potentially have a huge impact on race attendance in Austin, as a race in Mexico City (the likely venue) would surely pirate ticket sales from the Texas race. Still, both potential drains on Circuit of the Americas ticket sales are only relevant if the circuit is completed in time for FIA certification ahead of the November race.

If the Circuit of the Americas track isn’t completed in time, forcing the cancellation of the 2012 race, the resulting fines are believed to be equivalent to the cost of the sanctioning fees. If the Circuit of the Americas can barely afford to pay $30 million once, it certainly can’t afford to pay it twice.

While the Austin race is the sole addition to the 2012 F1 schedule, other key changes include modifications to the technical and sporting regulations. The 2012 F1 season is set to kick off in Australia on March 18.

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