Ecclestone under pressure to set United States GP for 2009

Jarno Trulli, Indianapolis, Toyota, 2007This month’s issue of “The Paddock” sheds some light on last July’s negotiations between Bernie Ecclestone and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George.

The pair failed to reach an agreement for a 2008 race reportedly because they failed to agree a price. Ecclestone apparently demanded $10m more than George was willing to pay.

According to “The Paddock” several F1 sponsors are unhappy with the loss of the race and say they would have made up the shortfall themselves.

It quotes the head of Just Marketing Internaional Zak Brown, whose company represent F1 sponsors Lenovo (Williams), Hilton Hotels and Johnnie Walker (both McLaren) among others. Brown said:

We were disappointed when it [the United States Grand Prix] went away. For us, the goal is to see if we can get them to come back at some point.

On the $10m shortfall he said:

If the sponsors had knows [about] that, it would have been sorted. Be assured that we can be back there in 2009.

I would love to see F1 return to the United States as soon as possible – even if it has to be on the modified version of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course that is being used by Moto GP this year.

But perhaps there is a wider issue here. Is this a sign of the erosion of Ecclestone’s total power over the Formula 1 world?

If the sponsors aren’t happy that a race promoter in a valuable market is being held to a higher price than they can pay, then the teams won’t be happy either.

Photo copyright: Toyota

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20 comments on Ecclestone under pressure to set United States GP for 2009

  1. in view all the money spent in F1, 10 million is a nothing … it is nothing to raise (if indeed that money was needed to keep the race in the US) and it is sure nothing for Bernie to sacrifice, if he really wanted to keep F1 race in the US… It is hard to believe that this is all that stands in a way for US GP …

  2. Robert Mckay said on 24th January 2008, 9:00

    It’s the principle of the thing. I suspect Ecclestone’s negotiating “technique” is to ask whoever wants to host the race to name a price, and then he adds $10 million or whatever on, just to prove he’s the boss and he’s doing you a favour by even talking to you about holding a Grand Prix.

    I respect Tony George for not playing the game and not spending more than he was able/wanted to. Bernie’s attempts to get everyone jumping through hoops for him wear thin on me now.

  3. What robert said seems to ring true – that only people/goverments willing to suck/jump at little bernie’s demand’s are allowed to get a race – napoleon complex I think the term is – another litle dictator who got his commupance in the end – hope that is literaly – to ignore the biggest market in the world that every other organisation/country follows – see the current share worries – is madness – pure and simple – and to pander to countries where a minority have power – well I wouldn’t put my eggs in those basket’s long term

  4. Eric M. said on 24th January 2008, 9:16

    Hmm, interesting. I wonder if the BRDC can learn a thing or two from this. We all know the situation they’re facing with regards to Silverstone. Surely many of F1’s sponsors would be against the cancellation of the British GP as they are the US GP. If the BRDC can coerce the sponsors to explicitly say as much, then perhaps Bernie just might back off a bit, and allow the BRDC to continue the Silverstone upgrades within its own time and means (ie. not resort to asking for government funding).

  5. I would like to know what for example keeps Hungarian GP on the calendar. I doubt the Hungarian government pays the extortion money to Bernie as freely as China or Malaysia does… The tobacco ads are banned there same as in the rest of the EU… nobody likes track (well OK, Button will forever have good memories) – how come that race never even gets mentioned when Bernie’s axe talks, but US GP could not be saved, Silverstone is always in danger and we already lost Spa twice in last 5 years …

  6. Andy Wolf said on 24th January 2008, 15:40

    I’m not sure which i’m more sick of hearing about, spygate or moseley…. actually, its gotta be moseley.

  7. It’s great that a GP has a possible return to my country. The bigger question is why Indy? With Road America and a host of other great tracks available, let’s get the race back to a venue worthy of the high competitive level the sport should demand.

    As for Tony George, the fact that he couldn’t connect with any of the sport’s sponsors to make up the short fall of 10 million speaks to his own lack of smarts. As the primary factor in the destruction of open wheel racing in America I consider him evil incarnate and not worthy of anyone’s support. There, I feel much better now!

  8. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 24th January 2008, 16:38

    I think Road America’s a brilliant circuit and I’d love the Grand Prix to be there.

    But if you take a look at the track and the FIA restrictions on circuit design it would surely cost millions to make Road America meet F1’s requirements.

  9. Personally, I would love them to run at Laguna Seca. Maybe with an extension to bring lap times more into the 1’20” instead of 1’10”. You are going to have to totally rebuild the course anyways with more safety room, better grandstands, and new pits. The ideal situation is bringing back the Pacific Grand Prix and having Japan and the US alternate a race every year.

    There is one thing that bothers me with this. I was looking through the regulations regarding circuit design. Just by my simple math tracks like Spa, Suzuka, Interlagos, and Monaco would not meet these current safety standards. I didn’t see a grandfather clause (maybe I missed it) to let these tracks in. However after my thumbnail math skills (and the help of several of my engineering friends) even Turkey is borderline legal.

    Is the FIA making rules that they do not even enforce? Or is it a question if someone creates a stink or if it is opportunistic for Bernie and Max to bring these rules up?

  10. The reason the USGP was constructed at Indy was that TG was the only party willing to make the capital investment, as well as being located near a major airport and metro center. Easy in and easy out for the teams. I found it amusing that once Tony spent the money Bernie thought he could jack him up for higher fees. It’s only TG’s wealth that allowed him to walk away this year, no doubt in expectation of a return in the future.

    I understand the significant expenditures required o make ANY American track compliant with current Bernie paddock requirements, not to mention the current track design restrictions foisted upon us by the FIA. Which I wasn’t aware of until reading here, and which should be rubbished along with Max.

    Until a national racing organization is found with capital to invest in a facility we will have to “settle” for Indy, when and if it makes a return.

  11. remember which track owner won the fia award for their circuit? – maybee either a kiss and make up or kiss off – we need F1 in america – too many good/bad/indifferent drivers have come to F1 over the years – but all trying hard to get something for their teams

  12. Pink Peril said on 24th January 2008, 22:11

    I’m with you Dan – I’d love to see F1 at Laguna Seca. I am not sure that it would be possible though, due to the design of the cars.

    I heard talk awhile back of resurecting a street race in Vegas – does anyone else know about this?

  13. puddum ching said on 24th January 2008, 22:19

    oi, mandev!!

  14. verasaki said on 24th January 2008, 22:29

    This just underlines the fact that the people running F1(you can put the names to them) have really lost any interest in the welfare of the series other than what they can personally take out of it.

    You are completely right about Road America and I suspect the same holds true of Road Atlanta and The Glen. Laguna may be a better bet but right now getting anyone to invest in the needed renovations would be difficult.

  15. Nico Savidge said on 25th January 2008, 5:32

    They had better bring back the USGP in 2009. I was at the 2007 race – my first experience at a GP – and I loved it. Indy had a circuit soaked in history, thousands of F1 fans from all around the world, and an exciting race. Lets compare that to something like the Hungaroring, which is only on there because (1) it was symbolic in 1986 as the first GP behind the iron curtain or (2) because they keep bernie well paid… my money’s on the latter.

    That said, as a California resident I wouldn’t mind a race at Laguna Seca or a return to Long Beach!

  16. Steven Roy said on 25th January 2008, 12:38

    It is one thing I will never understand. Max and Bernie have talked endlessly about the need for F1 to crack America. Given that the country has great tracks that stand comparison with anything in the world for spectacle and driver satisfaction provided they were brought up to standard why do they keep giving the race to pathetic circuits. I understand the history of Indy but the circuit is rubbish.

  17. F1 in Laguna Seca would be the best, but I think the track would change something in its layout (first of all because they need to use new safety measures). I also remember that in 2006 Bernie was considering the idea of coming back in Las Vegas for another city-track.

  18. oliver said on 25th January 2008, 15:36

    Ecclestone is just the classic train robber. He doesn’t really care if the circuits lose money, all he’s interested in is that he makes more money. Take turkey for instance, all the money spent, now he owns the track which is the only way to guarantee they get a race. This attitude can hurt the viability of many circuits and make people lose interest in hosting races.

    The words of one of the Russian backers of a proposed circuit was like….Bernie is taking everything, all the money, be it sponsorship and hosting fees, and all they are left with is just smoke in the air.

  19. As a budding F1 fan in the United States, I am very eager to see the USGP back on the schedule ASAP! I never saw a problem with Indy, as many of the location advantages mentioned above by George are accurate. There is also an outstanding sense of history, although obviously Bernie has shown a complete disregard for such values in deciding on where F1 will visit every season.

    I am very encouraged to see good discussion on where the race should be held in the future. While I like the prestige of Indy, Watkins Glen is also great(and much closer to home for me!)I have not seen the other tracks mentioned, but i’m sure they would make for a fantastic venue worthy of the event.

  20. Maybe it’s because I am a huge fan of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but I have always enjoyed watching the USGP there. There is a level of driver access that is not seen at any other circuit. It’s also one of the only places that can draw a crowd that we have seen be around the 175,000 mark. The track (before the MotoGP changes), had an astonishing 22 seconds of 100% throttle going down the front straight, mixed in with several slow speed turns, and from what I have heard from the drivers, a very enjoyable circuit. I would love to see the GP at The Glen, but unfortunately, it’s a one-road-in-one-road-out in the middle of upstate New York. It would be difficult at best to get the F1 teams out there. Any way it works out, I think F1 needs a grand prix in the US. (When champ car ran at the Las Vegas street circuit, the casinos complained because it blocked their some of their entrances and lost them money.)

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