Bernie Ecclestone’s comments to La Gazzetta dello Sport about wanting to hold a New York Grand Prix in 2012 are an encouraging sign that he hasn’t forgotten the need for F1 to have a race in the USA.
He’s been pursuing his dream of a race in the Big Apple for four decades. But I see no reason to believe it’s any more likely to happen now than it was when the first F1 race was planned for September 1983.
Before anyone gets too excited, no, Ecclestone is not talking about taking F1 back to Watkins Glen. The the picturesque and rapid circuit, which held the American round of the world championship from 1961-1980, is now used by the IndyCar series.
Ecclestone wants to hold an F1 race in view of the city:
[It would be] in front of Manhattan in New Jersey, with the skyscrapers in the background. Fifteen minutes from the centre of New York to the circuit would be marvellous.
This is not all that different to the event that was planned for 1983 near La Guardia Airport in Queens’, which was repeatedly postponed but failed to materialise. The 1983 race was eventually replaced by the European Grand Prix at Brands Hatch. The same happened again in 1985 but the New York race was once again given provisional status on the 1986 calendar before finally being dropped.
By a curious coincidence at the same time Ecclestone was pursuing his New York Grand Prix dream in the mid-eighties he was also trying to set up an F1 race in Rome. The project was similar to the one currently being mooted for 2013 and was even planned to take place in the same Espesizione Universale Romana district.
When the 1983 race was being planned there were already three American rounds on the F1 calendar. Today there are none.
Why is that so? Here’s an explanation Ecclestone gave two weeks ago for why F1 gave up on its last American home, Indianapolis, at the end of 2007:
It’s all the wrong crowd and the wrong people and they didn’t really… nothing worked there really, we’d have to have a big change round. But we’d like to get back there.
One can only assume that by “wrong crowd” he means a big one, because Indianapolis never had any trouble attracting far greater audiences than we see at Istanbul or Bahrain. And this despite the farcical ‘races’ F1 put on there in 2002 and 2005.
But I don’t believe the ‘wrong crowd’ really matters to him. What matters is money.
Watkins Glen was dropped because it couldn’t afford Ecclestone’s prices. The company running the race it later went into administration. Nor was Tony George willing to meet Ecclestone’s demands for Indianapolis.
Who is he going to find in New York who has the money to fund a race in the first place and accept the likelihood of losing substantial amount of money on it every year? Most of the new races added to the calendar in recent years are in countries where the government is willing to pay huge sums to finance – something which is not likely in America.
Ecclestone has been trying to get a race in New York since 1970. In that time F1 has abandoned several potential homes for a United States Grand Prix including popular venues like Watkins Glen, Long Beach and Indianapolis.
I’m very keen to see F1 find a long-term home in the USA. Although I’ve no doubt New York would be a fine setting for a Grand Prix I’m not convinced it’s realistic.
F1 should go back to Indianapolis. Preferably the oval, but I’ll settle for the road course…