F1 Soap Box – 2012 Venues Under Threat


The May 1 deadline imposed by the FIA for Bahrain to reapply for a 2011 race date is upon us. But don’t look for a grand reshuffling of the season finale races to take place to allow Bahrain to slot in around Abu Dhabi. The situation continues to worsen in the tiny kingdom as Saudi troops have been blowing up Shia mosques and similar such things. While it is in Formula One Management’s (FOM) best interests to get this race rescheduled, the FIA is likely to spurn any attempt made by Bahrain or FOM to get this race reinstated. The political ramifications are too great and this current FIA administration does not appear to favor the lockstep-with-Bernie approach that it did under previous leadership. Further, one would expect the FIA to view Bahrain’s 2012 prospects in a dim light.

Given how poorly the most recent WRC event in Jordan went, the FIA may rightly have a sour taste in their mouth for all the political unrest and turmoil in that region.


Aside from Bahrain, Turkey appears to be another issue that is rearing its head. Turkish officials are not pleased with FOM’s sanction fee for 2012 jumping to $26 million USD from a current level of $13 million USD. While most Grands Prix are paying significantly more than $13 million, Turkey was something of a special case since FOM had a promotions deal with Turkey and was reaping some of the traditional profit that the race promoter would normally garner. Still, $26 million is a huge jump from their current fee and some consider it unlikely that Turkey will continue with F1, given the fact that they hardly draw 35,000 spectators for race day.

But, all hope is not lost. Bernie has something of a traditional way to go about bullying his race promoters as we have seen with his dealings in Melbourne, Silverstone and Indianapolis. As long as he throws a tantrum to the media about how crappy the promoters are and then follows up such verbal diarrhea with sanctioning fee negotiations, he has managed to get his way in the past. $26 million is just the opening public bid in their negotiations which will take until June (if you believe Bernie) or September (if you believe Turkey). Since Bernie has not taken to flamethrowing yet, it may be an indication that he wants to keep Istanbul….. or it may mean that he hasn’t yet begun to negotiate.


What about Austin? Just a couple weeks ago we were treated to the hoopla as they named themselves “Circuit of the Americas”. Along with that, they announced their partnership with MotoGP and discussed the year round operation of the track and its facilities. But what we didn’t hear about was the ongoing debate in the Texas legislature about the $25 million dollars in sales tax revenue that the circuit was intending to use on a yearly basis to pay Bernie his sanctioning fee.

Part of what made the Texas GP deal amenable to Tavo Helmund (the race promoter) and Bernie’s FOM was $25 million dollars a year that could be taken from the Texan Major Events Trust Fund to help pay the yearly F1 sanctioning fee. The trust fund was established last year to take sales tax revenue and reinvest it into the major events that generate such revenue. But apparently this fund is now part of the budget process wrangling as politicians decide whether it is better to spend money out of the state’s coffers to fund auto racing or other necessary programs instead.

So, What Does it all Mean?

So there are three potential 2012 venues that may or may not make it onto the schedule. Bahrain is the least likely to return in my opinion. I think Turkey will probably be back, especially given the fact that Bahrain is very doubtful to show up next year. But Texas is probably the one that will be analyzed most closely.
Texas represents a new attempt by F1 to make inroads into a US marketplace that has remained ambivalent to the globetrotting series’ existence. All the sponsors and teams want F1 to work in the US but so far it has yet to be embraced.

I can only imagine that CVC (the current owner of F1’s commercial rights) will not be too happy with their frontman if all three of these events are not on next year’s schedule.

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7 Thoughts to “F1 Soap Box – 2012 Venues Under Threat

  1. Us Texans are confident the SETF concern will get worked out. The support for the project is unbelievable! You can scratch this one off your concerned list. Austin will be racing in 2012!

    Friends of Circuit of the Americas on Facebook

  2. Wood

    First off, Mike, you need to get some facts straight.

    -The “political wrangling” is over only the first year of Austin F1 benefit from the Major Events Trust Fund (METF), not successive years.

    -The METF was not created just last year. It’s been around and in full use since at least 2006.

    Construction is going on here full-bore. You’d probably be better served by thinking of how you can get your hands on some tickets than worrying about whether or not there will be a USGP in 2012. For a country that has supposedly never embraced F1, we have certainly produced some astonishingly large crowds…the biggest in the history of F1, if memory serves. Don’t slip up and get left out on race day!

    If you think this race is under threat, you really need some help reading the tea leaves, my friend.

  3. Hi Mike,

    It is true that Texas politics are in play over F1 funding. The Houston representative who pushed this bit of politics forward is a bit insincere in that he used the major events funding for the 2011 NCAA basketball championship in his home district. The funding for the 2012 race is already secured and “in the bank”, so the issue is really about future funding for year 2 and beyond, and will depend on the success of the event and the sales tax revenues collected.

    I spent 3 days in Austin this week and it is evident that the politically connected consider this “set back” as an election cycle grandstand. The committee vote is non-binding and has no effect on the initial funding outlay. The critical votes will occur much later, so we all still have time to influence the outcome.

    I appreciate your interest in the Austin GP and would welcome an open dialogue with you. Thanks for the vine.


  4. Good to see some proud Austin GP fans on here….but I think after all is said and done, everyone has a reason to be skepticle of the race. I think more than anything a place like Donnigton sticks out….Korea also. The race is slated for next season and there is alot that goes into a track. I am optimistic about the race, but don’t want to feel the punch in the stomach that USF1 left again. That was gonna happen too right?

  5. Thanks to all the commentors for setting the record straight on funding for the Austin GP. Sorry for the bad info. I will be glad to see Austin answer the bell next year. But if the funding for the GP is questionable on a yearly budgeting basis, then I would be very concerned.

    As for attending the GP…. I will be happy to consider it after the ticket prices are released. As long as they aren’t too exorbitant, I will try and make it down for the race, but I will continue to be concerned for the long term prospects for Austin given that event funding will continually be based on the whims of politicians who may not see any value in a long term relationship with a series that has no American presence.

  6. jraymond

    The “funding” isn’t open to the whims of the senate or the house. The Major Events Trust Fund is operated by the state comptroller, and as such is beyond the scope of their political grandstanding.

    The only funding in question was the initial $25 million they were getting as a “loan” from the general fund. Since this race hasn’t happened yet, they really don’t know how much to give to FTP from the METF. As such, they can’t get their $25 million until the 2013 event. This initial $25 million for 2012 was to come from the general fund, and would be repaid later.

    As long as the F1 event is putting $25 million back into the trust fund and generating additional monies for the general fund in taxes collected, they have no danger of losing their money from the state. Flood was correct about the good senator, but left out some important tidbits.

    Borrowed from Mr. Woods:
    “It’s interesting and noteworthy that Senator Patrick’s home area of Houston is receiving more than $13,000,000 from the very same fund for having hosted the NCAA’s Final Four College Basketball Tournament just last month.

    The $13,594,890 awarded to the City of Houston for expenses related to hosting the NCAA Final Four Basketball Tournament was the 3rd largest amount ever awarded and only the 3rd figure of 8 digits.

    The City of Austin, until now, has never sought an amount greater than 6 digits.


    In FACT, when we dig a little deeper and do a little math, we can see that since the introduction of this program:

    -Houston & Harris County have taken full advantage, collecting over $86,000,000.
    -They hit up the METF early and often, gaining 6 of the first 11 approvals ever granted.
    -They’ve benefited for such events as the NFL Super Bowl, the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, the Major League Soccer All- Star Game, the NBA All-Star Game, the Latin Grammy Awards, and wait…what’s this? RACE CARS!?
    -Yes, it’s true. Houston took money from the Major Events Trust Fund for the 2006 & 2007 Champ Car World Series Grands Prix of Houston.

    Patrick and his constituency are benefiting greatly from the program, and actually that’s fine. That’s what the program is there for. Yet now he wants to examine it? Interesting timing, to say the least.”

    Senator Patrick might want to tread lightly here…he could be in danger of screwing his home district out of millions from the fund he wants to “examine”.

  7. Mike L.

    Although F1 is a major impetus in building the Circuit of the Americas, this is a much larger venue than most realize. In addition to MotoGP, a large music venue is being built which can handle 25,000 or more per show, a huge conference center and center for meetings of all sorts, a police training center and much more. This is going to be a full time, full bore, great complimentary addition to Austin (arguably already the live music capital of the world), Texas and the USA.

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