As sure as eggs are eggs, this year’s US GP was going to leave the race promoters with significant losses from the moment it was scheduled back to back with the revived Mexican GP. TJ13 reported last week that in previous years, local estimates have Mexican fans making up around 40% of the spectators in Austin. In the article, The acid test for COTA, we examined the challenge faced by the promotors of the 2015 US GP.
Prior to the F1 event in Texas, the Circuit of the Americas president, Jason Dial, was convinced they would make up the loss from the Mexico based fans with the growth from “other groups of visitors”. Apparently more fans were expected from “California, Florida, New York, Chicago,” and Dial claimed, “we also see increasing numbers from abroad.”
Then down came the rain. At times it seemed the water came in such Biblical proportions, that a fervent evangelical interpretation of the weather would indicate this was indeed judgement from God. Elton John did his best to mitigate the organisers woes as his post-race concert attracted around 40,000 people – claim COTA.
Co-circuit owner, Bobby Eptstein tells the Statesman today that the 2015 US GP was “a financially devastating weekend for the company.” The company operating the circuit was already losing money each year and the owners attempted to sell COTA in the summer.
“We lost millions on concessions,” Epstein added, “and we suffered from some fans having such a bad experience they won’t be back, though I hope we can change their mind.”
COTA have stated the attendance on Sunday was 101,667 — down from an estimated 107,778 last year and 117,429 for the inaugural 2012 race. However, the circuit receives a state subsidy based upon the economic impact of the visitors to Austin who come purely for the F1 event. Hence, they are hardly likely to admit to a devastating collapse in the number of those attending the race.
Whilst Epstein would not give numbers, he claimed the drop in Mexican attendance cost the race promoter ‘millions’.
There are many in Austin who are critical of the giveaway of public money to the circuit, but this deal is clearly the difference between the COTA operating company going bankrupt or possibly surviving. Of all the new F1 circuits, COTA is widely loved by F1 fans, though its F1 future at present looks shakier than ever.
The Formula One circus moves on this weekend to a revised version of the classical Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez in Mexico City. Tickets sold out in days and despite the expected inclement weather conditions, finance is of no concern to the race organisers.