COTA may have seen the last of F1 is Co-owner Bobby Epstein is to be believed. When the state finance office announced they were cutting the circuit’s annual subsidy by 20% ($5.5m), Epstein commented, “’We’re screwed. But the big question now, is – Is the race coming back?’”
It now transpires that COTA, like Silverstone, have failed to pay their 2015 race hosting fee to FOM. However, flyaway races such as COTA are expected to pay three months in advance as the 2012 floatation document revealed. “Payments are often received in advance of the event thereby contributing to our favourable working capital dynamics. This is particularly the case for flyaway events, the fees for which typically fall due three months before the relevant event.”
However, Bernie Ecclestone appears relaxed about COTA’s on-payment thus far. “We said they can pay late this year,” Ecclestone said to the Statesman. “They get money from the state, and the money from the state is late, so that’s why they are late.”
Epstein however, is less optimistic. “It’s OK paying after the race, but if they don’t give you enough to pay the sanction fee, you still can’t do it.”
The method for calculating the state subsidy changed in 2015, hence the $5.5m fall in the payment to COTA. There is still the possibility COTA will take legal action against the legislator. In previous years under the governorship of Rick Perry, state Comptroller Susan Combs office had administered the fund; but both left office in January and the major events incentive budget has been shifted to Gov. Greg Abbott’s office.
“The person who dealt with this in the first place is no longer there”, says Ecclestone. “The governor is no longer there. So they have got new people, but they should pay what was agreed. I think we will get the funding back on track again.”
Bernie has been aware of this situation for some months and announced at the US GP he was looking at another race in Southern California. Further, were COTA to fall off the 2016 calendar the inaugural race in Baku will ensure the total number of races doesn’t fall in number.