Bernie Ecclestone has told Sky Sports that the United States GP will go-ahead at the Circuit of The Americas in 2016. Following ratification from the WMSC last week, the F1 calendar saw the Austin race marked as provisional.
State funding from Texas has been cut by around 25% following the arrival of a new governor, and rainfall of biblical proportions in the Southern US state to COTA’s co-owner Bobby Epstein claiming, it was “a financially devastating weekend for the company.”
Remnants of Hurricane Patricia saw Friday and Saturday sessions cancelled or postponed though with the circuit drying during Sunday, this led to a truly legendary race. As CEO of the Formula One group of companies, Ecclestone has deferred the $29m race hosting fee, though without some kind of reduction in this bill, COTA may simply go under. Epstein was candid on the matter: “To use a technical term, I think we’re screwed,” he told the American-Statesman. “It hit us cold. No one could foresee this coming. But the big question now is, ‘Is the race coming back?'”
COTA of course have an F1 contract for 2016 and so long as they fulfil their contractual obligations/payments, or course the race is coming back. This makes Epstein’s question more of an appeal to Ecclestone to cut them some financial slack.
Speaking ahead of an awards ceremony this week, Bernie Ecclestone told Sky Sports he was confident that the 2016 COTA would happen. “It will be. For sure. They will sort their finances out.”
The incentive for Ecclestone to make this assertion is simple. If the season begins with 21 races on the calendar, then the teams have 5 power units (and the various components) per car before grid penalties kick in. Given that in 2015, of the 9 teams and 18 drivers running 2015 PU’s only the Mercedes pair, Felipe Massa, Felipe Nasr & Marcus Ericsson, together with Nico Hulkneberg and Sergio Perez – were not awarded some kind of grid penalty.
The Lotus drivers used only the allocated four power units, but Maldonado used 9 gearboxes and Grosjean 10. Lotus were responsible for their own gearbox, whereas Force India bought theirs in from Mercedes
See final 2016 season power unit/gearbox usage chart – here
Ecclestone is no fan of the new V6 Turbo Hybrid engines and he feels the excessive number of grid penalties is confusing for the more casual audience and unnecessary.
The decision by the teams and manufacturers to phase their 2016 season to account for 4 or 5 power units will be taken long before the final decision is made on COTA. This will however mean extra costs for the teams, and if COTA fails to materialise – no extra money from FOM
Epstein and circuit co-owner McCombs could simply allow COTA to go bankrupt, this would nullify any liability with FOM for F1 race fees past or future. TJ13 has been informed COTA are refunding general admission tickets, which appears a strange decision given Epstein’s comments on their losses.