Tavo Hellmund, the man at the head of the new United States Grand Prix program, believes the Austin venue will be so well-suited to Formula 1 that it could stay on the calendar for "40 years."
F1 is set to return to America in 2012 – five years after it last raced at Indianapolis – at a new purpose-built facility near the Texas city that reportedly will cost $200m to build. Promoter Hellmund reckons the location has so many advantages, it can end F1's long search for a permanent U.S. home.
"I considered Austin as the ultimate place and I went to Bernie with this idea," he said in an interview with the official F1 website. "Austin has developed immensely over the last 15 years – in every aspect – so for me there was no better place to hold the United States Grand Prix.
"The State of Texas has developed into the 11th biggest global economy and many of the Fortune 500 companies have their headquarters here. And Austin is the capital. Think of the ideal location of the city: my fellow countrymen can reach it easily, as well as fans from central and South America. In this respect it's perfectly central.
"My philosophy is that you will succeed if you are at the right place at the right time – and for a grand prix in Austin, Texas, I considered it to be the right time. We have a contract for the next 10 years, but if you ask me we could race here for the next 40 years!"
Amid continual rumors that America could eventually return to having two F1 dates, Ecclestone said he was open to the idea of a second U.S. race, but that Austin was the only one on the horizon for now.
"Let's make one thing clear: Austin will be the U.S. Grand Prix," he said. "But that does not mean that we cannot have another race in the U.S. with another label. I would be insane if there were the option to race in New York and I said, 'No thanks.' But for now that's nothing more than a pipe dream. The reality is we have a contract with Austin and it is there where the U.S. Grand Prix will be staged."
Both Hellmund and Ecclestone believe F1 could succeed in Austin even without local talent involved. Since Scott Speed's departure from Toro Rosso, there have been no American drivers in F1, and the Charlotte-based US F1 team failed to make the grid this year. Fellow U.S. outfit Cypher Group recently withdrew its bid for a 2011 entry.
"Of course, it would be fantastic to have an American driver," said Hellmund. "A team would be great, sure, but it's no real necessity."
Ecclestone added: "Regarding an American driver, we have tried that lately but obviously what's missing is the right attitude. You can race successfully in the U.S. without the huge effort you need to succeed in Formula 1. But to have someone like Danica Patrick in F1 would be a perfect advert."
Hellmund believes local interest could instead come from Mexico if GP2 frontrunner Sergio Perez makes it into F1 by 2012.
"There is that young Mexican driver Perez who is doing a great job in GP2 right now," said Hellmund. "For him, the 2012 U.S. Grand Prix could be a sort of home race – the distance from Austin to Mexico is a mere 150 miles."