Circuit of the Americas organizers and Austin city officials have come out strongly in favor of the plan forwarded by Bernie Ecclestone to shift the date of the inaugural United States Grand Prix at the new track on the outskirts of the Texas city from June to November next year.
Ecclestone wants to modify the originally announced schedule, which called for the Austin race to be run in the heat of the summer on June 17, to Nov. 18, 2012. The schedule, which also contains a number of other adjustments from the calendar issued in June by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile, is not considered official until the World Motor Sports Council ratifies it at its meeting later this year.
"I have been hoping for a late season race date since this project began and see this as a very positive sign from Formula 1 that it wants its U.S. event to be an over-the-top success,” said Tavo Hellmund, chairman of the United States Grand Prix. “Mr. Ecclestone has dozens of competing issues to consider when it comes to the race calendar. He has to balance the interests of the teams with those of the promoters and even consider the unique situation of each host country. To put our race near the end of the schedule puts us in a prime spot to welcome the world next year – and I could not be more personally and professionally appreciative.”
Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell praised the new race date and Ecclestone's Formula One Management group for its sensitivity to the area's environmental quality. The proposed date also allows for an opportunity to optimize the project's construction staffing and scheduling, he said.
“The Mayor's input regarding Central Texas' air quality during the summer months was obviously important to Formula One Management, and to their credit, they listened and have responded,” said Steve Sexton, president of Circuit of The Americas.
Sexton also commented on the additional benefits a November date offers: “First and foremost, we want our fans to have a great experience when they come here. The prospect of milder weather makes that more likely. It also gives us time to better prepare our staff and the thousands of volunteers who will be supporting Formula 1 race week festivities.”
Circuit organizers say their application for support from the Texas state Event Trust Fund, which proved controversial before a compromised deal was struck last month with the Austin City Council – is proceeding on schedule, and that the date change should not prove problematic.
“Our application to the Event Trust Fund is complete and has been submitted. We appreciate the support the Comptroller's staff has provided to us to make that possible," said Wayne Hollingsworth, a member of the circuit events local organizing committee's board. “While we have not fully analyzed the implications of a potential change in race dates, we believe that any such change, if implemented by FIA, will not affect the eligibility of the Formula 1 event for the Major Event Trust Fund, but would merely affect the timing. And, if the event date does in fact change, per the statutory requirements, we will update our application based on the new date and look forward to receiving approval later this year.”