Formula One may never visit Austin, Texas again after it emerged there will be a cut to state funding for the event.
Economic officials are said to be cutting the annual contribution by 20 per cent from around $25 million to around $19.5 million, putting the future of the race into jeopardy. The state contributed $25 million in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said to the My Statesman: “If it’s changed, it’s going to be difficult to continue the race in Austin.”
Bobby Epstein, chairman of Circuit of Americas that owns the track with auto magnate Red McCombs, was less reserved in his assessment of the situation: “To use a technical term, I think we’re screwed.”
The problem is that the Austin facility was built knowing the level of funding would remain as is, as Circuit of Americas spokesperson Dave Shaw explained. “An entire facility was constructed based on that deal. If the calculation is changed now, that’s effectively changed the terms of the deal.”
Epstein went as far to say it was a “a breach of trust”. He added: “The state clearly made promises. I think we made a deal, and we lived up to our end of the deal. It’s like you go to a restaurant and order a dinner, and then after you’ve eaten the meal they change the price.”
The governor’s office admitted the number of people attending the Austin race has dropped since it began in 2012, but said the change in funding was down to the use of different formulas to calculate the economic impact of the race.
It is too late for the 2015 US Grand Prix to be cancelled, Epstein admitted, but said the big question now is whether it will return for 2016.
Critics have argued Formula One receives too much money from the state, especially when the Nascar Sprint Cup at the Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth only gets $1 million. However, it is worth noting the Austin Grand Prix brings in signficantly more fans from outside Texas.
A number of race fans have taken to Twitter to try and save the race, with one going as far as setting up an online petition.
No doubt a number of F1 fans would be sad to see the race go, especially as British driver Lewis Hamilton secured his 2015 season after a thrilling win in Austin.