Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone says he is ready to axe the Austin Grand Prix in the wake of internal disputes between the race organisers.
Ecclestone had intimated in India that the race was at risk, but the situation reached a critical point this week when circuit construction was halted amidst a growing row between the event promoters and the track’s organisers.
“We’ve done everything we bloody well can to make this race happen,” Ecclestone told the Press Association. When asked whether the race was in danger of being dropped, he replied: “Yes, it will be for sure, 100 per cent.”
Ecclestone said that his original contract, with Tavo Hellmund’s Full Throttle Productions company – who owned the rights to host the race – had been cancelled recently.
He said he had instead started negotiations with the track developers, the Circuit of The Americas, who halted construction work on Tuesday after claiming contract talks had not progressed as previously agreed.
Ecclestone says he is yet to receive a guarantee of payment from COTA, and has given them three weeks to resolve the situation or risk having the race dropped from the 2012 Formula 1 calendar when the World Motor Sport Council meets in New Delhi on December 7.
“We had an agreement with Full Throttle Productions,” Ecclestone explained. “Everything was signed and sealed, but we kept putting things off like the dates, various letters of credit and things that should have been sent, but nothing ever happened.
“Then these other people [COTA] came on the scene, saying that they wanted to do things, but that they had problems with Tavo [Hellmund]. They said they had the circuit, and that they wanted an agreement with me.
“I told them they had to sort out the contract with Tavo, which they said they would. But that has gone away now because we’ve cancelled Tavo’s contract as he was in breach.
“We’ve waited six months for him to remedy the breach. He knows full well why we’ve cancelled. He’s happy. But these other people haven’t got a contract. All we’ve asked them to do is get us a letter of credit.
“We are looking for security for money they are going to have to pay us. That is via a letter of credit, normally from a bank. If people don’t have the money they find it difficult to get the letter of credit, and so we don’t issue a contract.”
The dispute means F1’s current four-year absence from the US, a key market, could be further prolonged, although a deal to race in New Jersey from 2013 was recently agreed.