Organizers of the Grand Prix of America at New Jersey’s Port Imperial are working to ensure the race is on next year’s provisional Formula 1 calendar when it is published at the end of this month.
A draft schedule for the 2014 season emerged yesterday at Monza, where the Italian Grand Prix is being held. It included 21 events, with new races in Mexico, Russia and Austria but no slot for New Jersey. This appeared to confirm New Jersey’s fate following F1 commercial chieftain Bernie Ecclestone’s comments two weeks ago, when he told CNN, “It’s not on the cards next year,” and suggested financial reasons were behind this.
But speaking today, Ecclestone left the door open to the New Jersey race taking place next year after all, telling British broadcaster Sky Sports that “We have a contract with New Jersey and I hope they can honor the contract.”
Grand Prix of America organizers declined to comment on the situation, a spokesperson telling RACER: “We don’t discuss media reports or financial matters. We will have a statement after the FIA announce the 2014 calendar. Until then, we’re continuing to prepare for the 2014 Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial.”
The procedure for finalizing the calendar consists of Ecclestone drawing it up for submission to the FIA for consideration by its World Motor Sport Council. This is due to meet on Sept. 27, where the provisional calendar will be agreed and published. It is then traditionally rubber-stamped at the next meeting of the WMSC, which will take place in December.
In order for a planned grand prix to be considered for the FIA calendar, a race application must be completed and filed to the national sporting authority. In the case of the U.S., this is the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States (ACCUS). The Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial race application has not been submitted in its entirety, but it is understood that some of the required documentation has been completed and lodged with ACCUS.
The fact that discussions between the race organizers and Ecclestone are happening this late in the day suggests the race could yet happen in 2014. Ecclestone has long held a desire for F1 to stage a street race in the New York area. With huge sanctioning fees, along with television rights the bedrock of F1’s income the equation for the race being staged is simple: If the funding is found in time and the street track is ready and to F1 standard, the race will happen.
This situation also explains the confusion over the draft calendar, which has been issued to 11 teams and was subsequently revealed by AUTOSPORT on Thursday. Ecclestone has distanced himself from it and is known to be unhappy that it was leaked. Potentially, the 21-race “official” draft calendar could be replaced by a 22-race version featuring New Jersey should an agreement be concluded in the coming weeks. Ecclestone referred to a 22-race version of the schedule today.
This raises the question of where the race would slot in. In an interview with RACER conducted three months ago, Leo Hindery, the executive chairman and promoter of the race, said, “He [Ecclestone] has given us a month. We know we will be sometime in June next year, following Canada.”
The Canadian Grand Prix is scheduled for June 8. With the FIA stipulating that June 15 must be left open to allow the Le Mans 24 Hours to take place without clashing with F1 and the revived Austrian Grand Prix inked in for June 22, this leaves no room for New Jersey. The Monaco Grand Prix is locked in for the last week of May, too, and so a major calendar reshuffle would be necessary to accommodate New Jersey if it is to happen in June. However, should another race drop out or the race move to another month, there is ample room. The Korean Grand Prix, which has moved to an April slot, features on the draft calendar as being subject to contractual terms and could yet drop out.
The clock is ticking for Grand Prix of America organizers, but there is still time to make the race happen for 2014. So while, as of this moment, it is not on the draft calendar that’s destined to be submitted to the FIA, that could yet change.