The departure of Formula 1’s managing director of commercial operations Sean Bratches is a point of concern for Circuit of The Americas as it looks to negotiate a new contract for the United States Grand Prix.
COTA has been the home of the USGP since 2012, and is predicting the second-largest crowd in the race’s history – behind the inaugural event in Austin – next weekend. The current contract expires in 2021, and despite giving F1 a permanent home in the U.S. for a decade, COTA CEO Bobby Epstein admitted that talks over an extension are proving difficult due to Bratches’ impending departure from his role.
“We’ve been talking about it, but I don’t have anything to report there,” Epstein told RACER. “I think we have some work to do.
“It’s also concerning when you negotiate with a guy and you’re dealing with a partner who you know is not going to be in that same seat when they promise you something. It is difficult to shake hands and do a deal with the guy who promises you certain things and you know is not going to be there to see through.
“To discuss a contract negotiation, we talk to Sean Bratches. Is it difficult to sit across the table with a partner who you know won’t be there? I think that’s a great concern, because while things say things on paper, you also have to know you have a partner that’s there with you for the long term.
“We intend to be the partners for the long term, and it does help to have the guy sitting across the table also be duly invested in the long-term future of the company and the business. That certainly is of some concern.”
However, Epstein does not envisage conversations about a contract extension needing to be put on hold until F1 finalizes its internal structure, instead suggesting that F1 CEO Chase Carey should take a greater involvement in the negotiations.
“I think you have to believe that whatever Sean is saying, that is the line of Chase or someone else behind the scenes… and you’d probably rather deal with them directly,” he said. “To this point, we’ve only dealt with Sean.”
F1 is also closing in on a second race in the U.S. in 2021, with plans for a grand prix in Miami moving forward at Hard Rock Stadium.