Conflicting fortunes for race organisers

By on Monday, January 6, 2014
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Formula 1 will return to Austria this year. Red Bull/Getty Images

Formula 1 will return to Austria and head to Russia in 2014. But for New Jersey, the situation is somewhat cloudier.

A new season is slowly creeping over the horizon, with Formula 1’s workforce frantically preparing the new breed of machines that will hit the track in Jerez in three weeks’ time. There will be conflicting fortunes: someone has to finish top of the class and another will end up with the wooden spoon. But for now, there is some anxious work ongoing.

It’s a similar situation in a couple of locations separated by the Atlantic Ocean. The calendar will feature 19 races this season, with Korea bidding farewell (probably for good) and India hoping that their absence is merely a respite before a return in 2015. Both circuits have capable replacements. Russia will host a round of the championship for the first time in its history while Austria makes a comeback after a break of over a decade, with its round funded by Red Bull co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz.

It’s been a good start to the new year for the Red Bull Ring.

The picturesque circuit in the Styrian Mountains endured a difficult time following Formula 1’s departure in 2003. The circuit – which had been somewhat neutered since its existence as the Österreichring - fell into disrepair and no race was held for eight years.

Red Bull acquired the circuit, renovated it and it has since hosted rounds of the DTM championship and the Formula Renault 3.5 Series. When there was a vacant spot on the 2013 Formula 1 calendar, the 20th race, Red Bull threw their hat into the ring. The race never happened, but it sparked enough interest and talks developed, leading to confirmation of a world championship event in 2014.

Organisers of the race have now been given the legal permission required from the local authorities to host the event, with its status upgraded to allow for 225,000 people to attend the event (which should permit an attendance of 80,000 for race day). It’s a positive move for the Red Bull Ring, fans and the local economy, which will no doubt benefit hugely from such a major event. The hills will certainly be alive with whatever sound is made by the new power units come June 22nd.

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There has been promotion of the sport in New Jersey, but will there be a race? Getty Images

Formula 1 should be arriving in Austria having pounded the streets of New Jersey but Grand Prix of America organisers have faced the unprecedented step of their race having been postponed twice.

Bernie Ecclestone has long used the media for his own games and with New Jersey, it is no different. When the 2014 calendar was announced, he had ‘no doubt’ that the race would eventually happen in 2015.

His approach has now somewhat changed, saying that organisers are in breach of contract and have been given ‘too much leeway.’ He also claims that he has ‘never seen anything from them’, no doubt referring to financial transactions.

There have also been reports that, a few years ago, Ecclestone looked into constructing a permanent circuit in the area and Formula 1’s ringleader insists that such plans could still be transformed into reality.

Many countries announce intentions to host a Formula 1 race but few see it through beyond the initial planning phase.  New Jersey organisers first mooted plans in 2011 and their first race should have taken place six months ago. Instead, it will be at least another 18 months before Formula 1 cars hit the streets of New Jersey. Ecclestone’s latest comments are another warning shot to organisers in New Jersey, but it’s an indication that he really wants the race to take place. The pressure mounts.

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Russians will have a home driver to support. in Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat. Red Bull/Getty Images

Organisers in Russia have understandably been focusing on the Winter Olympics, which will take place in Sochi in just under five weeks’ time. But there was positive news as they announced that Richard Cregan, who has played a big role in the running of Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit since its foundation, will be moving over to help out the Russians.

Austrians and Russians can look forward to Formula 1 this season. Over in New Jersey, more work needs doing before a pipe dream becomes reality.

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