Bernie Ecclestone Q&A: “I don’t know what the American public want to see…”

This week’s announcement that F1 will go to Austin, Texas in 2012 came as a huge surprise, even to the sport’s insiders. But promoter Tavo Hellmund had been in touch with Bernie Ecclestone for over two years while trying to put the deal together.

In Turkey on Thursday I spoke to Bernie about the race, and while he wasn’t giving too much away, what he did say was, as ever, fascinating…

Q: Is it fair to say that Tavo’s dad brought F1 back to Mexico in 1988?

“I think together, we did, yes!”

Q: And you’ve been friends ever since?

“Yes, we’ve kept in touch. And with Tavo, I’ve known him since he was born.”

Q: Did the Austin idea come up straight away after F1 finished with Indianapolis?

“No but we’ve been talking about it for a long time.”

Q: What was it that convinced you to go there?

“Well it’s a good place. Texas is a great place, it’s something that suits us.”

Q: But Dallas didn’t work in 1984…

“No, but it would have been nice. Dallas was good.”

Q: Had you been to Austin before this came up?

“No, I only went there because of this.”

Q: What were your impressions?

“Good, it’s a nice place. It’s got all the features that we want.”

Q: What is it about Tavo that convinces you that he can get the job done?

“Well I trust him.”

Q: But it was a difficult job even for Tony George…

“Yeah, but he’s got a different way of looking at things. He knows about F1.”

Q: What’s the biggest hurdle he’s going to face?

“I think he’s going to face hundreds of them. He’ll have to jump over them all as he gets there! Building the circuit, for a start is not going to be easy. But we’ll get it done, no fear. He’s got a lot of help from the government.”

Q: In that sense he’s got a head start compared with Tony George?

“Tony was unfortunate. It was the right and the wrong place. Right place for the type of racing they have, the wrong place for us.”

Q: I mean as far we know, he never got any government help, did he?

“No, not at all. I think everybody thought that Tony didn’t need any help.”

Q: Even in Texas finding $200m to build a circuit isn’t easy…

“He’s done it, otherwise he wouldn’t embark on it.”

Q: And a permanent track is the way to go?

“This sort of facility [Istanbul]. It’s going to look good.”

Q: It’s a better bet that a street race?

“Yes sure, I think we’ve got enough street races now.”

Q: Is it fair to say that street races like Phoenix were not the best way for the American public to see F1?

“I don’t know what the American public want to see in motor sport. I think they’ve seen too much oval racing, so I hope we can wean them off that!”

Q: Do you think he can get a crowd?

“Yes sure. Dallas was good, it was full up.”

Q: In somewhere like Vegas you were always going to get people coming from all over the world. Austin’s not really got the same appeal…

“The difference is that Austin will have a track, and Vegas didn’t have one…”




Filed under Uncategorized

13 responses to “Bernie Ecclestone Q&A: “I don’t know what the American public want to see…”

  1. jim

    Q: What were your impressions?

    “Good, it’s a nice place. It’s got all the features that we want.”

    I wish you would have followed up on his answer and asked what those features were.
    Bernie sounds rather flippant about this deal. I still don’t see it happening.

  2. Nicolas

    Q: Even in Texas finding $200m to build a circuit isn’t easy…

    “He’s done it, otherwise he wouldn’t embark on it.”

    So is it public or private funds ?

    • As I said the other day the track building is privately funded, running the race will be subsidised, same as other major Texas events. If you are an subscriber there’s a feature that explains it all on there!

  3. jo6pac

    I agree Jim. I’m sure Austin is a nice place because it has a University so this helps with the city being different than the rest of Texas. Then when I read that there are 250,000 rooms within 185mi, I’m like WTF. In Long Beach and Monterey, Calif. there are that many rooms within 60mi or less. The main thing like Bernie points out the state and local govt. are helping by stealing the needed money for the track & F1 from the taxpayer. Hope this works better than usaf1, which was embarrassing enough.

  4. Black Knight

    Bernie being Bernie that’s what I see here. All I have to say is that Bernie better give this young man a lot of help – he’ll need it. If he states that the money is there, I tend to believe him. He has no reason to stroke us on this point. If FOM signed a contract with Tavo’s group, I would guarantee that they made sure that they have a well funded throat to choke in the event that this deal goes wrong.

  5. Cliff

    Bernie doesn’t know what the Americans want? Obviously, we want an F1 race. The races at Indy were some of the most attended in history. We’re just not willing to sell our souls to…Bernie. Therefore he doesn’t care one way or the other if the U.S. gets a race. That is why I am sceptical about this venture.

  6. John

    Austin is an island of enlightenment in a sea of ignorance. I doubt if there is the infrastructure there to handle the spectators. Indianapolis was provincial and the local amenities were not up to the standards that you would find on either coast. I think New York, California, or Las Vegas would be world class locations that far outpace what Austin could provide. Obviously Bernie only cares about the money and not the future of Formula 1. The time has long since past for Bernie to retire. He is the Al Davis of motorsports.

    • Elio C

      You obviously haven’t been to Austin. Let’s see current annual events held in Austin:
      1. UT Football – Stadium holds 100k people (not counting workers, football teams or staff). This event brings an estimated 125K people in 5-6 home games!
      2. ACL and SXSW roughly 80-110k people attend (not counting bands, roddies). These are extended week events.
      3. ROT Rally (Republic of Texas motorcycle rally) 65-85K riders, their friends and families 5 day event.
      Yes, I think we can hold 100K+ attended F1 races! 😉

      • John

        I have not been to Austin but have admired it as a progressive city. I know they have a great music scene. The demographic for the Formula 1 audience is quite different than for Nascar or other sports. That was quite evident at Indianapolis when they were overwhelmed by people buying from the concession stands. The explanation I got was that the usual fans (Nascar and Indy car) bring their own food and drinks to the races whereas almost no one for Formula 1 did. The second race We attended (2001) we brought our own supplies which generated grumbles from our neighbors in the stands that they wished they had thought of that. We had trouble getting flights into Indianapolis and with room accomodations close by. The people of Indianapolis were wonderful and friendly and I am sure Austin is the same. Sponsoring a Formula 1 race is a big undertaking.

  7. Well done Adam, another scoop… I’m glad I’m subscribed here 🙂

  8. Jonathan

    AHA! SO Bernie admits that Austin was chosen because somebody was willing “allegedly”to spend the money on a circuit. It had nothing to do with crowd pulling (his last LV comment).

    Bernie has no clue. The fact of the matter is that this country will NEVER be in love with F1 or Indycars for that matter, period.
    Sure we will fill a circuit to capacity on race day as we did at Indy, but forget about any big TV audiences or news/newspaper coverage.
    It just aint gonna happen.

    • Jim F

      Though I do agree that open wheel racing has dropped out of the focus of most americans, It could come back. The past two seasons have been really exciting, underdogs pushing for the podium. Nascar is starting to roll into the one guy (or team) wins every race. If we get a circuit here (regardless of the city) and a US team, you will see a good following of Americans. If they want to capture the American market, Tilke needs to deisgn several pass points on this track. Which with the supposed 3 miles, shuold not be a problem. Personally, I would prefer the circuit be outside of Vegas.

  9. LongTimeObserver

    Please, not another Tilke-designed monstrosity…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s