Ecclestone gives Austin one more week

LONDON Thu Nov 17, 2011 9:54pm GMT

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone waits to testify in the trial against banker Gerhard Gribkowsky at a district court in Munich November 10, 2011. REUTERS/Joerg Koch/Pool

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone waits to testify in the trial against banker Gerhard Gribkowsky at a district court in Munich November 10, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Joerg Koch/Pool

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LONDON (Reuters) - Next year's planned U.S. Grand Prix will be cancelled if organisers do not agree a contract and pay fees by the end of next week, Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters on Thursday.

The 81-year-old Briton said his patience with organisers of the race in Austin, Texas, had run out and he was not prepared to wait beyond the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix in Sao Paulo on November 27.

Circuit of the Americas president Steve Sexton indicated in a statement that hope was not dead and 2013 might be a possibility.

Asked whether he had set a deadline of December 7, when the governing FIA's World Motor Sports Council meets in New Delhi to ratify the final calendar, Ecclestone said he could not wait that long.

"It needs to be before that. We don't need any deadlines, having to thrash around at the last minute to do something. It's gone on long enough.

"They (the Texas circuit owners) have got next week anyway. We are going to be in Brazil so they can come back next week," he added.

Asked whether the race, which was announced with great fanfare as the first to be held in the United States since 2007, would be off if no deal was done, Ecclestone replied: "Yeah, yeah."

The Formula One boss denied he would be making more of an effort to keep Austin on the calendar if he had not done a deal for a grand prix in New Jersey, with a backdrop of New York's Manhattan skyline, for 2013.

"There's nothing to save. They can't bloody well pay," he said, his exasperation evident.

"What do you want me to do, wait until next year? To put all our cars on it, run around the circuit and everything and come back with no money? The teams want paying."

PATTERN OF BRINKMANSHIP

Some team bosses suggested, when news of Austin's difficulties first emerged, that it was all part of a familiar pattern of brinkmanship and that a deal would ultimately be reached.

Ecclestone, however, shot that idea down.

"It's not brinkmanship, it never has been with me," he said. "I've been trying to do a deal now with these people for 18 months or more...if they had the money, I'm sure there would be no problem."

The Briton said Full Throttle Productions run by Tavo Hellmund, whose father worked with Ecclestone to put on the Mexican Grand Prix in the 1980s, no longer had the rights to host the race.

"He's gone. He hasn't got a contract any more. I don't have any contract with anybody concerning the race in Austin," he added.

The race at the Circuit of the Americas was scheduled for November 18 next year on what would have been a record 20-race calendar that also includes the controversial Bahrain Grand Prix which had to be cancelled this season due to civil unrest.

Construction was halted at the Austin track on Tuesday, with Circuit officials saying workers had been told to down tools indefinitely because they were still waiting for a contract from Formula One.

The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts separately ruled out the state paying any public funds in advance of the race being held.

Sexton indicated that all might not be lost, however.

"We have been excited for and working towards a 2012 USGP race and now understand that Mr. Ecclestone is interested in moving the Austin race to 2013," he said.

"We know the U.S. market is important to the teams and their sponsors and 2013 certainly allows time for the Circuit of the Americas to be ready."

Ecclestone rejected the possibility of Turkey, dropped for next year, being reinstated and said there would be 19 races if Austin was axed.

He was non-committal when asked what the impact would be on Americans' perception of his sport after the debacle of a six-car race at Indianapolis in 2005 and the failure of a proposed U.S. F1 team for 2010.

"I don't know. We had nothing to do with the team that was going to be there and it didn't happen," said Ecclestone.

"Since we've been talking to the people in Austin we've done two or three deals with different countries. I don't know what the problem is for America really."

(Additional reporting by Corrie MacLaggan in Austin)

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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