Formula 1: Ecclestone: New Jersey GP is off

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has revealed that the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey will not take place next year following delays with construction of the circuit and a lack of funding.

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Formula One commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone (Reuters)

The race is due to take place in June 2013 on a 3.2-mile street circuit which snakes alongside the Hudson river opposite Manhattan’s historic skyline. It is located in the towns of West New York and Weehawken in the state of New Jersey and has been beset with problems since being announced in October last year.

In May Ecclestone expressed doubts that the organisers would be ready on time and said they were late with payment. Three months later Tom Cotter, the president of the race, unexpectedly resigned and in September Ecclestone revealed that the race contract had been torn up after the organisers failed to comply with its terms. Now he says it has finally reached the end of the road.

“It is not going to happen next year,” Ecclestone said. “If they came up with the contract with us and we were satisfied the question is could they carry out the work in six months? Winter in New York is not good.”

Construction on the New Jersey site has begun and earlier this year two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and former F1 driver David Coulthard drove demonstration runs on the circuit. However, a lot of the work has focused on the pit.

The race was included on the provisional 2013 calendar, which was released at the end of September, but it was marked as subject to confirmation. On Thursday Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner confirmed that the organisers are behind on road repairs and obtaining permits.

The boss of the race is US fund manager Leo Hindery and although it has been confirmed that public money will not be used to support the project, its backers have not been named.

"There’s not a lot going on with New Jersey. They are still running around trying to get their finances sorted out,” says Ecclestone. “I think if suddenly they found the investors they would be okay. They are looking for investors.”

The lack of funding raises the question of whether the race will take place in future and the delay alone is a big blow to F1. According to the sport’s industry monitor Formula Money, if the race is cancelled, the total income lost to F1 would be as much as £150 million. This is because the organisers had a 10-year contract with the annual fee estimated at £15 million. However, the vacant calendar slot could be filled by another new race and Ecclestone is known to be in discussion about a Mexican Grand Prix.

However, Ecclestone has a soft spot for New Jersey and has been trying to bring an F1 race to the New York area for nearly 40 years. “I’ve not been there recently but it’s a super circuit. The backdrop is why I decided that is the place to do it.”

It is the second new F1 race scheduled to take place in the US over the next 12 months. The first is the United States Grand Prix in Texas which has also had a troubled development but is on track to be the penultimate race of this season on November 18.

Christian Sylt is author of Formula Money

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