The prospect of hosting two Formula 1 races in the Circuit of The Americas this year came as a complete surprise to Bobby Epstein, but gives Austin the potential to deliver something special, says the COTA chairman.
The cancellation of the Singapore Grand Prix saw COTA into the frame as a possible replacement, with RACER understanding that F1 is considering back-to-back races in Texas this fall. However, Epstein – who took part in the Spanish Grand Prix last month – admits that the only discussions about such a scenario were very short, and recent reports therefore came somewhat out of the blue.
“It was a complete surprise to hear it and to read it in the press,” Epstein told RACER. “And I think if it was intended, the way you would know that it was not pure speculation, would be prepared for all the incoming questions and calls and requests for tickets and suppliers and track rentals, which all had questions about what’s going on!
“So we woke up in the morning to it all coming out. The only conversation that has ever been about it was one that every organizer – who at least has a permanent circuit – who has had a race on the calendar over the last two seasons, which is: ‘If we would do that, will it be possible? ‘
“At one point, it was just asked, ‘If we had the situation, would you be interested?’ and we said, ‘Sure.’ That was weeks ago.
“We have talked (with F1) since, but not really about this topic, because I do not think they are really at the point where they are ready to discuss it. I have a feeling they have their hands full. ”
Just because the discussions are not yet specific does not mean that Epstein is not interested in the idea, as he believes both F1 and Austin would benefit greatly from a double-headed. So far, F1 double heads in the same spot during the COVID-19 pandemic have been kept behind closed doors, but having already sold out this year’s race, Epstein believes it’s a huge opportunity for a US-focused event.
“If it was good for the sport, we would do everything we could and I think it would be good,” he said. “We want them to be financially sound, we want fans to eat as much Formula 1 excitement as they can – so that’s positive – and that would mean more hotel rooms and visitors to our city. So all in all, if the opportunity is there, we should try to see if we can make it work.
“There is potential to do something special. There are activations and sponsors who could really get involved and get into the possibility of 10 days of Formula 1 or potentially more. I think we would have more people interested in putting together and activating more, exhibitions, displays – I think we could activate the whole city around it by creating a big F1 fan zone that would really create a spectacular event. ”
However, Epstein admits the time it takes to put together such an event means COTA needs a decision from F1 as soon as possible, but he says the track could still host another race, even at the last minute, if required.
“It depends on what the event looks like. The track, we can mix things around probably on the calendar. If we were to do something like we did for the normal Grand Prix in the USA, we are already halfway down this track. It’s hard to hire thousands of people, the logistics.
“I do not think it would definitely be the same event we would have next weekend – which already has all the programming and the artists and the music – but racing can still be exciting. I just wanted to see it as another event, I do not know if they are considering support races; you will have to define for me what it is they will do. But the seats will be in place, the track is there, and the tension will definitely be there.
“We can always run the races, even shortly before. Everything else you add makes it an even more spectacular, special event – the one that the clock is already running on. ”