Like the rest of us, Formula 1 racing now has a Texas legislature problem.
The globally popular open wheel racing circuit, which has gained traction with an American audience thanks to Netflix’s “Drive to Survive” series, announced Sunday it signed a 10-year agreement to run the Miami Grand Prix starting in 2022.
F1 wants to remain racing in Austin, too.
That’s a problem.
It is doubtful that Texas’ Circuit of The Americas (COTA) track will be able to keep F1 racing in Austin without your tax dollars hard at work.
And Texas does not want to give F1 its money unless the two are exclusive.
In 2011, COTA announced a 10-year contract with F1 to host the United States Grand Prix and 2021 is the final year of that agreement.
The single biggest reason why the event came to Austin is because F1 receives $25 million, give or take, from Texas every year. The state’s Major Events Reimbursement Program, which often helps the state to land events such as the Super Bowl or WrestleMania, essentially pays F1 to come to Texas.
In 2019, this program contributed $26.8 million to hold the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin.
That agreement, however, has a stipulation: the payment will only be available if Austin holds the only F1 race in the country.
With the Texas legislature currently in session, expect that COTA has hired lobbyists to lean on state representatives to amend the rule to keep the money flowing so F1 can remain in Austin.
F1 has stated it wants to retain its race in Texas. It’s hard to envision a scenario where F1 is doing this without the $25 million, and it’s even more doubtful COTA can provide the money without assistance.
Don’t ask whether the race is worth the $25 million.
According to the Texas Economic Development and Tourism’s Major Events Reimbursement Program Report on the 2019 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix conducted by the governor’s office, there is no way to know if the state gets the $25 million back.
The report states that in 2019 the event drew 104,903 fans, and generated $251,049,167 in spending. It’s doubtful either figure is accurate.
The report’s conclusion says, “Given the available data and constrained to the use of existing resources, it is unlikely that the economic impact directly attributable to the preparation and presentation of the event is measurable with any reasonable degree of accuracy. Using available resources, the data is inconclusive in determining the actual economic impact of the event.”
The 2021 F1 Aramco United States Grand Prix is scheduled for Oct. 22-24. Last year’s F1 race in Austin was canceled because of COVID.
Until 2021, the signature race at COTA was F1. This season, NASCAR is scheduled to run the EchoPark Texas Grand Prix at COTA on May 23.
IndyCar is thought to be destined to run at COTA in the future.
Thanks to the efforts of COTA chairman Bobby Epstein, who has lobbied as well as contributed money to state lawmakers, Texas has kicked in well over $150 million to secure the F1 race.
If F1 leaves, open wheel’s major racing appearance in Texas will be at Texas Motor Speedway, and the IndyCar series.
With a style of races, and presentation, that is not consistent with NASCAR or IndyCar, F1’s history in the United States is at best shaky.
F1 leaving Austin would certainly be consistent with the series’ history in the states.
The U.S. Grand Prix lasted for 15 years at Watkins Glen, N.Y., and briefly in locales such as Detroit, Long Beach and Phoenix.
F1 left the U.S. for most of the ‘90s,but then returned to America at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2000. But IMS had major problems with former F1 president, the notoriously difficult Bernie Ecclestone, and the series did not return after 2007.
F1 came back to America in Austin in 2012.
It’s future in Texas will likely be determined by state legislators, and if they want to give F1 your tax dollars.