The Singapore Grand Prix originally scheduled for October 3 has been cancelled for reasons you can already guess. That decision hasn’t been formally announced yet, but the BBC says its coming soon. And when it does, Formula 1 will be searching for a replacement.
It could come in the form of a second United States Grand Prix, according to a report from Racer, as the Japanese Grand Prix that would split the Singapore and U.S. rounds also appears to be up in the air due to ever-changing COVID restrictions in Asia.
Bearing all that in mind, I have a proposal. It is not at all a proposal to be taken seriously, because it already failed once and would be virtually impossible to set up in such a short amount of time, especially in the shadow of the pandemic. But I’ll tell you what I’d like to see instead of back-to-back races at Circuit Of The Americas in Austin. I want F1 to revive its decade-old plan for an event in New Jersey, at the proposed Port Imperial Street Circuit.
First announced late in 2011, the Port Imperial track would have snaked through the hilly streets of Weehawken and West New York, which everyone is always surprised to learn is, in fact, located in New Jersey. The track appeared on the provisional season calendars for the next five years or so, but financial holdups ultimately doomed it. It’s a long story full of bureaucratic finger-pointing that I don’t have the patience to recount right now, so go check out this informative Autoweek story from 2013 if you want to learn more. I will, however, highlight this one quote from the ever-likable old F1 magnate and cartoon villain Bernie Ecclestone:
“We gave [the organizers] money and I have never seen anything from them. We could sue them,” says Ecclestone.
Don’t you miss him? Anyway, the Port Imperial course was composed of 19 corners and ran 3.2 miles. For a modern F1 street circuit, it was remarkably crooked, particularly in the middle sector, and full of elevation change. In many ways, it reminds me of Baku. Turns 5 through 11 look like a blast, don’t they?
Where the track really comes alive, though, is after that point. The stretch between 12 and 15 would have been very downhill, descending to a hairpin on the banks of the Hudson River with the Manhattan skyline overlooking all the action. It’s a phenomenal sight, even in this crude simulation somebody knocked together in rFactor from a decade ago.
The track really had it all: old-school twisty sections, tight corners after long straights ideal for overtaking and lots of vertical movement. That’s something you can’t say about many of the newer circuits added to F1 over the past decade — let alone the ones constrained by city planning — and it would’ve offered amazing vantage points to gaze at New York in the distance.
F1 makes a lot of weird decisions, but I fully supported this one, even if there was a water sewage plant located just outside the boundaries of the track. But don’t take my could haves and should haves at face value; read Raphael Orlove’s memories of actually riding the route in an Infiniti driven by the only F1 driver intelligent enough to avoid social media:
Instead of road blocks, we got the world’s most reckless police escort. A pair of police cars would lead Vettel and Coulthard in Infinitis up through the course with their lights flashing. This was not a perfect solution, as this brief vignette will explain:
I’ve been in the car for a few minutes and
Vettel has already blasted up to the top of the massive cliff that defines the circuit. We’re supposed to turn right at the intersection. There’s a delivery truck waiting at the red light in the middle lane. The two cop cars ahead of us dive behind the truck, blasting through the right hand turn lane. We thread the needle at a speed I do not wish to know
That text break is intentional, by the way, if to simulate the hurried typhoon of half-formed thoughts I imagine was barreling around Raph’s mind during the experience. It goes on, and Raph captured many shaky, improperly framed photos to commemorate the occasion, so do check out the full story. There’s a lot that dates it — most of all the fact it was all part of a promotion for a new Infiniti sports coupe. Those are not words you hear in that sequence anymore.
With Circuit Of The Americas (that may or may not be replaced by Las Vegas or Indianapolis) and the prospective street race in Miami, F1 doesn’t need yet more venues in the U.S. But I maintain this one would definitely still be the best.