The FIA confirmed the 21-race Formula One calendar today with one additional pair of asterisks next to the United States Grand Prix. Austin, Texas’ USGP is the only race listed as provisional on the calendar amid reports of unpaid hosting fees and cuts in state funding for the race weekend.
According to Formula One, the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council met today in Paris to ratify a change in the F1 sporting regulations that would increase the maximum number of races in a season from 20 to 21. Thus, 2016 will feature more F1 races than ever before in a single season—should all of the races listed on the schedule happen.
It’s that “should” that’s the big news today. In previous iterations of the calendar, only Azerbaijan had an asterisk clarifying that the “race start to be scheduled to avoid conflict with the conclusion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.” That asterisk remains in the version approved and posted today, however, one was added for Circuit of the Americas.
Next to the U.S., two asterisks note that the race is “subject to agreement with the promoter and the ASN.” The ASN, or L’Autorite Sportive Nationale refers to the country’s national sporting authority, which organizes events in each country. Formula One clarifies this note as, “The USA’s slot remains provisional.”
Furthermore, the Mexican Grand Prix has been moved up a week from November 6 to October 30 from its original proposed date—putting it only a week after the United States Grand Prix.
This, too, is bad news for the Austin-based circuit, as being only a week apart from the Mexican Grand Prix this year caused many Mexican fans to go to their home race instead—and only their home race. COTA chairman Bobby Epstein told the Austin-American Statesman that the drop in Mexican attendance this year cost them millions even before treacherous weather conditions made the race “financially devastating” for the USGP organizers.
While Tavo Hellmund—a man who was originally working to bring the USGP to Austin, but was pushed out of the circuit’s operations ahead of its first race—confirmed to NBC Sports that he was working on bringing another grand prix to America, that race is likely a few years in the making.
Of course, COTA isn’t the only item worth noting on today’s calendar. Despite the fact that FIA president Jean Todt gave the least convincing “sorry” ever to PlanetF1 over Azerbaijan’s date falling on Le Mans weekend, the garbage conflict remains. Azerbaijan’s asterisk is laughable, as it is a scheduling conflict so long as it’s not logistically possible for racers to do the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the F1 grand prix on the same weekend.
German fans, however, at least have something to be happy about. The German Grand Prix is officially back on the schedule, with Hockenheim hosting the race next year.
Fingers crossed that F1 still has a future in America.
UPDATE: Circuit of the Americas released the following statement on the race’s “provisional” designation:
We’re optimistic that things will work out for the United States Grand Prix to return to Texas and are glad to see the date held on the calendar. We thank the fans and local businesses for their support and well wishes as we enter our fourth year of building a home for Formula One and other great events.
COTA is certain enough that the race will happen that they are still advertising the race date in their communications, including in a newsletter that was emailed out yesterday.
[H/T NBC Sports]
Photo credit: Getty Images
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