Bulldozers head back to work on the Formula One track east of Austin, Dec. 7, 2011. (Ed Zavala/KXAN)
Timeline: The politics of F1 Austin
First indication of state support was in 2008
Updated: Sunday, 05 Feb 2012, 3:18 PM CST
Published : Sunday, 05 Feb 2012, 3:18 PM CST
AUSTIN (KXAN) – The inaugural Formula One race in Austin is scheduled for Nov. 18, 2012. But the state’s interest in the project dates back to April 2008. Here is a timeline showing the circuitous route the F1 project has followed so far:
April 2, 2008: Comptroller Susan Combs first meets with Full Throttle’s Tavo Hellmund, the man who brought Formula One to Austin.
July 3, 2008: Email from Robert Wood of the Comptroller’s Office to Combs saying, “There are many articles about rumors of new locations for f1 races, rumors of locations losing races etc…”
Aug. 20, 2008: Letter from Gov. Rick Perry and Combs to Hellmund expresses the first official confirmation of the state’s interest in hosting race, and the first mention of $25 million, and intent to have legislative appropriation of that money. Highlighted quotes include, “A term of 10 years…Texas funding shall not exceed $25.0 million each year a final agreement is in effect.” .. .“For the first years the final agreement is in effect, funding will be contingent upon full authorization or transfer by the Texas Legislature, which we will endeavor to secure; thereafter, the State of Texas may provide funding from any source available.”
During the 2009 legislative session: Lawmakers add Formula One to list of events eligible for the Major Events Trust Fund.
April 7, 2010: Letter from Perry, Combs and Hellmund to Ecclestone confirms the state’s and Full Throttle’s interest to host race and relays that $25 million has been appropriated by the Legislature.
May 10, 2010: Letter from Combs to Formula One World Championship Limited says in part: “With the understanding that the first Formula 1 United States Grand Prix race will be held in Texas in 2012, full funding of the entire sanction for 2012 will be paid to Formula One World Championship Limited (“FOWC”) no later than July 31st, 2011.” … “In subsequent years, two through ten, of the race promotion contract, i.e. 2013 through 2021, we will be sending $25 million dollars to FOWC by the end of July 31st of each year preceding the actual race event.”
July 26, 2010: Circuit of the Americas officially announces Formula One race in Austin.
Oct. 6, 2010: Initial Economic Impact Study of Formula One Austin says “The new proposed facility is expected to cost between $215 and $242 million.”
May 11, 2011: Letter from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone to Mayor Lee Leffingwell confirming Austin’s selection for the race anticipates first race in June 2012.
June 30, 2011: Letter from City Manager Marc Ott to Combs is the first request from the city to participate in the Major Events Trust Fund and sets the race date for June 17, 2012.”
July 7, 2011: Second Economic Impact Study for Formula One Austin projects visitor attendance would be 120,000, exceeding the 2011 Super Bowl in Arlington figure of 93,221.
July 22, 2011: Request for Initiation of Major Trust Fund Event for Formula 1 Automobile Race via a letter to Combs from Wayne Hollingsworth of the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee.
Aug. 22, 2011: Letter from Hollingsworth with the Circuit Events Local Organizing Committee to Deputy Comptroller withdrawing METF request, saying “There have been published reports that the race date may move to November, 2012.” It goes on to add, “The Committee fully intends to resubmit its application and request for the Race Events under the Trust Fun, within the time limitations as provided under the Act, once the Race Event date has been clarified.”
Aug. 31, 2011: World Motorsports Council confirms the date of the first Austin F1 race will be Nov. 18, 2012.
Sept. 27, 2011: Combs sends letter to Ecclestone saying the race is still eligible for incentives, though major investors – including San Antonio entrepreneur Red McCombs – haven’t secured rights for the race. This follows a call from Hellmund to Combs asking whether a change in management would affect those rights, as he had not yet transferred those rights – given by Ecclestone to Hellmunt – to the Circuit partners.
Oct. 25, 2011: New Jersey announces it will host a second F1 event in the United State. Details include that the race will be for 10 years starting in 2013 and that no public money is required.
Nov. 1, 2011: Ecclestone tells Autosport that delaying the Austin race to 2013 would not be a problem.
Nov. 12, 2011: Steve Sexton of Circuit of Americas releases a statement, saying: “Our funding secured and construction is on schedule, so we don’t understand Mr. Ecclestone’s comments.”
Nov. 15, 2011: Ina surprise move, Combs reverses her earlier statements by announcing that no state money will be spent on Austin’s F1 before the race takes place. Combs insists that her “position has not changed.”
Nov. 16, 2011: Ecclestone tells the Press Association that Austin’s 2012 race will be dropped “for sure, 100 percent” before the World Motorsports Council meets Dec. 7. He also says Hellmund breached his contract, and he would therefore cancel it.
Nov. 17, 2011: The Independent reports that Ecclestone has offered circuit organizers a contract to host races for a decade beginning in 2013. Sexton issues a statement, saying, “2013 certainly allows time for the Circuit of the Americas to be ready.”
Later on Nov. 17: Hellmund says during a news conference that the project has been underfunded and behind schedule for months and that he is working out his exit from the partnership, thanks to a split between founding partners. Ecclestone tells Reuters he will not wait beyond the Brazilian Grand Prix on Nov. 27.
Nov. 22, 2011: Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson asks the Texas Attorney General whether Combs had the authority to commit to support an event with the METF without first receiving an application for that money. “As of May 10, 2010, no local organizing committee, endorsing municipality, or endorsing county had submitted a request to determine the incremental tax increase that would result from that event,” he says.
Nov. 24, 2011: Circuit of Americas organizers say they’re ready to pay a sanctioning fee, after presenting Ecclestone with a contract “similar to what we anticipated receiving.”
Nov. 25, 2011: Ecclestone tells the Associated Press that circuit organizers must guarantee long-term finances by Nov. 30.
Nov. 30, 2011: Ecclestone tells the Associated Press that circuit organizers have until Dec. 7 to prove their finances are in order.
Dec. 7, 2011: Circuit organizers say they have reached an agreement with Ecclestone to keep the Austin race on the 2012 calendar. McCombs says, “Mr. Ecclestone received his check today.” Organizers say construction will resume immediately in order to complete things for the 2012 race date.
Dec. 16, 2011: Ecclestone says Circuit organizers do not have a 10-year contract in place. He tells the British-based PitPass website: “They gave us the money for next year and guarantees for the future but not for the whole 10 years.
Dec. 22, 2011: The comptroller’s office sends a letter to Attorney General’s office regarding Patterson’s request for an investigation. “The Comptroller asks that an opinion not be issued because the issues raised by this opinion request are moot and involve mixed questions of fact and law.” The letter adds that the “May 10, 2010 letter was merely an effort to indicate broad support.”
Jan. 12, 2012: Circuit of the Americas tells KXAN construction is on track for completion in time for the November race. At this point, no new application for METF money has been submitted.
Feb. 3, 2012: In an interview with KXAN, Combs again says that her May 10,2010, letter was not a legally binding promise of state money. Instead, she described it as a ‘letter of optomistic support” for F1 Austin.
F1 – Tracking the progress: