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Volume 6 No. 212
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F1 CEO Ecclestone Impressed As Circuit Of The Americas Garners Rave Reviews

F1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone is "confident that the U.S. Grand Prix in Texas can become a highlight of the F1 calendar" after Sunday's inaugural race went "much better" than he expected, according to Matt Westby of the LONDON TIMES. More than 117,000 fans "witnessed a thrilling race" as Austin "cast aside its traditional love of NASCAR to embrace the first grand prix in the U.S. in five years." With drivers, team managers and fans "all seemingly enamoured by the event," Ecclestone believes that "it will now go from strength to strength." He said, "Everything’s good and everyone in Austin seems happy. It’s good when you do something and it works." New stops on the F1 calendar "have historically suffered a slump in support in subsequent years." However, Ecclestone "has been assured by the hosts that second-season syndrome will not be an issue in Texas." Ecclestone said, "The second year is always difficult. You get a big crowd for a new event, but here you can see they are behind us, which is good" (LONDON TIMES, 11/19).

DRIVERS PRAISE TRACK: The BBC's Andrew Benson wrote "leading F1 drivers were unanimous in their praise for the new U.S. Grand Prix circuit." McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton described the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, as a "great track." Hamilton and teammate Jenson Button "praised the high-speed first part of the track, which is modeled on Silverstone's famous Becketts section." Button said: "The change of direction is faster than Silverstone and that's saying something. It's fantastic." Red Bull's Mark Webber said: "It's quite blind on the apex, so it's difficult for us to see the exact apex point, and it just seems to be very, very slippery from apex to exit. A lot of us look pretty amateurish, but we just refuse to believe there is that little grip" (BBC, 11/16).

ECCLESTONE LIKES F1'S U.S. FUTURE: REUTERS' Steve Keating reported Ecclestone "immediately calling for more races in America." Ecclestone said, "The future of F1 in the USA? I think we'll finish with three races here within the next three years. The race was fantastic wasn't it? Really was a super race." On a busy sporting Sunday with a "full slate of NFL action and NASCAR" crowning its champion in Florida, the U.S. Grand Prix "held its own." Among those "spotted roaming the paddock were Mexico President Felipe Calderon, Texas Governor Rick Perry, movie producer George Lucas, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and movie director Ron Howard, who is about to release a F1-themed movie." Although all conceded "there was much work to be done before the series can claim a firm foothold in the U.S., many hailed Sunday's race as the start of a new era for F1 in a market it is determined to conquer." Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said, "I think they have done a great job here. The track is fantastic" (REUTERS, 11/19).

ROOM TO GROW: AD WEEK's Robert Klara wrote that "it was the first time in five years that the motorsport returned to the U.S." It was also "a setup for an unusual marketing gambit." Joining "the rarefied auto nameplates like Ferrari and Lotus was Nissan’s Infiniti brand, which signed on as a co-sponsor of Red Bull Racing’s car RB8 last year." With the race finally back on U.S. soil, Infiniti execs "will soon be able to see if they got their money’s worth." Infiniti Marketing Dir Keith St. Clair said, "It’s our first chance to do an activation in the U.S., and we’re excited. Now we’ll get to see what U.S. fans really think." Infiniti’s co-sponsorship of driver Sebastian Vettel’s car "is a bigger deal than it might seem." Its U.S. following is modest "while the cost to slap your brand name on a car is anything but." St. Clair conceded that F1’s domestic fan base is "very small," and while Infiniti "will not reveal what it’s spending on the deal, the brand is likely saving money by being a secondary partner." Whatever trade-off that might represent, St. Clair maintained "our name is on the metal, and that can mean the difference" (AD WEEK, 11/19). The AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN noted the race drew "a distinctly different kind of Austin tourist, and for many it was the first time to visit the city." There were some "glitches ... most notably bottlenecks leaving some parking lots." Inside the track, some vendors "ran short of beer" and fans "reported food shortages on Friday and Saturday as well" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/19).

DON'T MESS WITH TEXAS: In Austin, John Maher noted the three-day attendance total at the circuit "topped 265,000." Austin's first F1 Grand Prix "was as much spectacle as it was sport, and the atmosphere was Texas-sized and Texas-themed." Fans "by the thousands began lining the grass berms at the tricky Turn 1 and quirky Turn 19 as early as 9am" The grandstands "filled in not long after that" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/19). In London, Ian Parkes wrote it was "clear the public truly embraced F1," which was "back Stateside after a five-year absence." Downtown Austin also was "a hive of activity." Ecclestone said, "It has been much better than I expected, particularly when you think that 12 months ago there wasn't a race. Hopefully we'll have another couple of events (in America) in the future, so we will see what happens" (INDEPENDENT, 11/19). In N.Y., Brad Spurgeon wrote the crowd "watched a wild and suspenseful battle ... on a track and at a site that delivered all of its promise and more." This was a "victory for Austin, which went to great lengths to ensure success after the series failed to take hold at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway" from '00-07. There also was "almost none of the anticipated traffic concerns." From a "sporting point of view, Austin delivered in a way that Indianapolis failed, by providing a track built for F1 cars" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/19).

BACK TOGETHER: In London, Paul Weaver wrote the U.S. and F1 "embraced each other like long-parted lovers." COTA was "a more than worthy venue for the raucous traveling circus." Sunday's race "represented a triumph for both the sport and the nation." America "knows how to put on a show, and on their first track specifically built for the purposes of F1 came a magnificent triumph, a fine race played out before a near sell-out crowd with a strong Mexican flavour" (GUARDIAN, 11/19). In London, Tom Dart wrote Austin "embraced" F1. It was an "exciting race as well as a blunder-free debut for a circuit that seemed more of a pipe dream than a probability even a year ago." Organizers said that about 15% of spectators came from abroad. The "percentage of wealthy people appeared high" (LONDON TIMES, 11/19). Also in London, Tom Cary wrote the race was "the perfect result for a sport desperate to establish a foothold in America" (TELEGRAPH, 11/19).

HERE TO STAY: In N.Y., A.J. Baime wrote the race "had it all: blue skies, high speeds and a tight duel for victory that went down to the checkered flag." The event, which will be in Austin through '21, "not only drew high praise from among the mobs of American fans, but also fans from Europe, South America and among the racing teams." The event's "success, just short of a sellout, suggests that F1 might yet have a future in this country" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 11/19). In San Antonio, Richard Oliver wrote the race "left the landscape irrevocably changed." Former NFL Minnesota Vikings Owner Red McCombs, the "primary investor in the $400M complex, felt like the real winner." Atop "nearly 330 acres of rangeland some 15 miles from downtown Austin, he'd financially spearheaded the construction of an auto-racing Oz." When the drivers "answered the start, the stands were largely full." McCombs' "Oz, at least on one Sunday, looked far better than most expected" (SAN ANTONIO EXPRESS-NEWS, 11/19). In Austin, Mary Ann Roser wrote under the header, "F1 Boon And Bust For Businesses" (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN, 11/19).

WHERE'S THE LOVE? ESPN noted fans "might have thought a grand prix on U.S. soil might have at least warranted some race coverage." But so "embedded in the big three sports remain the press that even that did not happen." There was "no mention at all of Lewis Hamilton's win in national paper USA Today, while the N.Y. Post managed four lines." The Washington Post "gave it seven lines, and the N.Y. Daily News blanked it altogether." In "fairness, the NASCAR season finale barely warranted any coverage either." The N.Y. Times "carried an overview of the weekend under the headline 'Formula One Makes Successful Return To U.S.'" (ESPN, 11/19).