By Alan Baldwin
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) – Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has dampened hopes of more races being held in the United States, at least in the near term, after the sport’s takeover by Liberty Media.
“I think it will be difficult to get more races,” the Briton, who turns 86 next week, told Reuters at the U.S. Grand Prix on Friday.
“I tried in New York. The trouble with the Americans is (that) you want to do a deal with them and they want guaranteed profit before they start. I said if I knew that was going to happen, I wouldn’t need you.”
The sport’s financial structure means promoters have to pay hefty sanctioning fees – at least $23 million in the case of the Circuit of the Americas – with ticket sales the major source of revenue.
The United States has one round of the current 21-race championship, at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, after a series of failed attempts elsewhere.
There has been regular talk of adding races on the east and west coasts and expectations have been fueled by last month’s takeover of the cash-generating sport by the company controlled by U.S. cable TV mogul John Malone.
Liberty has acquired an initial 18.7 percent stake from controlling shareholder CVC Capital Partners and plans to complete a cash and shares deal by the first quarter of 2017.
Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei has spoken of Las Vegas and Miami as possible future venues “for the long term”.
Ecclestone, who has for months been talking to would-be promoters of a Las Vegas race, said there had been a lot of meetings and joked he should have secured the concession to provide the mineral water.
“They are professional meeting people, the Americans, aren’t they? They love meetings. Seven in the morning,” he said.
Autoweek magazine reported in July that entrepreneur Farid Shidfar had an agreement in principle with Chinese investors to fund a Las Vegas race, but Ecclestone saw little progress.
“They are still behind him. You want them up front,” he said. “That’s the problem. They came over to see me last week and he called me back, must have been Monday, with another story.”
Austin’s place on the calendar looked in doubt last year, due to the threat of reduced state funding, but that issue was resolved and there is talk of a 120,000-strong crowd this year.
The numbers will be boosted by 10-times Grammy award winner Taylor Swift holding a concert at the track on Saturday.
“It’s not the sort of contract I like produced. But we’ve done a lot to help them along because I more or less talked them into it in the first place,” Ecclestone said of Austin. “So we’ll try and keep them going.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)