HELL­MUND RE­FLECTS ON THE STATE OF F1

THEY CAN KEEP THEIR FANCY TI­TLES AND STRUT AROUND ON RACE DAY, BUT LET PEO­PLE WHO KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DO­ING RUN THE SHOW.

Automobile - - Ethos -

You brought a track and an F1 race to Austin, and you brought F1 back to Mex­ico City. Which was most sat­is­fy­ing?

TH: Se­ri­ously, I’m proud of both. I dreamed up Austin from scratch: track, de­sign, name, to­pog­ra­phy, gov­ern­ment fund­ing, all of it. Mex­ico is spe­cial be­cause of my fa­ther’s his­tory there, and it has ex­ceeded all our ex­pec­ta­tions. My dad got to see the first race in Austin but passed away be­fore the re­turn to Mex­ico, but he was for­tu­nately still alive when I signed that deal.

With Lib­erty Me­dia, F1’s new owner, want­ing more U.S. races and Circuit of the Amer­i­cas re­duc­ing the num­ber of seats since its first sea­son, is there rea­son to fear for the Austin event’s fu­ture?

TH: Ab­so­lutely not. Be­sides Monte Carlo, it might be the most se­cure of all the races on the F1 cal­en­dar.

Be­cause of the state fund­ing—$25 mil­lion to $30 mil­lion—to stage each race?

TH: That’s the rea­son it is bul­let­proof. If the cur­rent USGP op­er­a­tors de­cide they don’t want to con­tinue to op­er­ate the race, there’s a line of peo­ple who will and who will gladly take the state money for F1, be it

$27 mil­lion, $17 mil­lion, or $7 mil­lion. And as for re­mov­ing seats: I think it’s a smart move; it’s al­ways bet­ter for a venue to look full rather than half empty.

What’s your take on USGP of­fi­cials’ in­ter­est in hav­ing the cal­en­dar al­tered to sep­a­rate Austin and Mex­ico? Is there re­ally an is­sue in hav­ing those two races back to back, as they are rea­son­ably close ge­o­graph­i­cally?

TH: The USGP should pair with Montreal ear­lier in the year, in June, rather than run as it does in Oc­to­ber, up against Uni­ver­sity of Texas foot­ball. No­body in F1 would con­sider mov­ing Mex­ico. It’s a ma­jor hit where it is. The most suc­cess­ful races have been run back to back and are ge­o­graph­i­cally close. Malaysia and Sin­ga­pore were only 200 miles apart. The Bel­gian and Ital­ian Grands Prix are 500 miles apart. The Aus­trian and Bri­tish GPs are 900 miles apart. The U.S. and Mex­i­can GPs are 950 miles apart. Geog­ra­phy and cal­en­dar prox­im­ity have ab­so­lutely zero to do with the suc­cess of races.

What about other U.S. lo­ca­tions we’ve heard about, like New York/New Jer­sey, Las Ve­gas, or Mi­ami?

TH: They’re all log­i­cal lo­ca­tions, but each has its own set of chal­lenges. I’m hope­ful we’ll see an­other race in the U.S. by 2020, most likely Mi­ami first.

Ru­mors say Viet­nam and Copen­hagen, Den­mark, are on Lib­erty’s short list. Is that likely? Where else do you think F1 should look to ex­pand?

TH: I’ve heard that as well. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see. South Amer­ica could use an­other race and should get one. A re­turn to Ar­gentina would be my first choice.

What are the cen­tral hur­dles for to­day’s F1 pro­mot­ers?

TH: Let’s clar­ify: In F1, few are pro­mot­ers. The rest are op­er­a­tors. Big dif­fer­ence. I think the long-overdue com­mu­ni­ca­tions gap be­tween F1 and race op­er­a­tors is im­prov­ing un­der Chase [Carey, new F1 boss]. These strug­gling op­er­a­tors need to leave their egos at home and hire world-class pro­mot­ers to run their events. They can keep their fancy ti­tles and strut around on race day, but let peo­ple who know what they are do­ing run the show.

Has Carey or Lib­erty asked you for help?

TH: Chase knows I’m root­ing for him and that he can ask me for help any time. He knows my life has re­volved around mo­tor­sports and F1 and that I’ve been able to make their or­ga­ni­za­tion a lot of money. — Mac Morrison

Tavo Hell­mund is in full sup­port of new F1 boss Chase Carey (right) and wants to con­tinue to help Lib­erty grow the sport.

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