Silbermann says ... Taylor should take over F1

Eric Silbermann reckons Austin is still “keeping it weird” while having some pretty weird dreams of his own about Formula 1’s all-American future.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - United States Grand Prix - Preparation Day - Austin, USA

Sitting at traffic lights on Congress, one of Austin’s main thoroughfares, at first there seemed nothing too strange about the female cycling commuter next to us; sensible cycling clothes but not lycra, a crash helmet - not compulsory here even if she’d been on a motorbike - but then I glanced down and noticed her cycling footwear: a pair of very ornate cowboy boots. The slogan, “Austin, keeping it weird” is clearly still alive and well, in this most idiosyncratic of American cities. Hell, I even spotted a “Vote Hilary” pennant and I bet you won’t see many of those anywhere else in the Lone Star State.

This city has a great vibe, which instantly rocketed the COTA race to the top of the popularity stakes among F1 folk when it first appeared on the calendar five years ago and this year there’s a feeling that maybe Formula 1 might soon become as American as Apple Pie. For starters, Haas is the first American F1 team to race at home for over 30 years and then there’s the Lewis Hamilton effect. He is a huge global star and he’s particularly big in the States. Before landing in Austin he was a guest on Ellen Degeneres’ chat show, which is a very big deal here. There was no sign of the Grumpy Lewis we had seen in Suzuka, instead here was an accomplished and relaxed performer, charming Degeneres and talking eloquently about F1 while at the same time wisely praising NASCAR. The clever lad even explained he had to keep his weight down for maximum car performance, but there was no mention of 9 stone 10, or 68 kilos, instead he spoke about being 148 pounds, a weight scale that only Americans use. At the end of the chat, the USGP was plugged by the host and linked to her website. Well done whoever sorted that.

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - United States Grand Prix - Preparation Day - Austin, USA

We are in the middle of a swirling vortex created by the uncertainty over the future of Formula 1 and it looks as though those filling the void at its centre all have an American twist to them. There’s Liberty Media hovering on the brink of buying the sport, although we are told it’s owner John “Darth Vader” Malone is wisely staying away this weekend. After all, why would you want to move into your new house while the previous owners are still putting their stuff into packing cases. Plus, there are strong rumours that while the flamboyant Chase Carey is the new boss, another American entrepreneur, Zak Brown could turn out to be the First Officer steering the ship.

I’ve actually got a better suggestion for an Ecclestone replacement, namely Taylor Swift. The headline act is performing here on Saturday after Qualifying and it’s the singer’s only concert this year, so a massive deal for her millions of fans. We’ve had big names performing at GPs for many years now, including The Who, Pink Floyd, Kiss, Tina Turner, Kylie Minogue and Queen, but these acts have one thing in common, they appeal to an older audience who are quite likely to actually enjoy Formula 1 already and for whom attending the concert at the end of the day is simply a bonus. Swift could bring a whole new younger audience to the sport given that you have to buy a ticket to the Grand Prix to get to see her. It’s an inspired move by COTA Chairman and Founder, Bobby Epstein and, as an investigative journalist in the mould of Bernstein and Woodward, I decided to find out more.

Hi Eric,

Unfortunately, as things stand Taylor will not be doing any media interviews. If anything changes, I’ll be sure to let you know.


Sadly, as you can see from the above, my interview request was turned down. To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting a positive response. Ms. Taylor is one tough cookie, apart from being the highest paid artist in the world at the moment. At the age of 26, she’s earned $470 million, almost 40% of that in the last year. And thanks to her, COTA is expecting its second biggest crowd after the one that turned up for the first race held here in 2012. Setting up the deal involved negotiating with her very large entourage, whose mantra appears to be “but Taylor decides everything.” Indeed she does and her hard-nosed approach, which would no doubt meet with approval from Mr E, the Doyen of Deals, has seen Apple relent and pay artists on its new music streaming service, while she has refused to let Spotify play her catalogue. I could see her making mincemeat of the genteel negotiators at Silverstone Circuit.

But wait, there’s been a stroke of luck. When Ms. Swift learned that the oldest “Swiftie,” in the world was here in Austin she granted me a quick five minute chat. Here’s a snippet.

Taylor, thanks so much for talking to me. I loved “1989.” 

Kind of you to say so, but what I’d like to talk about is what you think the effect of having the Supersoft tyre here for the first time will be. I reckon it might be a game-changer on Sunday.

Erm, ok, but what about a release date for your next album?

I can’t tell you that, but don’t you think now they’ve got rid of the bumps between Turns 10 and 12, traction will be even more important than usual and that could see Red Bull mount a real challenge to Mercedes….

Oh hang on, just like the final episode of that outstanding example of American culture, “Dallas,” it turns out I was just dreaming.

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