The promoter responsible for the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas says that the cancellation of this year's event will undoubtedly be a be a big financial loss to the city of Austin and surrounding area.
The formal cancellation of the US race together with events in Canada, Mexico and Brazil because of the continued high levels of new cases of coronavirus in the region was made on friday.
Bobby Epstein regretted the move but agreed that it was the right call in the circumstances and said that the event would be back even bigger and better in 2021.
“You really would be betting now on the situation getting a lot better, and I don’t think anyone’s willing to place that bet,” he told Austin’s American-Statesman newspaper.
Epstein said that the local economy benefitted from an estimated $392 million from the event as well as generating $880 million in direct, indirect and induced spending in the region.
He predicted that the US Grand Prix would be able to bounce back from this setback. “We sold out last year, we would’ve expected to sell out this year. Next year we’ll hopefully go and make room for even bigger capacity.
“Hopefully we haven’t lost some momentum, it’s just delayed to 2021," he told Motorsport.com."I don’t think we necessarily lose momentum - in fact you might argue that there will be pent-up demand.
"Coming off last year’s sell-out the desire for people to secure their seat for this year was terrific. Our deposits for tickets, as well as enquiries, were both up significantly.
“I think it showed we'd finally got it right from the standpoint of being a destination event. The plans for this year that we had mapped out included increased seating and upgrades to a number of areas.
“We had some real superstar acts lined up for the evenings that I think would have helped us to continue the growth."
COTA has already been forced to cancel this year's MotoGP motorcycling event, which Epstein said had been an even bigger financial blow than the F1 decision.
"The event-related loss was greater on MotoGP because that was cancelled closer to the event, when set-up had already started,” he explained, while acknowledging that not holding the F1 race would also inevitably impact the venue's finances.
"There’s a loss with the event not occurring, because we have fixed overheads, taxes and insurance and nothing to offset them," he said.
But Epstein was confident that the growth in popularity of F1 in the US - partly spurred by the popularity of the Netflix Drive to Survive behind the scenes documentary - would not be derailed by this year's cancellation
“This cancellation has nothing to do with sport, it has everything to do with health and safety and logistics.
"The sport itself got a lot of exposure through the Netflix series, and we started to have a real tradition being established with people making it a big annual event.
"The local community continues to embrace the event more and more as part of the city’s annual calendar" he added. "When all those things come together, we see some success.”