The future of Formula One in the United States has been affected, in large part, over the past few years by questions over whether New Jersey will become part of the sport’s calendar. Plans to introduce a New Jersey circuit for the 2013 season were eventually delayed, although it now looks like the purpose built track will be ready for 2014. The history of the New Jersey circuit speaks to ongoing tensions over the success of Formula One racing in the United States, and to the great potential that it still holds.
Motivation for a New Jersey circuit primarily came through the ability for an East Coast event with a close proximity to New York to deliver the audience that F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone still believes is there for the sport in the United States. The 2013 postponement was partly dictated by the cost of redeveloping the Hudson Riverfront, with the Port Imperial circuit running over budget. However, it now looks like the New Jersey circuit will be completed in time to follow the Canadian GP in June 2014.
A long term deal has been agreed, at least in principle, for New Jersey to host the Grand Prix of the Americas for fifteen years, with the existing circuit in Austin also being used. The Austin track has at least delivered on its early promise since being opened last year, and has demonstrated that the United States Grand Prix can overcome a long history of disinterest and financial difficulties for organisers, with notable failures to launch the sport including events at Indianapolis.
The proposed Port Imperial circuit in New Jersey will run for 3.2 miles, and is intended to contribute to the economy of Hudson County in the state, while benefiting from access to New York. The Hermann Tilke designed track incorporates sights and starting points like the NY Waterway and the Hudson Palisades, and was tested out by Sebastian Vettel as part of a promotional event in June 2012. Work continues on the track to ensure it’s up to competition standard for 2014.
Organisers can look at the relative success of the Austin Grand Prix in 2012, which hosted Formula One after a five year gap between races in the United States. The audience for the event topped 100,000 people, and there’s still a strong desire by Ecclestone and US organisers to establish Formula One as more than just a niche sport with American audiences, and a credible alternative and complement to Indycar and Nascar races. The potential for television licensing and grand prix merchandise opportunities is huge if this can be achieved.
While it now looks likely that the New Jersey Grand Prix will go ahead, barring any more problems with infrastructure, whether it’ll take off is still doubtful. As with most things in Formula One, there’s no guarantees, and the event is just as subject to the whims of the FIA and the financial instability of motorsport to suggest that the Port Imperial track could be a very expensive flop. A successful first meet is therefore crucial to making the race an annual part of the Formula One calendar.
Ryan Holman is a lifelong fan of Formula One, and blogs about the latest news and events from the sport. In his spare time he collects grand prix merchandise, and recommends going through official sellers to get the best deals.