Before Austin, Texas was appointed as the site of the next Formula 1 race in the United States, New Jersey made an impassioned bid to attract Bernie Ecclestone and the F1 circus to the Garden State. At least they did until a citizens group, alarmed over the prospects of an F1 race in the shadow of Liberty State Park, grabbed their collective privates and said “I’ve got your F1 race right here.” In the end, it was a moot point: the race went to Austin despite an alleged handshake agreement between Ecclestone and the Monticello Motor Club in New York State. In F1, it seems, it isn’t even over when the fat lady is singing.
Now comes word that Jersey City’s neighbors, Weehawken and West New York, are working with a group of investors to bring an F1 race to NJ as soon as 2013. Like the proposed Jersey City race, it would be run on a street course featuring New York City as a backdrop. I’ll go out on a limb and say that we’ve got a better chance of seeing cotton-candy powered F1 cars than we do of seeing an F1 race in Jersey. Why?
First, New Jersey couldn’t even turn out enough fans to support a CART race, let alone an F1 race. The American series lasted just two or three years in the NYC area, before fan apathy and low ticket sales cancelled the race. If you can’t fill 50,000 seats, there’s no way you’re going to fill 4x that many.
Next, there isn’t enough parking for the residents of Weehawken and West New York, let alone the 100,000 rabid Euro fans who’d turn out. How do you expect them to get to the race? Public transportation? Gypsy cabs?
Then there’s the issue of roads. Northern NJ cities have potholes larger than F1 cars, and no sane driver would agree to race on narrow, steeply crowned streets last paved when Herbert Hoover was in office. Don’t even joke about repaving for the race, because the streets would look like Beirut again in a matter of weeks.
Finally, New Yorkers and their neighbors across the Hudson aren’t exactly known for their patience and hospitality. How do you think the locals would react to a never ending stream of restaurant bookings, overcrowded bars and sold out hotels, not to mention the gridlock in the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels such a race would create?
I admire the mayors of Weehawken and West New York for dreaming big, but this particular one simply isn’t going to come true.