In a pointed and sometimes emotional news conference Thursday afternoon, Tavo Hellmund, the man who brought Formula 1 to Austin 18 months ago, stated his case and tried to explain how Austin's Formula 1 Grand Prix plans went so wrong, so fast. Here are his words:
“In late spring amongst our partners, we had a view of thinking of a different direction of the way things should go. That happens, and no one’s right or wrong. That created the current friction, but nothing that would derail the project.
"The real reason that we’re having this press conference today, instead of announcing a huge sponsor, which I hope we can do in a couple of weeks, is the simple fact that we don’t have a contract with Formula 1. And the reason we don’t have a contract with Formula 1 is that as a project we have failed many times over to fulfill our financial obligations to Formula 1. It’s literally that simple.
"I was encouraged today to see some news reports that the door is still open for us to be able to fix that. And I’ve also been encouraged in recent days to see that apparently all the funding is in place. And so with that being said I’m really optimistic and hopeful that we’re going to get this done and we’re going to have a Grand Prix next year.
"To be perfectly honest, the money part has never been my role. If I’d had the money I wouldn’t have been willing 18 months ago to give up the majority of my project.
"Right now we should be praising Mr. Ecclestone. We were in breach on multiple issues since as late as May. He sent numerous requests and letters that we were all aware of; of how to fix it, and we failed to do that. More than anything this project needs to meet its financial obligations to Formula 1. It’s just that simple. We can put a spin on it, other people can point fingers at who’s to blame. I don’t want to do that.
"The project has been underfunded, and that’s not a surprise to anybody. I don’t think there’s any shame in that. If you budget for $150 million or $200 million and the project’s $300 million, it’s a considerable difference. But again, I’m not party to that.
"I think the thing that’s disappointing is that the timing was just barely off. Mr. Ecclestone gave us opportunities for three months, literally, and I like to think that my relationship with him, although strained and tested now, allowed us that flexibility. When they ask you for payment and you don’t do it repeatedly, over and over and over, eventually…
"And even as recently as the now publicized meeting three weeks ago, he told us you can pay this now and we’ll continue with the current contract, or we can tear it up and issue a new one, or we’ll just cancel the whole thing. We didn’t, for whatever reason, choose to remedy the one that was in place, and to my knowledge there was another one sent that hasn’t been executed yet, but maybe it will.
"There’s a solution. If Mr. Ecclestone and FOM [Formula One Management] get their money, there’s a Grand Prix next November. It’s that simple.
"It’s not anybody’s fault that the project has been underfunded. No one’s done that intentionally, but it sounds like maybe that’s not the case now, and I hope everything will move forward.”