Chairman Bobby Epstein would like the Circuit of the Americas to become the 'brand-building headquarters for F1' in North America. File photo Adress Latif / Reuters

Austin, Texas - United States Grand Prix promoter Bobby Epstein says it would make sense for Formula One's new American owner Liberty Media to buy some circuits as part of its long-term strategic plans for the sport.

The  co-founder and chairman of the Circuit of the Americas - the country's sole purpose-built F1 facility - said on Friday he would be happy to do a deal "at the right price".

Speaking ahead of tickets for the 22 October race going on sale, he added, however, that there had been no discussions with Liberty.

"I do think it makes a lot of sense for them to own some circuits," said Epstein, whose race is the only US round on the current calendar. "I see a lot of logic and business reasons for them to own some circuits."

Formula One's previous business model, which the new owner has said it wants to change, has been based on television revenues and circuits paying significant hosting fees with an annual escalator.

Austin's annual fee has been reported at about $33 million (R427 million), with $25 million (R323 million) coming from state subsidies based on a formula for calculating how much economic activity the Grand Prix generates for Texas.

The circuit drew a record three-day crowd of 269 889 in 2016, thanks mainly to singer Taylor Swift holding her long-awaited first concert of the year on the Saturday night.

This year's race has Justin Timberlake lined up as the headline act.

Better off

"I think all of the circuits struggle under the current environment," said Epstein. "If Liberty changes it and helps the circuits survive, is it better off owning the circuits than making concessions?

"Is it actually giving up profitability by not owning the circuits? If the circuits are going to make money from a Grand Prix, then F1 might as well own that profit."

Several of Europe's oldest circuits, such as Silverstone which has been looking for a buyer, struggle to make money while Germany is off the calendar this year for financial reasons.

Liberty completed its takeover in January, ousting 86-year-old supremo Bernie Ecclestone and replacing him with Chase Carey, who has appointed Sean Bratches as managing director for commercial matters.

Asked directly about the possibility of Liberty buying circuits, Bratches said only that there were "a number of different models that can be pursued".

Street races

Formula One is seeking to expand in the Americas, with talk of adding street races in US "destination cities" such as Las Vegas, Miami, Los Angeles and New York and treating each race like a Super Bowl with events through the week.

Epstein said Austin had pioneered that formula since the debut race in 2012.

He said the circuit now wanted to establish an all-year Formula One presence and estimated 50 000 people a year could be drawn to the circuit by an interactive garage experience.

"Watch parties", where fans gathered for broadcasts of other Grands Prix, and track tours were also popular.

'Get the show on the road'

Epstein suggested the Circuit of the Americas could become the "brand-building headquarters for F1" in North America and a permanent home while other races came and went.

"Since you can’t move this circuit, and you can’t duplicate it, it can always be counted on to be there," he said. "I think the goal would be ‘Let’s get the show on the road’.

"You can rotate Formula One through different cities so that you are continuing to expose the sport; it’s not likely that anybody else is going to build and spend that kind of money on a permanent circuit in the United States."


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