Formula 1’s off-track focus in Shanghai may currently be trained solely on next week’s Bahrain Grand Prix and whether or not the Sakhir race will take place, but another race that appeared in serious jeopardy for very different reasons towards the end of last year – the revived US GP in Austin – marked an important milestone in the new venue’s construction on Thursday with a “topping off” ceremony for the pit building.
Construction teams hold such symbolic ceremonies when they are ready to install support beams at the highest point of a building under construction and so, having reached that stage in work on the three-level pit building, organisers at the Circuit of the Americas facility brought together employees and local Texan dignitaries to an event at the venue on Thursday.
The guests included hair care firm co-founder and tequila tycoon John Paul DeJoria, the American billionaire who was recently announced as a new investor in America’s first purpose-built F1 facility.
Steve Sexton, the venue’s president, said: “This project has required the continuous efforts from many different groups and individuals throughout the area. This ceremony marks a significant milestone in the construction. It was important for us to celebrate this achievement with the many people that have helped make it possible.”
The chances of Austin staging its inaugural grand prix in November seemed in serious doubt less than six months ago when details of a contractual dispute emerged between Bernie Ecclestone, Circuit of the Americas organisers and original race figurehead Tavo Hellmund, which resulted in workers briefly downing tools on the construction of the all-new facility.
The race’s November 18 date was subsequently confirmed on the definitive 2012 calendar published by the FIA in December, although internal wrangling appears to continue with local media more recently shedding light on a legal dispute between Helmund and track investors Bobby Epstein and Red McCombs.