x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Opposition to F1's US plans

While 2012 race would show off New York's skyline, Jersey City residents are unhappy with proposed track at Liberty State Park.

Adrian Sutil takes a corner in his Spyker at the 2007 US grand prix in Indianapolis, the last time the sport went to America.
Adrian Sutil takes a corner in his Spyker at the 2007 US grand prix in Indianapolis, the last time the sport went to America.

Formula One's bid to return to the United States has already run into fierce opposition from protesters at one possible venue. Details have emerged of plans to host a race at Liberty State Park (LSP) in Jersey City, which would provide the New York skyline backdrop that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone recently suggested was in his thoughts.

The idea comes from Destination Jersey City, an organisation funded by the city's Economic Development Corporation in a bid to drum up tourism for the area. Promotional material for the event, which would be run for five years from 2012, even includes a 3.6-mile circuit layout around the 600-acre park. Part of the wording reads: "With the incredible backdrop of the New York skyline, selecting Jersey City for the 2012 grand prix circuit will not only boost ticket sales as the grand prix returns to the United States, but will provide striking television footage."

Yet as with any project in such an environmentally friendly area, it has its detractors, notably Sam Pesin, the president of the Friends of Liberty State Park. In a letter to Jerramiah T Healy, the Jersey City mayor, Pesin wrote: "People come to LSP to seek a haven, oasis, refuge and sanctuary and such a grand prix racing event that needs all park roads is contrary to the spirit and essence of an urban open space park."

After speaking with Pesin, Healy issued a statement that read: "This [plan] was a response to an overture made by Formula One, and Jersey City is one of several cities they are pursuing. "There have been a few, preliminary conversations and this is very much in the exploratory phase. "However, this may not be something that is in the best interest of Jersey City or Liberty State Park." Melbourne's Albert Park has become a favourite with drivers, despite local activists voicing their concerns each year the race heads to Australia, and even though other recreational activities have improved in recent times.

Although Destination Jersey City are trumpeting the idea, for F1 to forge ahead they would need approval from the state's Department of Environmental Protection as it is the state, and not Jersey City, who own the park. Elsewhere, Flavio Briatore, the outspoken Italian, currently suspended from all FIA-sanctioned motor-racing events in the wake of the "crash-gate" scandal with Renault last season, is unimpressed by the form of Jenson Button, the reigning world champion.

Briatore has not been a fan of Button since the Briton's troubled days with Renault in 2001 and 2002 when he struggled with a woeful car. Although the 30-year-old, now with McLaren, has won two of this season's four grands prix in the defence of his title to lead the way by 10 points from Mercedes' Nico Rosberg, Briatore is unimpressed. "We'll see how it ends up bet-ween Button and [teammate Lewis] Hamilton at the end of the season," said Briatore in Italy's Autosprint magazine.

"Jenson has done well. He's won two races and we know why. He was able to manage things and had luck on his side. "I don't speak badly of him, I just say he is not among the five quickest drivers in F1." * PA