United States GP to go ahead with Taylor Swift performing after qualifying

09 Mar 2016 15:53

The United States Grand Prix will go ahead as scheduled this season despite the uncertainty which had surrounded its future in Formula One.

The Austin race, where Lewis Hamilton clinched his third title in October, was thrown into doubt after the Texas state decreased its funding of the event by more than £4million.

But the race, which takes place at the purpose-built Circuit of the Americas and is popular with both drivers and fans alike, will return for its fifth consecutive event later this year to ensure a record 21 grands prix in 2016.

"All you have got to do is pay your bills and write your cheques," COTA president Bobby Epstein told Press Association Sport.

"We knew we wanted to go forward, and it was a matter of whether we felt like we could go forward in a very healthy way and create an experience that the fans deserve and helps F1 grow and helps us grow together.

"We had to make sure it was financially viable. That is largely what determines it and we have reason to have confidence that the state is going to be a good partner."

Regarding the circuit's long-term future on the Formula One calender, Epstein added: "We are on very solid ground right now."

Last year's event was hit by unprecedented levels of rain which led to the cancellation of one practice session and saw qualifying delayed until Sunday. The circuit lost nearly $4million in refunds due to the bad weather.

Ticket sales were also down on previous years with Epstein attributing the downturn in popularity to the nearby Mexican Grand Prix which made its first appearance on the calender in more than two decades.

"You worry for this year and what we can do to bring fans back and get new ones," admitted Epstein with the United States Grand Prix again just seven days before the Mexican race.

"To that extent we have made tremendous infrastructure improvements at the circuit, and from a transportation standpoint, too.

"We had 28 inches of rain in 8 days last year and if that happens again I am sure there will be a mess. But it won't be like 2015 and it did make for what people said was the most exciting race in over a decade."

Race organisers also confirmed that American pop star Taylor Swift will perform after Saturday's qualifying session.

Epstein added: "We had to make it financially irresistible to her, but it is our fifth-year celebration and we have reason to celebrate and sometimes you spend a little bit on special occasions."

Meanwhile, American driver Alexander Rossi will return to Manor as their reserve driver for the upcoming campaign. Rossi will attend 11 races for the British-based team alongside his commitments to IndyCar.