The race is still theoretically on the calendar in its original October 25 date, and is potentially part of a run of up to four races on the continent.
It could be preceded by the Canadian GP, which is being teed up for October 11 if a deal can be agreed with the local authorities, and then followed by Mexico on November 1 and Brazil on November 8. None of the dates have yet been confirmed by F1, and further clarity on what happens after the Italian GP on September 6 is expected soon.
Scheduling flyaway races is more complicated than those in Europe, because of the complex and costly transport arrangements. F1 is keen for the long-haul events to provide finance, even if they don’t pay the usual fee for a race with spectators.
COTA is in an especially difficult situation because the race is funded by the Texas state, and that support is derived from tax dollars spent by visiting fans. In addition, the region has been hit by a recent surge in Covid-19 cases.
“I don’t know if we can say the race is on or the race is off,” Epstein told Motorsport.com. “A decision is going to be made, but it hasn’t been made yet. I think F1 are making all the plans to have a race, if they can have a race. We don’t have to press for an answer.
“I feel for Chase [Carey], and all the things that he’s having to balance, and I do trust that he’s going to make as many destinations as possible while still not getting people and teams stuck and not able to make the next event, or to have to cancel one at the last minute.”
Epstein says that COTA does not require a long lead time to organise a behind-closed-doors event.
“For us it’s easy to put on a race with very short notice – we probably need three weeks,” he said. “We’re ready to go, just put on the lights. F1 has plans for how they separate teams and work with limited staff.
“Bringing in a crowd takes more planning and more time in hiring and preparation. They can wait until the very last minute to decide whether to have a no-crowd race here, but I don’t think they are going to wait until the very last minute, I think they are going to make a decision soon, based not just on Austin, but Mexico and Canada.
“You have to trust that they’re going to do what’s in the long-term interest of the business, and that definition is going to be different this year than in a normal year. I think if they can stay in a narrow area [Europe] and run all the races, I support that. If they can come to Texas as part of a tour through North America, I would love that.”
Epstein acknowledged that the commercial aspect was an important consideration for COTA.
“We’re no different to any other promoter, we have to have what works for us. Maybe the definitions of what works is different from one venue to another.
“My interest is to see the sport do well and stay healthy, and we’re all united on that. If that means not having a race one year at our venue, then it still accomplishes the long-term goal.
“If it means as promoters we have to make sacrifices from a financial standpoint, I think everyone’s willing to do that. It just depends on what’s actually asked, and what can be done. One thing we all share is the common interest to see F1 survive what is going to be a very tough year.
“But I think the fans all realise that, and as a promoter I realise the effort they’re having to make and what they’re having to go through, I appreciate what they’re doing. The uncertainty right now is OK.”
Epstein says he’s had no dialogue with the local or state authorities about the race: “I actually haven’t had conversations with them. There’s no reason to even have that conversation with them at this point.”
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