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COTA chairman thinks Liberty should own some F1 circuits

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Circuit of The Americas chairman Bobby Epstein believes that Formula 1’s new owner, Liberty Media, should own some of the circuits on the series’ calendar.

Liberty completed its takeover of F1 back in January, with new CEO and chairman Chase Carey keen to ensure that races become more sustainable and are less susceptible to falling off the calendar due to financial difficulties.

The United States Grand Prix at COTA came close to collapse following a washout in 2015 and a cut in government funding, only to bounce back last year with a record crowd, aided by a performance from Taylor Swift on Saturday after qualifying.

Speaking to Reuters, COTA chairman Epstein raised the idea of Liberty owning circuits as a way for F1 to take an active role in making races more profitable.

“I do think it makes a lot of sense for them to own some circuits. It would have to be part of any long-term strategy for them,” Epstein said.

“I see a lot of logic and business reasons for them to own some circuits. I think all of the circuits struggle under the current environment.

“If they change it and help the circuits survive, are they better off owning the circuits than making concessions?

“Are they actually giving up profitability by not owning the circuits? If [the circuits] are going to make money from an F1 race, then F1 might as well own that profit.”

Tickets for the 2017 United States GP at COTA in Austin, Texas went on sale earlier this week, with this year’s race set to feature a performance from Justin Timberlake at the track’s amphitheater.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.