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COTA added to F1's 2022 schedule, but bump(s) in the road could be keeping contract at bay

Formula 1 racers gave onlookers a show as they arrived in Austin on Saturday. (Red Bull Racing Honda/Twitter)

As the long-awaited United States Grand Prix nears at Austin's Circuit of the Americas, the track seems closer to securing a deal that could keep the race in the city for another decade.

Formula 1 released its provisional 2022 schedule on Oct. 15, and as it has every year since 2012, COTA was included as the Grand Prix's destination. But a subtle asterisk—which says the race is "subject to contract"—shows that another 10-year-deal still hasn't been finalized for the circuit.

COTA has yet to clinch another decade-long contract as its current one ends this year. It's an issue that hasn't gone unnoticed by the circuit's biggest fans and critics alike.

While COTA chair Bobby Epstein has expressed confidence that another contract will be renewed, sources have told Austonia that the contract could be in jeopardy. And new threats—including a Miami track, legislative issues regarding $25 million in taxpayer funding and more—are making the path murky for the United States' first purpose-built F1 venue.

Many believe that the pending contract comes down to track conditions. After MotoGP's first race in the United States for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas on Oct. 3, multiple drivers complained about bumps on the track. Championship leader Fabio Quartararo called the track a "joke" after the race, while others called for the entire track to be resurfaced.

In a Facebook group, fans believe contract issues to be traced back to bumps on the track.

COTA was partially resurfaced in 2019 and 2020 but has failed to resolve certain bumps in the road.

Time's up for more races than just COTA—Italy's Imola track also faced an expired contract but extended its deal to 2025 on Oct. 15. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya, Singapore Grand Prix and Miami races are also on the preliminary schedule subject to contract. The Miami Grand Prix, set to christen its track on May 8, 2022, is awaiting a finalized contract as well as FIA homologation, which officially gives a track a "license to race."

Losing COTA would be a big loss to Austin and its purpose-built track, but it could also be a big loss to F1. With up to 350,000 expected to come to the weekend-long fest, Epstein promises "the biggest event on the planet this year"—and fans are more excited than ever.

In 2018, Sean Bratches, managing director of F1's commercial operations, told the Associated Press that the organization hopes to stay at COTA "for many years to come." With its inclusion on the 2022 list, perhaps that message still holds true.

The new schedule comes days before the USGP returns to the track after not happening last year due to COVID. The long-awaited event will kick off on Friday and will include performances from Billy Joel, weekend-long entertainment and F1's Hamilton vs. Verstappen rivalry at Sunday's big race.

If the contract is secured, the world will focus on Austin once again for another USGP come October 23, 2022.

COTA did not reply to requests for comment from Austonia.

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Formula 1's United States Grand Prix will take place in Austin from Friday, October 29-Sunday, October 31 in Austin.


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