- GP Week
Five minutes with... Leo Hindery Jr.Adam Hay-Nicholls November 1, 2011
Adam Hay-Nicholls speaks to the New Jersey Grand Prix promoter and media tycoon Leo Hindery Jr.
Like Monaco and Singapore, this race has the potential to be a 'halo' event for Formula One. Were you therefore able to negotiate a lower FOM fee?
We're paying for the privilege, and it is a privilege. Our sanctioning fees, god I wish we could negotiate them, but we're not allowed to.
This is a high profile part of the world with a lot of different sports teams and stadiums and other attractions. Does it need Formula One?
I think that it's been wanting it. If you look at F1, it's in every capital of Europe and capitals of Asia, it's just not here in the United States. I think it will very quickly rise to being on a par with the Monte Carlos, the French and the Canadian and certainly the Spanish and European grands prix.
We've heard from the governor of New Jersey and the mayors of these townships. Is it a concern that the main economic benefits will be enjoyed by New York and not New Jersey? I can guarantee you that all the teams, all international media and most international fans are going to stay across the water…
I disagree. I think you underestimate the quality of the hotels adjacent north and south of this area. Certainly many people will stay in the city but it's 100,000 people, probably half of whom will come from outside the region. We have lovely hotels and restaurants just down the street here in Hoboken. The whole area will share. But in terms of taxes, restaurants and hotels it will preponderantly fall in New Jersey.
Are you confident this venue is going to be more appealing to fans than Indianapolis, Phoenix and the like?
Well you've gotta want to go there. I raced in the first, second and third years at Indianapolis. The first year the grandstands were full, the second year they were about 80 percent, the third year they were at 60 percent. People will come here for the same reason they travel to Shanghai and Singapore. There are about 26,000 people who travel with the sport, same people. Have you ever spent a weekend in Indianapolis? It's hard!
I have, several times - it wasn't that bad! There's a big building site where we're standing. Are they laying the foundations for the pit complex now?
Yes, that's correct.
Was starting work before the announcement strategic?
How much work is needed to be done to the street track itself, in addition to fences and grandstands - presumably it will have to be resurfaced?
Yeah, if you hit a pothole coming down that hill you're gonna be somebody's Christmas dinner. Our obligation to these towns is to pave these roads to tabletop quality, and we'll do that at least every two or three years. We're going to undertake responsibility for these roads from next year. These roads have to be tabletop smooth, and paid for by us. There's not a nickel that will be paid by the state, the county or the towns. And we will be paying for homeland security, not the tax payer.
Chris Christie, the governor, said you've been talking with Bernie Ecclestone for "a number of months" and I suppose you could say the Magna Carta was written 'a number of months ago'... But given there has been talk of a New Jersey race for a couple of years, can we conclude it's been years of discussion rather than months?
Yeah, let's say years. It's been about two years. We had to design the track first, because you can't get permission to hold a race until you've done the engineering for a race.
Adam Hay-Nicholls is editor of GP Week and Formula One correspondent for Metro UK and Metro International