Exploring New Jersey’s Grand Prix
Plans to host a Formula One race along and above the banks of the Hudson River in 2013 have been revealed in New Jersey. The Formula One Grand Prix of America, as it is intended to be called, will run clockwise on existing roads through Port Imperial and at the top of the New Jersey Palisades in Weehawken and West New York to form a 5.15 km (3.2 mile) circuit.
A significant altitude change will be involved – 46 metres or 150 feet – as the track switches from navigating a waterside location, with views of the Manhattan skyline, to winding its way along the sides of the steep New Jersey Palisades – a natural cliff face that rises above the Hudson River.
The lap starts of with a series of right-angled corners, leaving you in no doubt that you’re on US streets, with the proposed pit lane seemingly looping around the Turn 1 run-off area and joining before the second corner. That should avoid the criticism recently directed at Korea’s pit lane exit although it should be noted that early designs for Yeongam followed exactly the same approach.
After the right-hand Turn 3, things start getting interesting as the track rapidly climbs upwards away from the port, through another right-hander next to Hamilton Park (what price a Hamilton corner?) and up onto the Palisades and a winding, tree-lined avenue. The climb flattens out at about the point it hits a dinking little left-right chicane where the circuit joins JF Kennedy Boulevard to twist along the tops of the cliffs above the harbour section below.
At Turn 12, the circuit takes a sharp turn to the right and starts a sweeping decent through Turn 13 to a double apex hairpin (Turn 14/15) which should provide the first good chance for a passing manoeuvre. This final section resembles Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with which the race is expected to run back-to-back, as from the hairpin it’s a long drag race down the sweeping Port Imperial Boulevard before coming to a chicane. Unlike Canada’s, this one is a quick left with the return of direction coming much later than that faced at the Wall of Champions, indeed the pit lane entry slots in between the turns. It’s then back on to the start-finish straight and the start of another lap.
The organisers have compared the track to Monaco (high cliffs) and Spa (big gradient changes) but if feels more like Montreal with gradient changes – which sounds like anything but a bad thing. Oddly, investor Leo Hindery Jr. pointed towards Valencia as the most obvious template – that’s just worrying.
One of the most interesting aspects of the proposal is how public transport is already linked in with the circuit – light rail, buses and the Manhattan ferry services all coming together literally within a stones throw of the start-finish line.
Unlike Austin, the circuit will be funded entirely by private investors without government support. Still, New Jersey state governor Chris Christie spoke of the economic benefits that will be brought to the area. “In terms of the economic impact it is going to be significant, think about bringing well over 100,000 people into this area to frequent the shops, the restaurants and the hotels, to be staying here for over three days in a celebratory mood watching one of the world’s great road races,” he said. Fine words but with such easy access to Manhattan, the worry must that much of that spending power may end up over in New York’s hotels and restaurants instead.
The other question is whether the US is ready for two Grand Prix just yet. Off the calendar since 2007, 2005’s debacle is still fresh in the memory. Internationally, New York is probably the more accessible to European fans, especially as the Canadian Grand Prix could be taken in on the same trip. Austin may then be looking to South and Central America – rumours of a Mexican Grand Prix might be a little unsettling therefore. However, Spain hosts two races, and while admittedly they have the drawing power of Fernando Alonso to depend on, Valencia and Barcelona are not 2400 km apart. That’s almost as far as Silverstone and Istanbul are separated, for this year at least, the two extremities of the European calendar.
So it seems that Bernie Ecclestone may have finally got his New York Grand Prix… well almost. At least the organisers haven’t rode completely over New Jersey – ‘Grand Prix of America’ seems a reasonable, if slightly confusing compromise. More importantly, however, the track actually looks like a lot of fun to drive.
Image: © Viva F1