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Questions swirl over F1 contract

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Hefty legal language put a temporary halt to the City of Austin’s host-city sponsorship deal with Formula 1 promoters Thursday.

The contract drafted by the U.S. Circuit of Americas would allow Formula 1 promoters to collect a $25 million check, compliments of the State of Texas. It's a tax incentive deal, and race promoters tell the City of Austin it would be a win-win situation.

Joe Turner has practiced law for 25 years and has been listed by Super Lawyers as one of the best attorneys in the state. While he specializes in criminal defense, Turner said he has combed over a few detailed contracts in his lengthy career.

“This is a clearly complex document,” Turner said. "This is something you would want your lawyers to review and study for some period of time and make sure they covered all the bases in a document like this."

F1 promoters maintain that the U.S. Grand Prix would only bring wealth to Austin.

"The contract they have put in front of them is very clear, that there is no risk to the city in this project. There is no risk, no financial risk," Circuit of Americas President Steve Sexton said.

However, Turner said contracts like the one in front of the city council Thursday need plenty of close examination.

"They were trying to draft from the dais that is not a safe way to do a contract," F1 opponent Susan Moffat said. "There needs to be a meeting of the minds about what everybody is agreeing to and if there is still questions on it. It's just not prudent to sign an agreement like that."

With questions and unfinished business, the council chose to have more clarity on a deal.

"It doesn't make any sense to do this wrong and I think there are some pretty big issues raised by the question," Council Member Laura Morrison said.

The Austin City Council is holding a special council meeting Wednesday. On the agenda is the Formula 1 city sponsorship measure.

If the measure passes, that should activate $25 million for F1 promoters from the Major Events Trust Fund. The deal over a decade is worth at least $250 million.

Click here to read the contract.

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