USA Day: Not the US Grand Prix

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Today, one week after the Canadian Grand Prix, should be the United States Grand Prix. But the race fell off the calendar this year after Bernie Ecclestone and Indianapolis circuit owner Tony George failed to agree terms.

American fans make up the second-largest group of F1 Fanatic readers by nation (16% in May) and many of them have voiced their displeasure at the loss of the race here. And lots of non-American fans want to see F1 back at Indianapolis because a world championship should have an American round.

Today at F1 Fanatic we’ll have a mini-series of posts with a distinctly American theme…

Earlier this year there were rumours that $10m was the difference between Ecclestone and George on negotiating a new Grand Prix contact.

F1 sponsors want the race back in America and the six car manufacturers that compete will surely want to be represented in the world’s largest car market.

If F1 does go back to Indianapolis it will probably be to a revised circuit. The Indianapolis road course has been changed to accommodate Moto GP bikes, which cannot run on the oval corners (diagram here).

Yesterday it emerged that the Australian Grand Prix may have kept its place on the calendar without having to concede to Bernie Ecclestone’s demand that the race be held at night.

He is not making the same request of the American Grand Prix organisers (a midday start in the States makes for an evening television viewing slot in Europe) but it may indicate that Ecclestone is will to compromise. Perhaps he is a little anxious to keep the car manufacturers onside in the wake of the fall-out over the Max Mosley scandal.

A few weeks ago the chances of a United States Grand Prix being on the calendar in 2009 were described as 50-50. Fingers crossed for good news soon.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “USA Day: Not the US Grand Prix”

  1. I think the absence of the US GP this year was a case of nobody doing enough to keep it on the calendar and the **** hitting the fan in the end. It was probably unexpected for everyone in the pitlane because there are other circuits far more likely to lose their spot on the calendar. If I remember correctly, the dispute was over 10m USD or thereabouts, which is chump change to most of the people involved in F1, and I’m pretty sure that we will have a US GP next year.

    I only wish that it would be held at Laguna Seca which has a lot more character than Indianapolis…

  2. Yeah, here’s to the US GP being held at Laguna Seca, but silly F1 circuit rules means that sort of circuit wouldn’t be allowed….

    At least change that horrid mickey-mouse midsection of the Indy circuit, its so generic and boring. Typical American circuit to be packed with right-angles…

    Either way, I hope the US GP returns next year, because it just doesn’t feel right that America doesn’t have a race, yet India and Korea are scheduled to get one (although I all for that happening anyway)

  3. Laguna Seca would be too short really to have an F1 race , you’d have loads of traffic problems , as great as the Corkscrew is.

    I do think that F1 needs a US GP but I don’t think it should return to Indy and if it does then it should be using the oval.There’s enough great circuits around in America , why do they have to have a silly mickey-mouse track?

  4. Robert McKay
    15th June 2008, 11:01

    I don’t see there’s much point in going back to Indy if they use the Moto GP configuration and don’t use the banked oval (though I don’t quite understand why they would HAVE to). The track’s one redeeming, interesting feature is that corner. Every other corner is dull, banal and uninteresting, as a result of trying to cram a Formula 1 track into the space inside an oval track.

    It was good to be able to say that F1 was running at Indy, but it smacks of the same problem that F1 has run into so many times when going to the States: they get a makeshift track. Bernie decided which city he wanted a race, and then they had to force a track out of that, with extremely limited results: rather than pick a dedicated proper road course in the US, they went instead to silly car park circuits and Mickey Mouse Indy circuits and never really let Americans properly see what F1 cars can do when you let them off the leash a bit.

    F1’s attitude to America has been all wrong for so long it’s not even funny.

  5. the banked corner rocks, well it used to.

    i’ve banged on about this before but the restricted engines make that race boring now, shame really it was a funky little race to start off with.

  6. Two words: Long Beach.

  7. With the banked corner you could gain a slipstream and overtake and now thats gone whats the point. However with the spec low downforce cars for next year it could be a suprise. I do feel a street circuit is required like Long beach however as said with the ultrasensitive F1 rules it is only a fantasy.

    Keith what’s your view?

  8. I think America should have al least 4 GPs. This year they’ll have only two. With Europe America is the place with more fans. It’s stupid see a lot of circuits in Asia almost empty, and place like USA, Argentina or Mexico are not allowed to host a F1 GP.

    I’ve read that Venezuela is building a F1 circuit. I’m sure Hugo Chavez and Bernie Ecclestone think in similar way, because they govern in similar styles.

  9. Can anybody explain the technical hurdles the teams would face if they had to run the full oval? I suppose some sort of rev limit would be required to protect the engines. Apart from that, would the cars be safe enough? After Kubica’s Montreal smash a year ago I’m thinking that potentially they would be.

    Racing on the oval would please everybody and instantly make the USGP one of the F1 highlights of the season (and perhaps *the* highlight for US fans).

    Failing that, Long Beach, Laguna Seca and Road America would all be great venes if F1 could just relax its circuit rules a little.

  10. F1 drivers wheel to wheel at over 200 mph on the oval, lap after lap? Asked his opinion of IRL oval racing Schumy stated he thought they were all nuts. I’m sure given the challenge all would participate but I also think most F1 drivers would feel the same. Too risky, too dangerous. Not to mention the chassis setup would require a totally different car design.

    The two best road courses suited for F1 would be either Watkins Glen or Road America. The negatives are access and paddock facilities.

  11. An F1 race on an oval? Please. As far as I’m concerned, it’s totally against everything F1 has historically stood for. By your rationale, you could run the DTM Series at Talladega.

  12. i was thinking of the report that an f1 race generates more revenue than any other single event race and wondering if it weren’t specifically timed-and aimed- for tony george’s reading pleasure.

    i wholly agree with robert mckay but, he missed a point about indy. one of the best reasons that venue was chosen was to try and reel in american race fans (not american f1 fans)and try and get them as interested in f1 at indy as they were nascar and irl at indy. if they could make it a go- and before the ’06 debacle the verdict was still out on what direction that was going– then a us gp would have been fairly secure. if that could have been pulled off there would have been the potential for a second race being added at a “real” track, maybe toward the end of the season.

    oh well.

  13. Robert McKay
    15th June 2008, 19:09

    Can’t disagree with you verasaki – you make a very good point. I think Indy did a good job for F1, despite the Schumacher/Barichello nonsense, despite the disastrous 2005 6-car farce, the fans still came in very large numbers. Picking a known venue was instrumental in what seemed like finally getting F1 to have a foothold in the US.

    But as I say it’s a shame the only way to do this was to squeeze whatever turns they could out of the shadow of the oval, which is pretty allegorical for what F1 has to survive with in America from both open wheel racing and NASCAR.

  14. oops! it was ’05, wasn’t it? mind like a sieve i have. and yes,the layout was crap, gotta agree. 1 banked turn and a screaming front straight do not a race track make.

    i guess i can keep my fingers crossed for laguna. and hope that the irl starts acting like an open wheel series out to redeem itself and add more road courses. they really need pir and road america on the calendar.

  15. Because my interest in F1 began to develop just as the USGP was dropped after the 2007 race, I’ve bene very eager for it to make a comeback in 2009. Many of you have probably seen my posts on the issue in the past, and I’m hoping/praying that cooler heads previal and the series returns to the U.S. in 2009.

    Verasaki makes an excellent point in that having the race at Indy would help to reel in fans of racing in general here in the US- there are indeed many such people who have equal interest in NASCAR and the IndyCar series as they do in F1, and getting 100,000-plus people every year is reflective of holding the event at such a location.

    I’m actually firmly in support of bringing the USGP back to Indy- it brings instant name recognition to the event and puts the race at a popular and historic venue. I think it would be great to have another GP in the US later on in the season, and indeed Laguna Seca or Long Beach would be perfect if they were brought up to spec. In any event, here’s hoping for an F1 return to the U.S. in 2009!!

  16. I asked this last time but didn’t really get an answer why can’t F1 use Sebring?

  17. Can someone tell me why are Mexico and Argentina not allowed to hold a race?

    No wonder fans in the America’s feel shafted – two races for the entire continent.

  18. Pink, Argentina had a track that deteriorated, and Mexico was deemed unsafe, though I think their circuit is probably a single renovation away from being acceptable for F1.

    Pete Walker, the IndyCar wrangle of the past twelve years regards the technical hurdles of racing both on streets and on ovals. Many of the teams were sick of effectively needing to develop two cars per year, and with the merger, it appears they have not really resolved this conundrum.

    Indianapolis cars rely on staggered tire sizes to give the car a tendency to turn left, ground effect downforce (which is illegal in F1), rollbars that are adjustable by the driver (illegal in F1), and a ballast that can be shifted in the car by the driver (illegal in F1), all necessary to counteract the effects of your car becoming lighter as it circles the track, burning fuel at extremely high speeds, then becomes heavy again upon refueling.

    It’s not that F1 couldn’t adapt to this, but I would ask, why require the teams to do this sort of thing for only one race per year?

    Frankly, oval racing is a separate motorsport from street and road racing. The strategies and skills are very different, for mostly environmental reasons.

  19. I would really like to see F1 back in America, but does it have to be at Indy? Surely this is where Bernie should be using his marketing and negotiating skills to promote at least one Street Circuit? He likes them after all!
    And I do mean ‘at least’ one race – as far as I can see, we could have a Canadian GP, a Texas GP and a Californian GP – either using existing tracks or brand new ones (remember the US GP in a hotel parking lot?)
    This will be the only way to bring F1 back to America, and the fact that the negotiations with Indy broke down shows that someone (presumably Bernie) is not willing to compromise.
    I wonder if its still possible for a promoter to invite the teams to race, even if it wouldn’t count towards the Championship? That would annoy Bernie immensley!

  20. Chunter, wow that is some cool info, i was not aware that the driver in Indy could change the car during the race, re; weight shifting.

    to be fair F1 drivers need to sort out segragation per corner (changing the Differentials)

  21. Another thing that the FIA and FOM need to do in America is to allow the teams to carry area specific Branding and Sponsors – some of the teams have picked up Middle Eastern and Chinese sponsors, but only as part of a ‘global’ approach.
    I think that in order to gain promotion on the American ‘home’ market, the teams need to be allowed to show American names.
    Renault would be Nissan or Renault/Nissan Alliance, Toyota would be Lexus (since Toyota is known for pickups in the USA), Honda would be Infiniti, but the likes of Ferrari, Red Bull, McLaren and Williams would be the same.
    This would allow for M&Ms and Coca-Cola sponsorship of cars, and it would be a major breakthrough to allow the two cars in a team to be in different colours, something which might also be useful in the rest of the world.
    Williams showed in the build up to this season how easy it is to change the colours of a car these days, so isn’t it about time Bernie, Max and the rule makers made it into the 21st century too?

  22. I have to believe the Concorde Agreement wouldn’t allow such a thing.

  23. DG, Toyota is known just as much for their passenger cars in the US as elsewhere. If anything I’d say the stereotypical ‘redneck’ American would have nothing to do with one of them “jap” trucks, but instead considers only either a Ford or a Chevy a ‘real’ truck. Even Dodge (Chrysler) is given the short straw in ‘redneck’ culture.

    According to an article in Autosport, the main reason for no USGP this year is that Tony George ‘just had no time’ to bother dealing with Bernie this year due to all the work he had on his plate for the reunification. Of course, this also shows just how important the USGP was to Tony George.

  24. All the cars for a given team must be in the same colours according to Article 21.1 of the Sporting Regulations. I don’t know if the Concorde Agreement insists on that as well, but if it did it would be a duplicate rule rather than a strictly necessary one.

    I’m not surprised Tony George doesn’t consider getting F1 back at Indy to be a high priority. After all the messing around F1 has done to him, he probably thinks it deserves a little bit of the same to reduce the probability of him beng messed around again next time.

  25. @Scootin – thanks for the correction, I had wondered why the Toyota NASCAR COT was a Camry and not a Lexus!
    On the other hand, if you check any US magazine for adverts, you see lots of Toyota and Honda Trucks and SUVs, but again, that is possibly just my perception.

  26. @donwatters “An F1 race on an oval? Please. As far as I’m concerned, it’s totally against everything F1 has historically stood for. By your rationale, you could run the DTM Series at Talladega.”

    Actually the Indy 500 was a Formula 1 Championship round from 1950 – 1960, so F1 returning to the Indy oval would be more a return of a tradition than something against what F1 stands for.

    F1 supposedly has the 20 greatest drivers in the world, and as such I’d like to see the World Championship include all types of circuit, including an oval.

  27. I’m with Pete – it would be awesome to see modern F1 cars trimmed out for Indianapolis. They’d probably need to beef up the crash structures in some places though (on the cars).

  28. Robert McKay
    16th June 2008, 16:43

    There’s as much chance of F1 running a world championship race on an oval as there is them running a race round the Pescara track.

  29. Yes, the Indy 500 did count for the World Championship at one time…but very, very few F1 drivers or cars ever participated. Why do you think that was? Monaco, or just a huge lack of interest?

  30. Sush, the Indy drivers call it a “weightjacker”, it’s a mechanical ratchet-lever system, and basically, it keeps the car from oversteering when it runs out of gas, and from plowing into the walls once it’s refilled and on cold tires. It’s worked with a pencil-sized lever to the driver’s right.

    Keith and don, I like the sense of fun in having Indy be an actual F1 race (or to have a race or two in the Indy style) but I really don’t think it should count for championship points. As it is, you never hear the drivers saying “I wish Monaco wasn’t on the same weekend as the Indy 500 so I can be in both this year,” and that’s the real shame.

  31. I think an F1 race on an oval would be a pretty cool thing because it would be different. Side by side at over 220 MPH is what IRL drivers do on a race to race basis. It obviously can be done. The problem is the 2001 CART race at Texas.

    Just how fast would these F1 Cars go at their peak performance? It might just be too much for a human to take.

  32. Also Sassan – I don’t think it’s unrealistic to suggest F1 could race at Long Beach again. After all they’re adding two new street circuits to the calendar this year. I think there’s a lot to be said for having two United States Grands Prix – one east, one west as they used to.

    Steve K makes a good point about the infamous Texas race that never happened. There’s an excellent account of that race in Steven Olvey’s excellent book “Rapid Response”. The teams turned up at an oval they hadn’t tested on before and found that the combination of lateral and vertical G-loadings it was inducing in the drivers were so high it was causing disorientation. Some drivers would come into the pits with no memory of how they had been driving. Others, like Mauricio Gugelmin, suffered (and survived) terrifying crashes.

    But it’s important to remember this was a one-off and proper preparation beforehand including testing on the track could have prevented it – one could say the same of Indianapolis ’05 for F1.

  33. What’s this about bikes not using banking? Daytona, Loudon, Texas World Speedway(college station)…and the “backwards” configuration shows the use of turn 2.

    @DG, actually, Toyota does use the Lexus brand to race in the Rolex Series (GrandAm) and Honda uses the Acura marque in ALMS.

    My vote is for Long Beach, what a spectacular venue. It’s our Monaco!

  34. Barret – I’m no expert on bikes, but I understand the track configuration was changed to allow the Moto GP bikes to use the track without having to use the banked turn, presumably because of the lack of run-off.

  35. Just found this post.

    As an American, I very badly want to see the US Grand Prix back. It only makes sense for F1 to be racing here. We have one of the largest car markets in the world, and we have one of the highest volumes of F1 fans in the world. The country has one of the longest and most storied racing traditions in the world, and the greatest motor sport in the world should be part of it.

    With that said, I think Indianapolis is a very poor venue for the Grand Prix. For one, F1 doesn’t really “own” the circuit in the way that IndyCar does, as the Indianapolis 500 had established tradition there long before F1 had gotten there. There are some other, and probably better, options out there.

    One option that I think would be quite intriguing is the Daytona road course. It is already famed for use in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and IndyCars currently test there. The main concern right now would be the bumpiness of the oval corners used there which would be hell on F1 suspensions, so the track would have to be repaved. There would certainly be concern also about the banking in the oval corner at 31 degrees, but I would have to say I would be damned interested to see how a F1 car handles it.

    I think the best option for F1 in America, though, would be to bring back the Las Vegas street circuit, perhaps with modification (including the strip?). This would establish a true festivity associated with the series: the world’s greatest racing at America’s (and perhaps the world’s) greatest spectacle town. The city has nice, wide streets with long stretches of road that would make ideal straights and nice, tight corners with scenic backdrops. It’s got the show, the glitz (to an increasing tune, with The Wynn and several more billion dollar hotels coming), and certainly enough drinking establishments to keep Kimi Raikkonen happy. What more does a F1 circuit need?

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