Formula 1’s lost nations: USA

Posted on

| Written by

Mario Andretti was world champion for Lotus in 1978

Last world champion: Mario Andretti, Lotus, 1978
Last Grand Prix winner: Mario Andretti, Lotus, Zandvoort, 1978
Last Grand Prix starter: Scott Speed, Scuderia Toro Rosso, Nurburgring, 2007
Last Grand Prix: Indianapolis, 2007

Although F1 has never been hugely popular in America, and probably never will be, it has a small but dedicated following in the USA. Unfortunately the last period of F1 racing in America showcased some of the sport’s very worst moments.

America’s F1 history

As with many sports, America’s domestic motor racing series have always attracted more interest among home fans than their drivers’ efforts to achieve success on the international stage. America has a long tradition of oval racing, from the once-great Indy Car series, which tore itself apart in the 1990s, to stock car racing which dominates the US racing scene today.

But Phil Hill was drawn to the international scene. He was the first American-born driver to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, and won the world championship for Ferrari in 1961. He left the team the year after, and retired from racing altogether in 1967. He died of Parkinson’s Disease last year.

Mario Andretti, whose family emigrated from Italy after World War Two and settled in Pennsylvania, took the title for Colin Chapman’s Lotus team in 1978. In a tragic parallel with Hill, he too won the championship on the day his team mate was killed.

Andretti last raced in F1 in 1982 and since then very few Americans have competed in the world championship. Once of them was Mario’s son Michael, whose 1993 effort was memorable only for being an unmitigated disaster.

Efforts to find a home for an American Grand Prix have been thwarted by more than just the public’s preference for Indy Car and NASCAR. F1’s promoters have shown no willingness to make concessions to secure a foothold in the world’s most lucrative market. Popular events at classic tracks such at Watkins Glen (1961-1980) and Long Beach (1976-1983) fell by the wayside for these reasons. But losing unloved venues like Las Vegas (1981-2) and Phoenix (1989-91) was easier to accept.

F1’s latest attempt to establish itself in America ended in 2007 and several of the manufacturer-backed teams voiced their displeasure that Bernie Ecclestone had been unable to agree terms with Indianapolis boss Tony George. Worse, F1 shot itself in the foot twice at the Brickyard: in 2002 the race ended in a contrived farce as the Ferrari drivers swapped positions on the final lap, and in 2005 only six cars took the start after Michelin discovered problems with its tyres.

America’s F1 future

America has never been short of good racing drivers – the problem has usually been that they aren’t interested in Formula 1, or they are, but can’t find any sponsors who would rather be on an F1 airbox than a NASCAR fender.

Marco Andretti, son of Michael, had until recently been tipped for a future F1 drive. But the team that showed the most interest in him, Honda, is up for sale and Andretti’s efforts are now focused on his Indy Car career.

Another up-and-coming America driver to keep an eye out for in the future is Alexander Rossi. Rossi won the BMW World Final in Mexico at the end of last year (pictures here), aged 17. He beat Mexican Esteban Gutierrez, who won the F1-supporting Formula BMW Europe championship last year.

As for America returning to the F1 calendar, I hope it happens soon. But with NASCAR and Indy Car ticket prices so much lower than what is charged in F1 I can’t see how an American race promoter could afford Ecclestone’s prices. And although America has many fine road racing circuits – Road America, Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta to name just three – few are up to F1’s safety and facilities standards.

Do you think we’ll see another American in F1 soon? Will F1 go back to the USA soon? Have your say in the comments.

American F1 driver biographies

Formula 1’s lost nations

Alexander Rossi in the BMW World Final 2008, Mexico

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

64 comments on “Formula 1’s lost nations: USA”

  1. I would like F1 be back on the Glen.

  2. manufacturers and sponsors are desparate for a presence in north america, and there’s plenty of fans here to welcome them. bernie has sold us all out to asia, in general, and the sheiks in particular.

    although i have no affection for indianapolis, nor tony george and family, to their credit they have been trying to bring f1 back. team sponsors are (were) willing to make up for the difference in bernie’s asking price, but he still refused.

  3. 3 Races in America please… East Coast GP at Sebring, West Coast GP at Laguna Seca, and an Oval GP on Indy’s Speedway

    Scott Speed can stay well away though. He’s been the only American i’ve seen race in F1 (I was slightly too late to see Andretti fail in a McLaren), and if his manner and temperement are anything to go by, I’d rather not see another one.

    1. ajokay, trust me I believe Speed’s attitude is not the norm for American drivers and sportsmen. Yes, we live in a culture where victory and excellence is prized, but there are many drivers here who are great with the fans and very friendly. While he may not be at the top of many prospect lists, I did an interview with Jonathan Summerton for a guest post on here, and the guy was not only quick to respond to my requests, but also was as friendly and helpful as anyone i’ve ever interviewed in my writings.

      In Speed’s case, I applaud Red Bull for trying to find and develop American talent, but forcing Speed into a car when he probably wasen’t ready was not their best move. Had he developed and matured more, or had a different driver been picked from the American Driver Search, it could be a whole different situation now.

  4. North America is a natural place for F1. I agree with ajokay that there should be a tour, with Canada and at least 2 US races – good for logistics´and fun for the drivers. The North american Tour could end up being the most exciting part of the calendar.
    This would be much better for sponsors than the typical GP that Bernie comes up with, on tracks with empty seats and no history.
    There could be guest appearances by American drivers, and a lot of good press.

    In bike racing, the 500cc class is now called MotoGp, is even more popular than before, and the most fun race of all is the USGP at Laguna Seca, with all kinds of celebrities attending like Michael Jordan who owns a bike team, Brad Pitt who owns several bikes, etc.
    But as long as we have Bernie “Gimme Some Mo´” this is unlikely to happen : he runs F1 in a somber way that is no fun, and CVC keeps all the money.

    What I think is important is that future rules changes produce cars that actually fit on an existing racetrack. These F1 cars of today are huge – specially LONG. They make nearly all tracks obsolete, and make passing difficult. There are BEAUTIFUL tracks in North America, but the cars have to be designed so they fit in the tracks — if not the only places to race are on new tracks in the Middle and Far East

    A final thought for an American racer in F1 : Mark Donahue – you can look him up in Google. His team Penske once bought a works Ferrari and redid it better than the factory – a fascinating story to investigate

    1. Great point about the MotoGP race at Laguna Seca- I think that event grows more and more popular every season, the riders seem to love it, and it is a perfect exampel of what F1 could have if Bernie was sensable.

      As I would say to Bernie…. “You now have ZERO F1 races in America, while MotoGP has not one but two races- both being held at at tracks that were upgraded for your show. When A1GP joins they frey here in the next few years, how will you explain your prolonged absence from this market to your shareholders and sponsors, let alone the fans?”

  5. The USA needs to be back on the F1 calendar – the world championship can never truly be a world championship unless it races in the US. For F1 to get a real foothold in the US it needs a good venue, low ticket prices and at least one competitive American driver on the grid. But these are not easy to overcome.

    Indy was a reasonable place for a race but has too many bad associations – Michael Schumacher trying to engineer a dead heat, the Michelin debacle, etc. But Indy has an extremely dull track layout beyond its use of the oval. Although F1 would work better in a setting like Long Beach, Laguna Seca, Watkins Glen or Road America none of these places are likely to come up to scratch safety-wise.

    F1 also needs to be able to offer well priced entrance tickets and better access to teams and drivers, which is pretty much par for the course in the US. I went to a CART race in New Hampshire in ’93 – it cost about the same as attending a British F3 meeting and about a tenth of the cost of attending the European GP at Donnington the same year.

    Lastly, drivers. Even in Indycars the leading drivers are mainly non-American – Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, Dan Wheldon, Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti, Tony Kanaan, etc. Marco Andretti, Graham Rahal and Danica Patrick have not often been thought of as serious F1 prospects.

    If F1 really wants to gain some ground in the US, it may have to bite the bullet and make some compromises – race on a classic US circuit, allow a couple of wildcard entries from US drivers, perhaps even try to link up with Indycar to run a joint event, offer heavily discounted tickets, etc.

    1. There are dilemmas, though: allowing wildcard US drivers to race on F1-spec cars: they won’t be used to it and therefore will most likely underperform. Allowing Indycars to race alongside F1 cars? The differences in performance characteristics might make this unsafe, though then again, F1 and F2 cars used to race concurrently without much fuss.

    2. Michael- You’ve got a good point on that note. If you want to spin it another way, think about this for a second….

      I know everyone even close to F1 is enamoured with Monaco, but on the same weekend, perhaps one of the F1 teams should consider entering one or more of their young drivers for the Indianapolis 500. They would need to find a driver with a clear schedule, given the near-month of practice and qualifying, but it would be a neat marketing ploy if someone was up to it.

  6. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I still say have the USGP on the Indy oval. Obviously there several large practical issues (cars would need to be modified, race length would need extending, F1 drivers would no doubt refuse etc etc) but can you imagine it as an event? The sense of occasion would be second only to Monaco (and thats including Singapore).

    I know this idea comes straight from laa laa land but I strongly believe that if you want to turn American race fans on to F1, give them a format they’re already invested in.

    As for drivers, if Danica Patrick ever happens upon a run of success in her career, I can actually see her making the jump to F1 – the marketing potential is enormous.

  7. I’d like to apply some common sense logic if I may to break it down. If Bernie reduces his money demands, he will be able to go to more venues, and thus increase F1 exposure massively to more markets, thereby filling his pockets with vastly more of exactly what they all want i.e. money…

    1. Bernie is like the scorpion who stung the turtle — he just can’t help himself, it’s in his nature to be avaricious.

  8. I live in Florida and 2 weeks ago I spoke to some marketing officials that work for the state tourism board . They admitted that they seriously looked at Miami or Daytona as a venue for F1.

    But when the price tag came down for term commitments, fees, security costs and ‘fan management’ as they put it, they could not justify it.

    They further said that they had doubts that any municipality in America could afford such an expensive event. Especially now that most Police Dept’s personnel are being cut, municipal jobs are thin and taxpayers are stretched. Just too hard to get the public to approve.

    Shockingly, their feasibility study showed that a F1 event was 3 times more expensive than the Super Bowl or World Series, and 10 times more than a domestic NASCAR or Indy race.

    Has Bernie out-priced the event for America? They think so…

  9. I have to say,IMHO you’re all looking at this from the wrong way round.
    ‘If F1 wants to come to America it has to do….’?

    It’s hard enough for the UK and France to keep there respective GP’s (with all their heritage) and get teams to agree on things. Getting them to change the cars, rules, or introduce new drivers is not going to happen.

    Either prospective host need to put in a lot of groundwork, or we get rid of the poison dwarf.

    Bernie only looks at this as a commodity, he doesn’t look at it and think, ‘who really deserves a GP’.
    He thinks ‘who will give me the most money’.

    I’d love to see a race in the US (Laguna Seca would be cool!, but would the cars make it round the corkscrew?), but not if it’s some kind of mickey mouse race.

    Changing the cars to fit the course! They spend millions on the cars- they’re not going to build a 1 off to fit on a course because the owners can’t bring it up to F1 standards.

    I’d like to see a legitimate round of the F1 world championship, but keep the ‘celebrities’ away. Christ, we get enough of those gurning vampires (who have no interest in F1, but know a photo-op) at Monaco.

    1. Sorry but Leguna Seca is definately not suited to F1. I do believe there are better tracks. It is perfectly suited to MotoGP and other bike races though…

  10. Keith! Keith! What about Danica Patrick?

    She might not be a stellar racer but she is potentially decent, proficient, second-driver material. And she brings massive publicity and marketing opportunities with her wherever she goes.

    It’s extremely possible that some F1 team is going to see the potential of a big US name capable of attracting business even during a global downturn – plus the buzz of signing a female driver.

    She’s also good on race tactics and timing which is something that could definitely work to her advantage in F1.

    And if someone like Alonso tried mind games on her, well, she’d probably just sock him right on the nose…

    You might very well disagree, and say you don’t rate her. There’s certainly a counter-argument to be made that she doesn’t cut it, which I freely acknowledge.

    But, as ever with Danica, I don’t think you can ignore her!

    1. But as with Andretti, she’s closely linked to Honda and that’s not a route to F1 any more.

      But you’re right, a team looking to make headlines couldn’t do any better than to sign her up.

  11. As a resident here in the US, I can’t wait to see another GP here in the states. As per ticket prices, the admissions at Indy were the cheapest F1 tickets you could get out of all the races on the calendar. I discovered this brutal reality when I decided to go to the Canadian GP in 08.

    Dan Gurney is another great American driver who had mild success in F1. He won the Belgian GP in a car of his own creation back in the mid-sixties. That’s a one and only for USA in F1.

  12. The Canada/USA double header was one of my favourite parts of the calender of recent years, so much so I actually went all the way from the UK to both of them in 2005 (yes that wonderful Indy race of 2005!) Of all the F1 circuits I have been to (currently stands at 5) I think the North American two are my favourite. Indianapolis had a brilliant crowd atmosphere – better than any other I have been to, (well, before the six car incident anyway!), passionate fans, I had no complaints about the facilities, the ticket price was fantastic compared to most of the other F1 events i have attended and i didnt have to queue for anything all weekend. Indianapolis had that wow factor when I went – just so big, so impressive and the whole weekend gave great access, as well as being able to be really quite close to the cars in some stands.

    It really is such a shame that the sport becomes more and more about money than anything else, because I dont know anyone who is happy with the fact there are no North American races, teams and fans alike, and the fans are so important to the sport, yet seem so insignificant in the eyes of some of the top powers. It’s ridiculous that a WORLD Championship doesnt contain a race from North America, especially given the continent’s passion for motorsport on the whole. It is an extremely important market which is currently being shunned in favour of places which dont have the same passion or popularity but have seemingly bottomless pockets full of money. I think some countries should be guaranteed a Grand Prix every year given their history with motorsport – the USA is one of them.

  13. For Team Radio-entertainment purposes alone I’d give Scott Speed an F1 drive.

    I wouldn’t give Danica a second thought, with all the respect in the world to her. She’s not even a great IRL driver.

    In terms of the race, there should definitely be a United States Grand Prix, but I was glad to see TG stand up to Bernie and refuse to pay his demands. If Bernie gets with the program he’ll realise that in the long run he’ll make more from letting Indy have a very cheap fee and getting some exposure in the States, but don’t hold your breath.

    Bernie will blame anyone but FOM for the race failure over there – he’ll blame the location, he’ll blame George, he’ll blame Michelin and he’ll try and make some sort of New York city-race GP happen, but he’ll be wasting his time.

    F1 doesn’t have to make a massive dent in North America, it just has to make a reasonable, sustainable impression, which it was doing fairly well before it all went wrong.

    1. Perfect summary Robert. Indeed, I believe any motor racing event that shut down large stretches of NYC streets for even a weekend would be a disaster for everyone involved.

  14. I could go on a hate filled rant about Bernie, the two Indy farces, and other things but thinking about how the sport has been destroyed in North America just makes me very depressed. I am tired of being angry about it.

    The simple fact is that F1 and Bernie had a shot when the open wheel split happened in the mid-nineties to bring F1 into the American racing forefront and they blew it. The Indy experiment could of worked but Ferrari,(2002) Max and Bernie (2005) blew it. Long Beach should still be on the calendar rivaling Monaco for glamour but Bernie blew it. Watkins Glen had the history and tradition yet that went away. Vegas, Detroit, and Phoenix were a running string of jokes.

    I am 28 years old but I feel like an abused old housewife who believes that her husband of 30 years will stop beating her and start loving her one of these days. I look at NASCAR races sometimes on TV and see the stands packed, fathers holding their sons up, people smiling and having a good time. Despite the quality, racing is racing. If anything I am jealous. We had that with F1 and open wheel in the US but we’ve lost it.

    About once a year or so I go to the Portland raceway on an open weekend where I use to go to the CART races when I was a kid. I saw Nigel Mansell, the Andretti family, Emerson Fittipaldi , Al Unser Jr., Danny Sullivan, Bobby Rahal all race there. The old wooden stands are deafeningly now quiet. It is haunting and very creepy.

    Be careful Europe, if things don’t change in F1 soon for the better; this could be your future.

  15. > she’s closely linked to Honda and that’s not a route to F1 any more.

    Yes… the problem with Honda was that they seemed to collect drivers in the way that hoarders collect plastic bags, bits of string and cardboard boxes until they can’t get into their houses any more.

    They had far more people associated with them than they could ever have found drives for – Conway, Rossiter, Davidson, the list is a long one.

    However, since they have this link with IRL because of the engines surely it’s almost the case that every Indy driver who’s ever in the frame for F1 was automatically associated with them?

    You reminded me of that picture out there in the wilds somewhere of her holding hands with Our Jense – now that would have been a driver partnership made in heaven :D

    > I wouldn’t give Danica a second thought, with all the respect in the world to her. She’s not even a great IRL driver.

    She’s a gutsy, decent IRL driver – and a race winner, however much you want to qualify that with ‘fuel strategy’ remarks. She’s certainly not one of those people making a fool of themselves at the back of the field (the names Milka Duno and Marty Roth do rather spring to mind here).

    I know she’s not the greatest thing since sliced bread. But I do think that a little bit more credit is due to her than she’s been getting in this thread so far.

    1. Indeed, I will agree that Danica is not the worst driver on the IndyCar circuit. But if you printed out her career results without her name on the paper, do you still think the driver being described would be worthy of an F1 shot? Don’t forget that prior to the merger, she was driving in the oval-first IRL and not Champ Car, so she’s got some more work to do if she wants to prove she can drive in F1.

      If she came in and did reasonably well, fantastic. But it would be a circuis from the start, and if she failed, we’d have another Scott Speed deal- the driver is there for about 90% marketing and 10% racing- with 1,000 times the bad press and public flak.

      1. Danica is not the worst driver on the IndyCar circuit.

        Step forward Milka Duno…

  16. Nice series Keith :)

    Are the next 4 countries Canada, South Africa, Mexico, Russia ?

    1. Not so much Russia – they’ve never had an F1 driver. Am subbing South Africa and Canada at the moment.

  17. you know why the circle track was originally created? Its so that in the stadium every one could see the sponsors names. This shows the american mentallity they will never be able to compete or even watch something like formula 1.

    1. Oh how dare American tracks and cars make money from their venture! Say what you want about oval tracks, NASCAR, and “the American mentality” all you want but they make money. They treat their sponsors right. They interact and treat their fans with respect. They make it fun to go to a race. They make sure that everyone involved (teams, tracks, and drivers) all get paid.

      F1 is in serious trouble with tracks that can’t make a profit, teams that can’t make a profit, and fans can no longer go to races because they have been priced out or there is no longer a race around them. There is so much F1 can learn from what NASCAR and others are doing over here in America.

      Tell me kay, is your last name “Ecclestone?”

    2. you know why the circle track was originally created? Its so that in the stadium every one could see the sponsors names.

      I don’t buy that – surely the point of ovals is that the spectators can see all of the track?

    3. I dom’t know where you’re checking in from Kay, but I can take quite a bit of offense at your remakrs about the “American mentality” and us “not being able to watch something like Formula 1.”

      I’ve been born and raised here in America for all of my 22 years, and just started following F1 last summer!! Since then, it has become a passion for me that ranks alongside the more traditional American sports I follow. I know many other fans of Formula 1 right here in my local area, let alone the rest of the country! Oval racing compared to road courses is just another variant of the same sport- there is no need to throw barbs at anyone’s nationality just because you don’t like certain circuits.

      I could go on quite a bit further, but in the sake of being a good sportsman, let’s leave it at that.

    4. Funny, I always thought they’re just continuing the Roman chariot race tradition. Just like in the Latin world (southern France, Spain, Latin America) they still have bullfights.

  18. I don’t agree about the safety concerns of some that circuits in the USA are not ‘safe’ enough for F1. Most ovals nowadays have safer barriers, instead of concrete retaining walls or tyre barriers that you see in Europe.
    If it was me, I would love to have seen the North American races done at night, especially Montreal, with the city as a backdrop. The lights refecting off the water would have looked amazing.
    I really cannot understand the logic behind the mickey mouse infield section at Indy, which reminds me of Daytona when they run the Rolex 24 races there. The sight and sound of F1 cars flat out on the banking at Indy, especially during the V10 era, was priceless, especially with the loss of so many fast European circuits in recent years.
    Personally, I would be surprised to see these two events, or any replacement venues, added to F1 as long as Ecclestone is in charge. Maybe in ten, twenty years, but not at the moment.

    1. I’ve watched races from Road America and Laguna Seca on television and it doesn’t look like the amount of run-off at some places would be sufficient for F1.

    2. Indeed the night race in Montreal, and/or a host of other North American venues, would be quite interesting- that skyline would be impressive! But because of Bernie’s desire to have as many races as possible in European prime time, I think it has next to zero chance of happening with him around.

    3. As one who has seen a few races down at Laguna Seca, here are a few observations.

      – There is a surprising amount of run off area then what you see on TV. I think it would be easier to make the track itself ready. One has to remember that the track was made to FIA standards back in the eighties when it was trying to get an F1 race (that went to Phoenix instead, great judgment call there Bernie.) If expansions of run off need to be made, there are really nothing to keep from these run off to be expanded.

      – The track can easily be expanded to length it by a 1/2 mile or so. Instead of the Andretti hairpin, they can stretch out that portion of the track to almost the base of the hill. (See this quickmap:

      – You would be surprised on how many well price hotels, restaurants, and amenities are in that area. Remember, Pebble Beach (a few miles down the road) usually holds a few PGA golf events every year and the US Open every couple of years. These draw in tens of thousands. Those crowds are about the same demographic as Formula One fans.

      – The big drawback is infrastructure. There really isn’t much there. The garage, media, control center and infrastructure is basic at best. They would have to invest a lot of money in that regard in a similar fashion of what they are doing at Donnington Park. Parking isn’t bad but for a F1 race, they would have to figure out some transit options.

      Oh to dream… It would be an amazing place to hold a race.

      1. Back in the day, didn’t the track used to go straight on where the hairpin is now and just run straight up the hill?

        1. Keith you are correct. There is nothing that remains of that track since most of it is covered by the hospitality are near the pond. I think those could be easily moved somewhere else.

          Grand Prix Legends had a great version of the original track layout.

          1. Found it!

            From everything I’ve seen, it is pretty accurate.


    4. Phoenix over Laguna Seca….must rank up there with Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan in the 1984 NBA Draft as one of the worst decisions in American Sports. That’s no offense to Phoenix as a city- they now have untramodern sports facilities, and the Cardinals are in the Super Bowl- but the circuit (if you could call it that) back then was terrible to say the least.

      1. Deservedly one of the ten worst circuits.

    5. The limit- you’d like to see Bernie control these events in 10 or 20 years!!!

      How long do you think he’s going to live??

  19. At this rate, not only there will there be no races in the U.S., there will no races in Europe either !
    What a gloomy prospect with Bernie and his company ! does it have to be this way ?

    1. F1Asia is on its way, it seems. We already have GP2 Asia. How long we have an F1 night race at that awful looking Losail track in Qatar?

  20. @Keith.

    Laguna Seca is a great circuit, but you are right that it would not be up to snuff as far a safety concerning F1. Personally, F1 should go back to The Glen if they want an American roadcourse.
    The IRL series races there without incident, and lets face it, their drivers are at as much risk in a crash as the F1 lads, so why not?
    The point being is, F1 has more than a few decent choices of circuits to chose from. And, with a reasonable ticket price, people would turn out to see it.
    A seat on the superstretch for the Daytona 500 this year, $100 tax included. This is the problem, value for money or ‘bang for the buck’ as they say.

  21. With respect – already we have money being put before talent in F1. Please don’t let hormones be included in this sad slow decline…

    1. I think we need to bear in mind that competitive motorsport isn’t some impartially-organised civic endeavour where the drivers with the most raw talent are allocated the best cars in the top teams by some kind of ranking because they really deserve to be there.

      This year in particular there are some superb drivers in all kinds of series who are without race seats because there are simply not enough to go around – Justin Wilson, Darren Manning, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jason Plato all spring to mind. And some youngsters who will never get the chance to make it big. Not fair, but then life isn’t.

      Every single driver on the F1 grid is there for talent plus some other reason – luck, determination, personal sponsorship or the ability to appeal to some marketing niche that helps keep the team solvent.

      So why is Danica’s gig any worse than, say, Nico ‘my dad was a world champion’ Rosberg’s? Or Takuma ‘give the Japanese fans what they want’ Sato’s? With things as they are this year F1 is already 90% marketing and 10% racing and we’ll be lucky if it stays that good.

      As for the crack about hormones – should we dispense with the adrenaline too, maybe? Lewis Hamilton has proved that old adage about if you want to come from outside the charmed circle and succeed you have to not just be merely good but outstanding – and all power to him. And it’s true that Danica’s probably not the female driver with the blazing talent to do the same.

      But she’s done a creditable job in a very tough world and she has earned my respect as a result.

    2. For clarity, I think many understood that my reference to hormones is not related to the fact that she is a woman and all the stupid stereotypical pub jokes that that usually entails. I just get the impression some people have the ‘hots’ for her and are allowing their judgements to perhaps be clouded…

  22. Rossi’s achievement at the BMW world series is great, but then I looked a picture of him next to Mario Thiessen and immediately thought “he’s too tall to be in Formula One!”.

    I don’t think another Grand Prix in the USA is going to happen as long as Bernie is in control, even if all of the manufacturers are screaming for it.

    I’d love to have races in Florida and California, somewhere that people actually want to go on a vacation. No offense, but not Indianapolis.

  23. The worst thing is not F1 doesn’t show up in North America, since the BIG 3 are to be dead. Rather, it’s the schedule seems far too early for most Americans. If you are Westerners, it’ll be extremely bad.

    Just consider the following EST (NYC, boston, philly) adjusted timing in 2009:

    AUS, 2:00am
    Malaysia, 5:00 am
    China, 3:00 am
    Bahrain-Singapore, 8:00 am
    Japan, 1:00 am
    Brazil, 12:00pm (the only one race that is OK for general watching)
    Adu Dhbai, 6:00 am

    Therefore, I missed most starts last year, even for Spa.

    For PST (bay area, Seattle), 3 hours earlier!

    I should acknowledge that for such global races, you can’t find a way to satisfy all people, yet considering the market in North America, I should say, teams and sponsors would not be satisfy.

  24. I remember that the U.S. Grand Prix, when raced at Watkins Glen, was in the autumn, and there were lovely images of the cars racing among trees with fall colours of red and orange – it is one of my childhood memories from seeing these things in car magazines.

  25. First off, as a dedicated American fan of the sport, my compliments to everyone on here who supports a return of F1 to the United States. After so many negative comments by Bernie and a very small majority of fans, it is great to hear all of this positive support from around the world.

    Keith makes a great point that F1 may never be “hugely popular” in America, but let me try to add to that feeling. As someone who juts got hooked on F1 after being dedicated to traditional American sports, my feeling is that F1 needs to develop a marketing strategy and promote itself in a manner that dose not directly compete with mainstream American motorsport. There is a great core of F1 fans here, and that audience can be expanded on and developed into a very successful and profitable fanbase that has enough of a mainstream presence to be worth major sponsorship and TV Dollars.

    The best example I can use is English Premiere League Soccer. While MLS is making good strides and growing in popularity, it is the Premiereship that has the big following among a growing number of fans here in America. The league is creeping into mainstream sports more and more here, and I would imagine they are making a few Dollars here as well. F1 can be all that and more if they just realise they need to put in just a little work and effort on our shores.

    1. Interesting example about the EPL, hadn’t heard that before.

      But would you agree it is broadly the case that home-grown sports are more popular in America than international ones? NBA, NHL, NFL, MLB…

    2. Indeed Keith, you have hit it right on the head. All of those sports you mentioned (nice job on the acronyms, by the way) are tops in America, and perhaps that is best seen now during the ongoing Super Bowl Week. But along with that, the EPL is a good example-it is growing in popularity because it dose not try and go head-to-head with the mainstream. F1 can follow the same route- it just needs the powers to be to put a strategy in motion.

      At the end of the day, I am living proof that something like this can work, After never following F1 for 21 years, and growing up addicted to the NFL and MLB, I’m hooked to the point where I proudly mention McLaren along with the New York Giants and Yankees as my favorite sports teams :)

    3. Hey Gman,

      The EPL hasn’t happened by chance in America- it’s taken concerted effort on the part of hugely successful brands like Man. United, Arsenal and Chelsea, who all turn over huge profits every year, and the Premier League, with expensive world wide advertising.

      I think you identify this fact in the F1 markets itself, but I just can’t see Bernie changing that. He feels that as F1 is the worlds premier open wheel racing, everyone else ie. the individual promoters, should do this. He won’t. It’s not his field, or his style (to spend money).

      Thats the sad truth. He needs to go.

  26. I hope you guys diden’t mind, but I just diden’t want to post one huge comment, so I broke it up a bit.

    On F1 venues in America and a possible return, we all know Bernie’s politics can crush any potential plan- Lord knows how many promoters ditched the F1 concept after early discussions with him. For that, I applaud Tony George and company for keeping an open door and continuing to put something together. Laguna Seca would be great, and from the comments above it sounds as if it could be modified for F1 without losing it’s charecter for other series as well. But again, no way Bernie will cut anyone a break- we saw that firsthand with the Canadian Government deal last year.

    As a result, barring a complete revolt from the FOTA over the lack of presence here, it is difficult to see any venue putting together a deal to pay his radical fees. Indy will probably keep trying, but the economic climate will continue to make it tough.

    On one note about Indy, I know the previous F1 course wasen’t Spa or Suzuka, but I have seen a few clips of it and I don’t think it’s the worst around. Don’t forget that the double-hairpin has been replaced to accomodate MotoGP, and if they could run it the same way as before (including the banking) it woulden’t be the worst deal IMHO.

  27. On the drivers front, America is obviously not in the backyard of all the premiere European feeder series, so we can’t expect to see as many Americas as there are Finns/Britons/Germans/etc.. in the feeder ranks. On that note, it takes some backing and dedication for an American to get it right in the sport, and hopefully that will happen in the future. But on that same note, I believe some team bosses and sponsors need to look at AMerican prospects in a equal light -and not question them as the next Scott Speed or Michael Andretti- while giving preference to prospects from more traditional F1 breeding grounds.

    1. The thing is that the talent pool in the US pretty much sees NASCAR as their only option.

      Take the case of a person like Tony Stewart. Fat jokes aside, he was groomed in an open seater and street tracks. In an open seater he was going from strength to strength. However, he came along during the open wheel wars. Even though he did both stock cars and open wheel for a while, he eventually went to NASCAR because it offered a better career path then what was available.

      This “driver drain” has taken its’ toll. Before the IRL/CART split we had the Andretti’s, the Uncer’s, the Foyt’s, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Scott Goodyear, Rick Mears and loads of other people in open wheel racing. Now the only Americans in open wheel racing are Danica Patrick and ahh.. well.. ahh… well… you see.

      True the talents of the many of the drivers in CART were not up to F1 snuff on the most part (I still think that Rahal and Mears could of done extremely well) but at least there was an outlet to develop drivers. There was a route in America other than NASCAR. I am glad that that the open wheel war is over… too bad everyone but NASCAR lost.

  28. With all the talk in F1 these days about reducing costs, I wonder if Bernie ever thought about making it more affordable for the venues to host the races? Most likely not.

    Bernie is all about the business of F1 and what can line the coffers. F1 isn’t as big here in the U.S. but there a lot of fans that are willing to pay to see a race. So much so that we’d being will to go to Canada see see a race when we lost ours. Now we don’t even have the choice.

    If Bernie’s current movements can be seen as things to come, I wouldn’t be surprised if we found Europe with fewer races too. The big money is in the pockets of the people in charge of the oil baring and developing countries. And as long as they are will to fork over the money Bernie asks, he’ll keep giving them races.

    That being said, while I do dearly hope that the U.S. will get a race back, as long as Bernie is the one in charge, we never will.

    1. Indeed you would not be surprised — it’s already happening. Germany is down to one GP, France to none, British GP is at risk (Bernie has been on a vendetta against Silverstone for years, and the switch to Donnington is fraught with difficulties). Even Spa has been taken off the calendar once.

      Bernie and Max need to go — even Ferrari, Bernie’s golden team, is starting to get fed up.

  29. If anyone is interested in a fascinating part of US racing, you can look up the Penske team in Google. They are the most amazing company, the equivalent of McLaren in the US. Not as ultra-hightech as McLaren, and more diversified : not only are they into racing and manufacturing racing components, but also they have car dealerships and many other businesses.

    Then there is the story of their drivers, such as Mark Donohue. Particularly moving is the story of the American Ferrari, the 512 driven by Donohue : the engine redone by Traco, a drag racing engine specialist, and the chasis by workers from Holman-Moody , a NASCAR specialist. The car, spectacular in dark blue and yellow, was a lot faster than the works Ferrari, and a match for the Porsche 917. All this can be seen in Google, under Penske Sunoco Ferrari

    I know I am being off- topic, but now that we are talking about F1 in the USA, maybe these fascinating stories will remind everyone out there of the extraordinary American racing heritage – an how deserving the US is to have not just one, but more than one GP races.
    Cheers !

  30. I’m pessimistic about F1 returning to America. It is very unfortunate, but if it couldn’t survive in Indianapolis why in the world would it survive anyplace else? I’m an Indy native, and they love single seaters in that town.

    Racing on the oval is an interesting idea. By the way, I believe that the oval [b]is[/b] approved by the FIA. I remember the asked for some changes to the SAFER barrier on the oval corver used by F1 (normally called Turn One for the 500 and Brickyard). I would assume if they made the requested change on the other three oval corners it would be good to go.

  31. Road America has enough runoff in every corner except the most famous: the kink.

    The bigger problem is that I think it has the same problem Silverstone does; it’s antiquated from F1 brass’ point of view. All of the US’ facilities are.

    It is fair to compare F1 interest in the US to interest in English football, or round football in general: there is a market, there has always been a market, and there will always be a market, but it is a fringe, an underground obsession, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, it means you must approach and promote in a different way.

  32. Keith, Didn’t you forget Dan Gurney and Masten Gregory? Did Bob Bondurant ever start a F1 race?

Comments are closed.