Whitmarsh: F1 needs more than one race in the USA

2011 F1 season

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Tony Stewart, McLaren, Watkins Glen, 2011

McLaren team principal and F1 teams’ association president Martin Whitmarsh says F1 has to “conquer” America.

Whitmarsh told the FOTA Fans Forum at the McLaren Technology Centre that F1 should look to having two races in the country – and its focus should be away from Texas, the destination for next year’s Grand Prix in Austin.

Whitmarsh pointed to the former F1 home of Long Beach in California and New York, where F1 previously raced at Watkins Glen, as ideal locations for Grands Prix.

He said: “I think it’s a big enough market and an important enough market that we should be over there.

“And I think – nothing against Texas, I hope that is a very successful race – the natural hinterland for us, in my view, are the east coast and west coast.

“Long Beach, around New York – those are where we’re going to really create the interest in Formula 1 and I think we’ve got to go there.”

Whitmarsh added F1 needs to work harder than before to market itself to new fans:

“We’re going to the USA but we’ve really got to go to the USA. That’s to say, going there, having the race and coming home isn’t good enough. And that’s what we’ve done in the States before.

“After football, the only other world sport is Formula 1. And we are not really in America. America doesn’t need us but I think we need to conquer it, we need to go there, maybe we need to be two races a year, we need to have a proper marketing programme, we’ve got to create the interest.

“We’ve demonstrated that, within Europe, people understand Formula 1, we’ve got a fan base, also in some parts of Asia, Japan and obviously South America. But I think what’s a worry is that we’re not doing enough. We talk about China, India, I think those are exciting markets, they’re markets [where] again, we can’t just have a race and come home. We’ve got to tyre harder.

“Formula 1 hasn’t had to sell itself in the past, the fans have come to us. We’ve got to recognise there’s lots of competition in the entertainment business, we’re just part of it. We’ve actually got to do a lot better.

“So I think we’ve got to conquer America, that’s a five-year programme, we’ve got to be on the east coast, the west coast, we’ve really got to make sure. There’s a great opportunity there. There’s obviously NASCAR in the south-east corner, but I think they could really get Formula 1 if we go there, explain, promote and market our sport.”

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Keith Collantine
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90 comments on “Whitmarsh: F1 needs more than one race in the USA”

  1. Oval race around Indianapolis, not another street circuit. Or Watkins Glen upgraded (the run-off, not the layout, keep your hands off of it!).

    1. All for it. One of the smaller ovals would be quite fine, I think. And the Glen …

      1. Watkins would be good because of the history. I would love to see F1 cars at Road America however I think they would destroy the character of the circuit to accommodate F1.

    2. Milwaukee. At night. Oh, the possibilities . . .

    3. A second USGP would have to be an oval, so why not Indy.

    4. Theres nothing in the regulations that could prevent a Grand Prix taking place on an oval. Not sure the engines could take being at consistently high revs for a long time though.

      Secretly, Im hoping for another Hockenheim to pop up in a forest. Americans seem to love brutal speed. And nothing says brutal speed more than an F1 car screaming though a forest at 210 mph. To many tracks try to show off the F1 brilliant cornering – we need to have a track that showcases the awesome speed they possess.

      1. The Pine Barrens of New Jersey would be perfect.

      2. Agreed, we need a high speed track to show off speed to the Americans. Maybe Texas Speedway is a good option as it is the fastest Indycar Oval in America.


        Bristol Speedway


        The shortest oval on the Nascar calendar and is effectively an oval in a football stadium.

        1. MagillaGorilla
          1st July 2011, 8:32

          WE dont want to kill the drivers…

        2. Why would it have to be on an Oval? This is F1 not an indycar/nascar championship. Why change F1’s ways just to suit the Americans (no dissrespect intended)?

          Wouldnt this be a little dangerous anyway? I mean oval racing to circuit racing is like a completely different discipline and requires different skills. 24 novice oval drivers dicing about could be disasterous. I could be wrong but im not sure you would get a big thumbs up from all of the present F1 drivers.

    5. Icthyes, I agree. They need to go to an upgraded classic American circuit. Having played a few of the more modern racing games recently, especially iRacing, which is based and made in the US, I’ve come to realise that the Americans are quite good a ‘road courses’, as they call them. There are some great tracks out there, they just need some more run off. Who cares if the pit garages at a lot of them are esentially big tents?

      F1 should have 3 races, one in the east, one in the west, and one in the middle.

      I for one would love to see F1 at Barber Motorsports Park. I really enjoyed the IndyCar’s there earlier this year, and the track itself looks just generally nice.

    6. rubber_side_down
      1st July 2011, 23:13

      an oval … how boring. Vettle would be on the rail and nothing stopping him. Seriously F1 on an oval? Only thing fun is swapping paint and bumping. Neither good ideas for an F1 car. I like F1 cause it handles lefts and rights, ups and downs. It’s the ultimate in driving.

  2. First of all, I am really looking forward to what F1 and Austin can bring for the first USGP in years.

    COTA having to go green for the city fits in very nicely with the new direction Todt is going (and a good portion of the teams seem to be into this as well), so that might work fine.

    Then when they show the world F1 is able to get it right, take it to long beach again. Or create something similar in another city.

    1. I am greatly looking forward to it too.

      I like Whitmarsh, but no offense to him, he doesn’t know much about America. I am from Texas, and I think Austin is a perfect location. Far too often do Europeans and other foreigners think of America as only California or New York, or in the least the East and West coasts. There is simply so much more, so many good places, like Austin that deserve to get in on the action. The Austin-San Antonio area is a metropolitan hub to millions of people. A few hours away you have Houston, home to 4 million and a few hours to the north is Dallas-Fort Worth, home to 6.5 million people. That’s a good 12 million plus within driving distance of the Austin track.

      I’m certain the teams will love Texas and the accommodating people they will find here. Montezemolo should love it, we are apparently the biggest US market for the newly introduced Fiat 500, with up to 70 percent of buyers choosing the manual!

      1. I thought everything had to be bigger in Texas.

        1. Down town Houston?

          1. Not much happening in downtown Houston!

      2. I’m sure Texas will embrace the event, but Whitmarsh didn’t name the coasts because he thinks that is the true heart of America, or because its where a lot of people live. He named them because that is where the people live, many many people, who will drop huge wads of cash for weekend race tickets for racing series with no American drivers. Let’s face it, we don’t tend go crazy for foreign based anything here. As far as selling cars, I think Luca knows he can ultimately sell more 458 Italias between Greenwich and Short Hills than in all of Texas.

        1. MagillaGorilla
          1st July 2011, 8:41

          Oh and too be honest I agree very much with you. However, I think an American driver…a good one should be found and recruited soon. That will make us Americans have something to truely cheer for. I’m not sure too many Americans want to hear a national anthem from somewhere else, trust me most of them wouldn’t know it was another nations anthem.

        2. I think realistically, the west coast would be the next target for F1. Despite being in a different country, Montreal is on the east coast, Austin is at the bottom (important for the Mexican market) and middle, the west coast lacks coverage. When you consider there are over 37 million Californians alone not to mention the other states on the west coast (and Canada) as well as the easy access for Mexicans, you quickly realise this is a huge market that is being neglected.

          I say a new variation of the Long Beach street circuit or Laguna Seca would be brilliant.

          Although unlikely to occur, imagine F1 cars entering the corkscrew two abreast!

      3. MagillaGorilla
        1st July 2011, 8:38

        I’m not surprised that you only named Texan cities. To be honest a more valid argument would be like…”what about Phoenix or Detroit?” Those are massive cities too. Texas has big stuff, but East and West coast seem to have more tourist attractions, and then the thought of an F1 race as well is pretty cool. However the whole nascar thing is big all over the place in the USA that was the only thing i didn’t agree with him about.

      4. I am a big F1 fan, but how come Mr Whitmarsh fails to acknowledge that basketball is way more popular than Formula 1 globally. Ask him who’s the most popular F1 driver and don’t matter whoever he picks will never be close to Michael Jordan…

        I like the Circuit of Americas, but in case we get a USGP#2, I’d love to see it in California.

        1. He’s not talking about which sports have produced the biggest individual names. It’s about viewership per event on a global scale.

        2. I like the idea of one in Texas one in California.

          The New York thing didn’t work out and Watkins Glenn is a brilliant track but a little too short for modern F1 imho.

      5. rubber_side_down
        1st July 2011, 23:22

        To this I agree. Austin isn’t quite the idea the world has of Texans. They are quite accomodating and love their music, water sports, Football and apparently F1. Way to go City Council.

        PS as a Californian, Laguna Seca would be an awsome venue. But it’s something like the old Nurburgring.

  3. Typo:

    they’re markets [where] again, we can’t just have a race and come home. We’ve got to tyre harder.

    Should be try!

    1. We need softer tyre, not harder.

  4. I was concerned when having another street circuit was mentioned. Yes they’d be buzz about it, but only because you’re racing through the “parking lot” of some residental tower blocks. If the track is actually rubbish and fails to produce good rcacing, the Americans are gonna keep belittling our sport as boring.

    1. Very good point.

    2. So true. We don’t need another Valencia.

  5. Does anyone have the stats on the last time two Australians lined up on an F1 starting grid for a race?

      1. Hey thanks, and woops, wrong comment thread for me to be asking that question!

  6. There’s obviously NASCAR in the south-east corner

    If you don’t count New England, the southwest, California, the midwest, the midsouth, or the northwest, then yeah, just a little sport in the southeast corner.

    1. that’s where it originated, where most new blood comes from, and where most if not all teams are based. from a managerial perspective, he’s quite right in viewing it as a southeast entity that does business in the rest of the country.

  7. Whitmarsh’s ignorance of American geography aside, he’s right – we need two (at least) race in the USA.

  8. F1 needs a successful american driver to be successful in the US of A.

    1. And we will have one once Alexander Rossi makes it to the big leagues!

      1. Haven’t heard much of him since he did one of those young driver tests, is he in GP3 or something now?

        1. Formula Renault.

      2. Im still convinced that JR Hildebrand will be on the F1 in the not so distant future.

        1. Outside of walling away victory at Indianapolis, he has done very little in the way of results this season.

  9. Personally I don’t care that the US isn’t interested in F1.
    I do have to say that 2 US races versus 0 French would make no sense at all, but there you go.

    1. I am from the US and I actually agree with you Dave. I would love 2 US races, but I find it inexcusable that the country which founded grand prix racing is without a grand prix of its own. I rather like Magny Cours, but for heaven’s sakes Bernie, get a race somewhere in France!

      1. 100% agreed.

      2. Agreed, perfectly happy to have a second race in the US (in time perhaps?).

        But France, It is the ancestral home of motorsport….. Suppose you can’t make money there…

        1. Apparently not, one of my best friends is from France, spending the summer there with her family right now. She said the economy is crap. It’s a shame.

  10. I wish Road America could handle F1. I don’t think there is a track that will be F1 ready though besides Austin

    1. Yeah, Road America and Watkins Glen are the only two I can think of that really have the scale (track width + length) to host F1, they would just need safety improvements and some infrastructure.

  11. F1 has no future in USA, period.

    1. Well, we will se how it does in TX and if it has a great run for a few years that might spark some intrest. But they will need to put the races early in the year, or they will not only compete with NASCAR but also with the NFL if they have a race in Sep or Oct and that just IMO wont work.

  12. a downtown New York street race possibly at night would be untold amounts of win, mostly because its my backyard

    1. promoter: we want to have the world’s greatest car race in manhattan!

      nyc: sounds great! how much will you pay us? we’ll lose several billions worth of business every day of the event, by the way.

      1. Yeah, as awesome as it would be I can’t see it ever happening. Staten Island would probably be the closest they could get, and even there it would be a momentous battle to mount a race.

  13. The only way F1 can conquer America is if an American driver conquers F1. Countries like Spain and Germany were indifferent to F1 until the likes of Alonso and Schumacher started winning. So until an American starts winning F1 races again, the US has no reason to give a damn about F1.

    1. I think that is a tad ethnocentric. A lot of Americans are interested in F1, myself included. I have seen a lot of support from an excited and knowledgeable fan base for the upcoming race in Austin.

      The heart of the American ethos is about being the best, and we are attracted to anything that shares that. F1 is the best, it is the pinnacle and America can fall in love with that just the way Europe has.

      As the world becomes smaller, cultural differences between America and Europe are diminishing, F1 gaining further acceptance in America is a logical part of that development.

      1. Well, I think rfs’s comments have a lot of merit. I understand what you say too Adam, that many Americans are interested in F1, but we are talking about grabbing the attention of the broad mass of American citizens to events that (mostly) happen overseas. The thing that is going to change F1 from being a minority two-minute slot on the sports news to a twenty-minute special feature is the success of an American driver.
        Rfs’s point about F1 in Spain is well made. Motorcycle racing was always very popular in Spain, but only when Alonso starting winning regulalry did F1 become really newsworthy, and it was that media coverage that propelled F1 into the mass consciousness.
        With great respect, the US is relatively insular in terms of news coverage and media attention, and it’s only going to be through a US driver or team succeeding against Europeans, Asians and South Americans that the US media will afford F1 extended airtime.
        Cultural differences might be changing as you say, but I think you will find that the rest of the world is becoming more like the US rather than the other way round.

  14. I thought Martin was great on the FOTA Fans Forum. He made some great points and really looked like the captain of the ship.
    I attended the event and wrote an overview so those who are interested, can have a read here: http://literalf1.co.cc/?p=36

  15. I think he forgets Basketball as another big global sport…also big here in the states. I also wonder if Whitmarsh being FOTA chairman takes away from his team principal duties. Seems a lot to juggle.

  16. I don’t think there should be a second race in America until Texas proves successful.

  17. First off, NASCAR only in the south east, quite an ignorant comment.

    VIR would be a great track , a true American, old school road course. Check it out. http://www.virnow.com/

    1. Yea, that isn’t the only comment in there that shows that Martin lacks an good understanding of US sports.

      However, I’m all for racing in the US….at least one race!

      VIR looks pretty sweet.

  18. I like the idea of 2 races, but I think he’s wrong about the east and west coast (or New York and So Cal) being the prime areas for interest in F1. New York would be good (and close to Montreal), but not So-Cal. In the mid-west and southeast, auto racing is far more popular than it is in So-Cal. I would say Austin is good because it will be a purpose built track and then, as far as demographics and racing interest go places like Charlotte and Indy will be more successful than So-Cal. So-Cal might be more glitzy than Charlotte, but they’re not even into the Indy race there.

  19. I think having once race in the USA is good, the thing they need to make sure that it’s easily reachable from many parts of the country.

    1. Austin should be perfect for that.

  20. I wish they wouldn’t use the word need. I want 2 races in the US but we don’t ‘NEED’ them.

  21. While this kind of statement may upset a few people, I do agree with Whitmarsh. The US is too diverse a country to expect one race on unknown turf to really make an impact. If America want 2, give them 2.

  22. I’d be up for a Grand Prix in Manhattan. There’s plenty that could be done:


    Of course, it would shut down the heart of the world’s biggest economy …

    1. Seeing as many New York Sporting Events happen in New Jersey, how about they have a race around the carparks of Meadowlands?


      Can’t be any worse than the Las Vegas race!

      1. It’s not really in sight of Manhattan, though. And that’s what Bernie wants. It would certainly look spectacular.

        And carpark circuits aren’t necessairly a bad thing. There was an American Le Mans Series race in the carpark of RFK stadium in Washington, D.C. that looked very simple, but the drivers agreed it was actually very demanding. The race only lasted one year after the residents complained. But car park circuits can work. The reason why Caesar’s Palace didn’t was because the casino treated it as something of a sideshow.

  23. It seems to me that people are being massively hypocritical here. They make a fuss about going to Bahrain over human rights issues, yet when it comes to the USA (the country with some of the worst abuses of human rights in the world – witness Guantanamo Bay), everyone bends over backwards to go there. It’s disgraceful.

    1. Compare a few years to a few thousand years, why don’t you? Sure in the relative time structure of things, USA has committed serious human rights violations for about 1% of it’s time as an independent nation. It’s nowhere near the best country as far as human rights…

      Japan ruled Korea like Koreans were slaves for 40 some odd years.
      China pretty much owns women in half the country.
      India still serves marriages (illegally, of course) for those as young as 9 years old (females…).

      Give me a nation and I’ll give you a serious human rights issue.

      1. If you dig deep enough you will find nasty stuff about any nations history.

  24. Long Beach sounds great.. the long beach grand prix (indy cars) has some history behind it here.. Run it during that weekend.. Or even Laguna Seca, which is an awesome race track. Will be hard for F1 to make it above Indy cars here in the US.. alot of people will see it as another open wheel sport and probably not care much for it.

  25. I do like Whitmarsh and he talks a lot of sense.


    After football, the only other world sport is Formula 1.

    Erm… cricket. Athletics. Tennis. Rugby.?

    1. Cricket and rugby are not world sports – only a handful of nations actually play them.

    2. Agreed with PM. I believe the viewership and the hype of rugby and cricket in term of countries are nt as big as F1.

  26. Martin Whitmarsh is right, bring more F1 races to the US.
    I would stick with Watkins Glen and the new texas circuit, that should be enough. No need of street circuits, what the americans wont is spectacle ( exciting racing ), that´s the only way to keep them interested and street circuits don´t provide that, look at the ones in the F1 calendar, they´re boring, exception for Monaco only because it´s……… Monaco.

  27. At the moment, there is some low-level debate within NASCAR and the NASCAR reporter pool about dropping road courses altogether. That, or add a road course to the “Chase for the Championship.” I’ve lived in the southeast my whole life, and grew up a NASCAR fan, until I watched the 2008 German Grand Prix, which won me over to F1 (if you can believe that). I’ve actually stopped watching NASCAR in favor of F1, but I still go back for the two road courses each year, and I like it when the Nationwide series goes to Road America, or Circuit Gilles Villneuve (may have misspelled that, and sorry if I did). To wasiF1’s point about the track being reachable for the rest fo the country, that is the logistical nightmare of living in the US. At least Austin is more centrally located than NYC or Long Beach.

  28. i couldnt see myself watching f1 going around in a oval track for possible 200 laps. Then again, vettels brain only works when its going left and right, not just left! so he could become dizzy then crash.

  29. I agree to an extent with Martin Whitmarsh but I think it would be prudent to see how the Austin event goes after several years before another event is considered. The 2012 grands prix will have a certain amount of novelty value to it as its the first F1 race the US has hosted since 2007. If it was me, I would wait atleast three years and see if the race was still attracting enough people and then decide.
    As for marketing, Whitmarsh is certainly right when he suggests F1 needs a higher profile in America which can only come through hightened media coverage. Therein lies the problem, and one that is often overlooked.
    Now NASCAR may not be everybody’s cup of tea outside the United States buts it appeal is regionwide and not just limited to the ‘southeastern corner’ as Whitmarsh alluded to. Also, the major American tv networks provide blanket coverage for all NASCAR events, the sponsorship money and advertising value from it runs into the tens of millions, and there are races everyweek that attract crowds of 100,000 and more.
    Like it or not, that will prove stiff opposition for Formula One. You only have to look at football (or soccer) as the Americans say, to see that Formula One has a huge task on its hands if it wants to ‘conquer the States’.
    Football in America has grown hugely in the last five years, people are interested in it and it is shown on tv alot but it will never be more popular than the NFL or the NBA or the World Series in the USA. That is a simple fact that I believe FIFA and others have come to understand. The market is there, but its a slice and will never be the whole pie. Formula One needs to realise that and appreciate it. I can’t wait for F1 to make its return, but lets not put the cart before the horse.

  30. I wouldn’t mind seeing a second US race. It’s better than holding races in China or the middle east (let’s face it, not regions with the best human rights policies).

    My only comment would be that the race would have to find a home in a state other than California & New York. Neither state is business friendly, with high taxes & a strong union presence. Texas is a perfect choice. It’s EXTREMELY business friendly. In fact, about 47% of all jobs created in the US for the past 2 years have been in Texas.

  31. I think this is going to be a hard sell with no American drivers.

  32. I think we are all a little irked when people from another country talk about our country.

    I live in the US (Nebraska). Here for racing interesting it seems the order is Nascar, then IndyCar, then F1. Drag racing might even beat out F1 and IndyCar in TV ratings.

    I love F1 and IndyCar. However, I do think the F1 organizations are deluding themselves if they think they can “conquer” the US market by holding 1, 2, or even 3 races here. If they want to build the US market to the extent of Nascar or maybe even IndyCar, it would take moving half the season to the US.

    Also, if they hold a race in the fall it will be competing against the NFL and college football. I can’t see that working out.

  33. I’m from Texas and am currently living just a few miles away from another great American circuit, Virginia International Raceway, which some of you may have seen featured on an episode of Top Gear last season. There is a huge love for motorsports in America, and I think Formula 1 can attract many millions of new fans with a race in Texas and another one on either coast. However, I think the real issue is the coverage F1 receives here in the U.S.- it sucks. It sucks really, really bad. If you can catch an F1 Qualy or Race, you must either awake at 5 or 6 am, or tune in sometimes days later to watch a replay. If GP2 is covered at all, it is even earlier in the morning and only the Sunday race. Once you do manage to watch the Qualy or Race, the media absolutely ruin it with mumbled comments, idiotic statements of facts, silly jokes, and just overall uninformative gab. It’s horrible to watch and I don;t blame anyone for just turning off. Personally, I don’t watch it and often wait hours to download a torrent of the race weekend (P1 through to the Race) because the BBC coverage is so many million times better.

    If Formula 1 truly wants to establish itself in the U.S. market, they MUST pressure Speed Channel to do a far better job of covering the race weekends. I would suggest, doing that first actually. Because just changing the way Speed covers the race weekend would attract so many millions more fans that I think the U.S. fan base would ask for more races instead of F1 having to push for one. Formula 1 already has so many aspects that Americans love: racecraft, speed, technology, etc…it just needs to be marketed well.

  34. Hope it would be indianapolis but i doubt its going to happen

  35. SennaNmbr1 (@)
    2nd July 2011, 10:34

    I’d love to see Road Atlanta have an F1 race but there’s precious little run-off in those esses :(

  36. I reckon a street race around Miami Beach would be pretty cool

  37. Agreed with PM. Cricket, rugby are nowhere near as a true world sports, the hype is nowhere near the Soccer World Cup for sure.

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