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F1 Opinion 7

The next steps for F1 in the United States

It was great to see the first United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin get off to a resounding start.

Everyone seems to have enjoyed the race from the track itself to access in and out of the place and the ambience of the city of Austin. The grandstands were full to capacity on race day – some 117,000 seats – and the race was as good as any modern F1 race comes.

opinion  The next steps for F1 in the United States

Everyone hopes the first year’s success will continue and the race in Texas establishes itself as an essential weekend on F1’s World Championship calendar. The track plans to run a full schedule of other races, including MotoGP and Grand-Am, and it’s possible that IndyCar could race in Austin in the years ahead, either in addition to or as an alternative to the Texas Motor Speedway. Either way, Formula 1’s arrival at the Circuit of the Americas is a good thing for both F1 and motor racing in general in America, which has been caught in the doldrums in recent years.

While the Circuit of the Americas provides a good springboard for F1’s revival in the United States, plenty of work remains to be done for F1 to attain any serious market presence in the USA. There was precious little coverage of Austin in the major American newspapers and the domestic television show on SpeedTV drew around 500,000 viewers for a 0.42 rating. It was the highest rated F1 race in America in more than a year, but Austin’s TV rating was miniscule compared to NASCAR’s 2.7 rating for its Sprint Cup season finale on the same day at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Mind you, that was down 27 per cent from last year’s rating, a continuing trend that NASCAR hopes to reverse next year. But that’s another story…

How can F1 begin to attract a bigger TV audience in America and more coverage in the major newspapers like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today? Well, it will help if the Weehawken race in New Jersey happens as hoped in 2014 and Long Beach is reborn as an F1 race in 2015 as Zak Brown and others suggest may happen.

It’s not yet clear how the tremendous damage from Hurricane Sandy along the New Jersey shore will affect the race in Weehawken. Nor is Long Beach’s future clear. The current contract with the city to run the race expires in 2015 and Zak Brown said in the September issue of Motor Sport that he believed F1 should buy the contract and bring F1 back to the California streets for the first time since 1983. IndyCar is sure to fight to retain Long Beach but would likely be outbid by Ecclestone, Brown and Pook…

opinion  The next steps for F1 in the United States

If F1 found itself in the position of enjoying three Grands Prix – one each on east and west coasts and one in Texas – it would have a much more powerful position than it’s ever had in America. So it will be interesting to watch the futures of Austin, Weehawken and Long Beach.

The other key element in building wider interest in F1 in America is having a competitive American driver or two in the field. Many decades have passed since we’ve seen such a thing and I believe the only way to make it happen is for the promoters at the Circuit of the Americas (and Weehawken and Long Beach if they happen) to find the sponsorship to fund a young American driver to Europe programme.

A guy like Zak Brown surely is capable of selling sponsorship to support a way forward for talented young American open-wheel drivers to race in GP3, F3 and GP2. It would be great to see Brown and the people in Austin make it happen and just might pay for itself many times over in the long run.

opinion  The next steps for F1 in the United States

Add your comments

7 comments on The next steps for F1 in the United States

  1. Altavistagoogle, 26 November 2012 15:21

    117,000 was the number of tickets sold, including general admission. The grandstand holds fewer seats.

    What were the Speed TV ratings for the Montreal race?

  2. Alastair Warren, 26 November 2012 20:50

    I’m really not sure I get this angle at all. It’s like those that go on about how good a circuit facilitates racing and that will somehow result in bums on seats.

    Agreed it’s about money. Will coverage of F1 in the mainstream US press result in those staging the ‘event’ in Austin making money?

    Korea has made a loss on their formula one events, haven’t the Australian and Canadian Grand Prix been funded by central or local government? The Korean justification over the loss making seems to be that all publicity is good publicity? The promotional benefits cover the financial debts?

    How much has Silverstone made from F1? Didn’t it take Damon Hill with his BRDC hat on to tie down BE to a 17 year deal to provide the security of 17 years of F1 footfall to be able to secure funding for the investments to revamp Silverstone to BE’s liking?

    There’s been some stuff here in the press about a new Circuit of Wales south of the Llangynidr Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons and how that could stage an F1 race. Is that going to happen while Silverstone has such a long contract and how many races can be squeezed into an F1 calendar? Have F1 championships over two years to extend the number of races, allow teams more time to develop their cars and allow more scope for manufacturing edge of the seat excitement?

    Does Austin need the promotional benefits that F1 may provide? Will it get TX. state funding? Would Grand Prix need such handouts if it was run more fairly? TX. makes it difficult for individuals seeking federal handouts while subsiding F1? Who are the benefits scroungers?

  3. Terry Jacob, 26 November 2012 23:31

    Great track – I really loved it . An instant classic circuit , unlike the host of the ‘mickey mouse ‘ tracks that have degraded the World Championship in recent years .

  4. Steve W, 27 November 2012 10:24

    If Austin succeeds in the future, and I hope it does, I think it will be due as much to the “Americas” part as the “United States” part…

  5. Robert V, 27 November 2012 12:29

    I agree, it was a great race and a surprisingly good track. Pirelli’s conservative tire choices also helped the show. For success in future US races and an improved profile for F1 in the US in general, I think timing is very important. If possible, move the event from the fall to the spring or summer to avoid going head to head with the real American Sunday afternoon passion: NFL football.

  6. jeremy chandler @transworldgp, 27 November 2012 13:33

    I think it was interesting that of the quoted attendance , apparently 40% was made up of Mexicans . I am guessing that another 40% were Europeans . That potentially means 20% native take up ? That could be less than at circuits such as China and Malaysia etc. It would be interesting to know for sure.

  7. Frank Butcher, 28 November 2012 01:51

    Long Beach is such a Mickey-Mouse, point and squirt mess nowadays, F1 can have it back; it would suit them. And I bet today’s Indycars would put on a better race in Austin than F1 did: their new cars are pretty racy and gimmick free. Finally, Jeremy Chandler, I’m not sure where you are going with your guesses and “apparent” attendance observations, but have you ever seen where Texas is on the map?

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