Can America’s Involvement in F1 Succeed?

Esteban Gutiérrez ran the Haas F1 Team VF-16 for the first time at the Circuit de Barcelona. [Photo credit: LAT Photographic]

Esteban Gutiérrez in the Haas F1 Team VF-16. [Photo credit: LAT Photographic]

With still very little popularity in the 1970’s, Formula One Motor Racing still had quite a lot of publicity, utilizing American drivers, two American teams, UOP Shadow and Penske, and a pair of grand prix events on the west coast in Long Beach, California, and on the east in Watkins Glen, New York. It seemed like the sport would take off in the U.S.

However, as the 80’s and 90’s came around, the popularity of F1 dumped in this country, and considering that Phoenix, Arizona, hosted the final grand prix in 1991, many years before the U.S had it again in Indianapolis, Indiana. And at this popular venue, nine years had passed before the country had another race.

But the race being held in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had seven terrible years, in which in 2005, a protest was implemented by Michelin supplied cars, when Ralf Schumacher crashed his Toyota on the final corner, because of a high pressure blow out. Many cars that were supplied with this particular type of rubber, found it unsafe and refused to race, only taking the warm up lap and driving back to the garage, instead of placing it on the starting line. Six cars, supplied by Japanese manufacture Bridgestone, stayed on the grid and raced in what was a big disappointment for the fans who attended there that day.

If it wasn’t bad enough, with Indianapolis gone by 2007, a chance of having a U.S. formula one team on the grid was destroyed in 2010, when owners Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor tried and failed to put together a team weeks before the first race that season.

Just when it seemed like it would completely fall in for this country, along came Austin, Texas, a new track built for road racing, including F1. The first few years were successful, but last season’s washout, except for race day, along with the opportunity to acquire funding, have made the situation once again very tough to predict.

However, with the beginning of the first year of a F1 team from America, which has so far succeeded in Haas F1, along with the buyout of F1 by Liberty Media and the possible rumor of Apple buying a chunk of McLaren, along with the final payments in Austin to host a race, 2016 could very well be a big change for the sport in this country for the first time in history.
But how can it succeed against the likes of the National Football League, the NBA, Major League Baseball and the NHL, is more likely impossible. Unless this country produces a championship winning driver or team, the publicity can improve, but never get past the top four sports in this country. Since we can talk about racing, how about Indy car and NASCAR, the top two popular racing series here?

Indy Car has dwindled down for many seasons, and even if it is the only open wheeled series made in America, the inclusion and eventual break up from having a rival series called “Champ Car”, has not made it any better. For NASCAR, the series starts off well, and then begins to fade after the summer, when the series drags before 16 drivers are in a football or baseball style playoff called “The Chase”, which gets one survivor down to the last race of the season. It is a tough season as well, with 36 races held compared to the Indy Car’s total of about 12 to 16. Formula One has 21, which to many teams, is one too many, but the year begins in mid-March, when Indy Car and NASCAR are well into their first couple of races. It also has a summer break of three weeks, before it resumes in late August and continues to the Thanksgiving Holiday in late November.

If the Liberty Media Group needs to improve formula one, which is now in some doldrums as well as the others, then some ideas will be different in compared to the old school theory, which has been carried around to some successful extent by Bernie Ecclestone and his “Good Old Boys Club”. Their ideas are passes for Newspapers, Magazines and TV journalists. However, and hopefully, the new owners are going to have to realize that social media is now rising, and those covering the sport from that sort of view, needs to be included, along with internet news media, something that Ecclestone would have liked to understand, but never knew how.

Many other items can be included, from cheaper ticket prices to more interaction with the drivers, something that NASCAR is very popular with. Some conspiracy theorists believe that the beer could now be Budweiser, the food hot dogs and hamburgers, and the desert cotton candy, but this is all rubbish to Liberty Media, who believes that the whole world needs to be involved and not just the U.S.

Another idea is how the audience, who cannot afford to travel to grands prix, can watch it without burning their wallets paying for pay per view subscriptions. Old grand prix tracks, especially the ones in Europe, should continue to be events, even if they have to be up for F.I.A. standards. And the idea of street tracks can be used, but not overwhelmed like the Formula E versions, who cannot go far enough because they are on electric power.

Many ideas can and might be changed for hopefully the better, but it seems that now the world that loves this sport has to trust how this country can do to improve the sport, to where it is suffering both in fan attendance and popularity. The ball is now in this country’s court, and the rest of the world must now have to trust us to get things together from making this sport a disaster and getting to being one of the most popular motor sports series there is.

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