America and Formula One

MCLS

Anti F1 fan
Valued Member
After Rossi's Friday appearance in Montreal, it prompted this thread and it's the big elephant in the room. F1 is (supposedly) a global brand, and yet since mid 2007 we haven't had an American driver in the sport since Scott Speed, there have been a few almosts and nearlies, NASCAR drivers Kyle Busch and Danica Patrick were scheduled to run tests for Honda and Toyota a couple of years ago but varying circumstances got in the way. At the moment it seems that Alexander Rossi is the only near future prospect of an American being on the grid, and this is only likely to be a 2014 drive with Caterham which will almost certainly be at the back of the grid all season. So where is the problem?

It hasn't helped that between 2007 and 2012 there wasn't a race in the United States and in 2009 there wasn't any race at all in North America, contrast this to the NASCAR and IndyCar series which have races every weekend pretty much and it's easier to see where the local talent goes (although comparing F1 to these two brands is impossible due to the varying nature of the sports). While some IndyCar drivers have made the switch to F1 over the years, most haven't made it work that well, Cristiano Da Matta and Sebastian Bourdais dominated the open wheel series' in America over the last two decades at various points before jumping to F1, but both were never any more than occasional points getters and soon drifted back to the states, I'd say that in recent years it's Montoya who's had any significant impact on the sport after switching and he's Columbian, and yet while he was a fairly regular race winner in Formula One, he's currently only a higher midfield driver in NASCAR at the moment, so it is evident that there are plenty of talented drivers in the States at the moment, albeit it's not a definitive answer as to a leading NASCAR driver could cut it in a Formula One car.

While F1 is never going to be huge in America, the success of the Austin race last November showed that there is a fairly considerable fanbase for the sport over the pond and it will be interesting to see how the 2013 race goes, if New Jersey can put a race together there will be three North American races on the calendar next season and if Bernie had any sense, he'd realise there was more money to be made in North America than there is in South Korea or Thailand, there'd certainly be higher attendances anyway and perhaps it could attract more younger drivers to lean towards the Formula One market, this in turn would make the sport more popular if there was a competitive American racing on the grid, it would only be a good thing for the sport if it wanted to portray itself as a worldwide brand.
 

KekeTheKing

Banned
Supporter
There are a litany of reasons that F1 has very little presence in the States right now.

a - No ESPN presence. When "The Worldwide Leader" couldn't care less about F1, you're already fighting an uphill battle.
b - Saturated sports market. There are more big time sports being played in the US than you know what to do with.
c - Terrible viewing hours. You've gotta really love something to frequently arise around 4AM.
d - No American drivers. Without a real rooting interest, there isn't a great reason for casual fans to tune in.
e - Foreign prejudices. Let's face it, some people just will never be interested in a Euro-Centric series.
f - Somewhat confusing sport to truly embrace.
g - Not much National history. Only 1 American Born Champion. Probably less than 10 point scorers.
h - Recent debacles. Michael Andretti and Scott Speed. Not good.

to be continued....
 

Il_leone

Champion Elect
Indy 2005 damaged F1 in the US

- Bernie was stupid

As for US drivers being back in F1 .. I don;t see how when they race in IRL and can regular compete for wins rather than be at the back of the grid

The money the drivers make in US racing series would dwarf some of the salaries on the F1 grid

There is only 1 real US influence on the F1 grid - Marlboro who are not going to pressure Ferrari to sign US drivers are they ?

If Ford and Goodyear came back into F1 then that might create stronger interests.

However when drivers have to find sponsors money to compete for just a drive in F1 not even a competitive. I think its an easy choice to make to do IRL or Nascar where they can be a front runner instead of being a lapped runner
 

Olivier

Race Winner
So ... it's a two-fold problem: No American drivers in F1 and no visibility of the sport. It is a cultural phenomena; how can one expect young drivers to want to go to F1 if the sports doesn't have visibility (and vice versa). TO a certain degree, same thing happens in Canada. I subscribe to KekeTheKing reason b. Saturated sport market. F1 is a niche sport but at least we get to see all races through cable (no additional fee as long as you already have TSN) ... an interesting debate in any case.
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
Indy 2005 was HUGE, as it frankly appeared that F1 (Bernie) was flipping the Americans the bird. In all honesty, I have never been able to believe that Bernie would have allowed that to happen at any other venue.

There is also no well-defined route for an aspiring American to follow to get into F1. It needs a feeder series that young Americans can take part in without having to abandon their homeland.

The popular sentiment here is that F1 has a bias against Americans. The Michael Andretti saga was a perfect example. Even Senna said the car was extremely touchy, and frequently proved it by spinning, just as Andretti did. Yet the F1 press rarely reported that Senna had spun, making Andretti look a complete fool. The press also conveniently ignored that Mika H was being given all of the testing time. On the few occasions where Andretti was allowed to test, he was NEVER slower than Mika!
 

The Artist.....

Champion Elect
siffert_fan
It was less a case that Andretti wasn't being given any testing - more that he insisted on basing himself in the USA - and so was flying in and out of Europe every week, and so wasn't actually able to do any of the testing! To be honest, I think that Andretti never really wanted to do F1, but was doing it because that's what his dad wanted (Or maybe his sponsors!)
 

cider_and_toast

Exulted Lord High Moderator of the Apex
Staff Member
Premium Contributor
Andretti did himself no favors by flying home between each race and spending as little time as possible at McLaren in the UK. I think, had he spent more time working within the team he would have made more of an impact. I agree, he was never as bad as the press made out but once things turn against your reputation, it's impossible to get back.
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
I don't agree with the problem being Andretti staying in America. After all, how long did a flight via the Concorde take? The fact of the time is that RD wasn't sure that Senna would be on team strength as he didn't sign a contract until mid season. Therefore RD had THREE drivers with sizable salaries, and to justify Mika's salary, he was given all of the testing. This was also the era where active suspensions were just coming online and McLaren's early examples were treacherous, to say the least.
 

teabagyokel

#dejavu
Valued Member
siffert_fan - I think Andretti was in a bit of a no-win anyway. Rookie son of a World Champion taking on one of the greats? At least he didn't deliberately crash his car at any point...!
 

KekeTheKing

Banned
Supporter
Thanks Legs. Can we see the list? Does that include Indy 500's?

On Michael Andretti. There's no doubt that he was much, much better than his F1 results show. He was very unfortunate in a couple of early season incidents with Karl Wendlinger and by the time he was coming good, the writing was on the wall and he was out. A podium at Monza is a decent way to end your career though.
 

Legs

Points Scorer
Not including Indy 500s...

Mario Andretti, Richie Ginther, Dan Gurney, Phil Hill, Peter Revson
Michael Andretti, Eddie Cheever, Mark Donohue
Bob Bondurant, George Follmer, Masten Gregory, Harry Schell, Danny Sullivan
Ronnie Bucknum, Jim Hall, Walt Hansgen
 

KekeTheKing

Banned
Supporter
Good stuff Legs.

Little background on the guys at the bottom.

Walt Hansgen picked up a P5 (3 laps adrift) in his 2nd and final GP (1964 US). He died at Le Mans in 1966 during a test in heavy rain.

Jim Hall became famous for the Chaparral cars. He had a decent 1963 season in a Lotus 24, collecting a P5 and P6, notching what would have been 6 scoring finishes in today's money.

Ronnie Bucknum scored his only F1 points in a race where Americans made up 3 of the 6 points scorers. Richie Ginther led home Dan Gurney and Bucknum came home a lap behind in 5th. Bob Bondurant, who retired from this race would score his only points in the next GP, the 1966 season opener at Monaco.
 

The Pits

Harumph. Again.
Valued Member
Maybe Scott Speed was just ahead of his time, as he had a few top ten finishes, and was almost certainly not as bad as I think his results make him look
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
Maybe Scott Speed was just ahead of his time, as he had a few top ten finishes, and was almost certainly not as bad as I think his results make him look

The thing that will always stay in my mind about Speed is that Liuzzi NEVER looked any better than Speed, yet had an F1 career that was much longer . Was that due to latent anti-Americanism, or because Speed was such a dick?
 

Galahad

Not a Moderator
Valued Member
How much difference would a US-based team have made, had it come to fruition? Bearing in mind they'd probably have been at the back?

Also, don't other non-native sports face a similar struggle to make an impact?
 

Il_leone

Champion Elect
siffert_fan

I concur with @The Artist.....Mclaren needed to sign a world champion driver to please Marlboro..with Mansell out of F1 and Prost at Williams and Senna unsure about his future. Then Andretti was a choice given the name as well

However the problem was during winter testing he decided to stay out for CHristmas and Thanks Giving so never bothered to test the car whilst Hakkinen was doing the brunt

Senna eventually did sign for the team but obviously with Andretti being a rookie and with Marlboro sponsors at Mclaren then Hakkinen had to make way

Even during the season at races he was flying from the USA to the races not relocating to Europe like Villeneuve did for Williams

It meant he had no rapport with his race engineer and all the valuable to prepare for race weekend and stay in contact and also learn a few things from Senna was not considered whilst he was more interested in eating hamburgers and fries back home
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
Il_leone,

Sorry, but I don't buy that at all.

Most drivers then, as now, didn't hang around the race team headquarters, hobnobbing with the mechanics. They were too busy sunning themselves around their pools in Monaco.

Testing sessions then, as now, were scheduled weeks and even months in advance. If RD had wanted Andretti to test, I have no doubt that Andretti would have been there, regardless of where he was living. I had friends at McLaren at the time, and they have told me that Senna even went to bat for Andretti several times in meetings with RD, and that he felt Andretti was being used as a scapegoat to cover for a sub-par car.
 

siffert_fan

Too old to watch the Asian races live.
Contributor
Now THAT'S as worthless a website as I can think of. NO claims to authorship, no proof of any knowledge of circumstances that prevailed at the time, nothing. My cat could claim as much insight as the authors of that site.
 
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