Oh! Say, Can You See Two Races in America? Well, No…

So far, in its illustrious history, Formula One has had 9 homes for the American Grand Prix, with another six locations for non-championship races, and that isn’t including the time that the Indy 500 formed part of the calendar. F1 has never really made it State-side, and that seems slightly odd, given that country’s love of motor sport and the huge market it forms for the car manufacturers who are constantly in and out of the sport. The drivers may have loved Detroit, and Watkins Glen was always popular, but it’s never grabbed the public in a big way. Recently, the US public have had to put up with a lot. There was a distinct lack of activity in the 1990s, and then there was Indianapolis. The infield section, specially made for the Formula One cars, was nothing exciting, but at least they got to use some of the famous banking. In 2004, Ralf Schumacher had a massive accident there, and the next year did the same again, albeit not in the race that time. As a result, the 2005 US Grand Prix was the biggest farce in the sport’s history, with just six cars competing as the rest had to pull out over tyre concerns. F1 was struggling in America, until the announcement of a new track in Texas. Things were looking up. Another new race was announced for the year after in New Jersey. It was all looking so good. Then it fell apart.

The Circuit of the Americas, near Austin in Texas, was scheduled to appear on the F1 calendar for the 18th of November 2012, which would make it the penultimate race of the season; whether it will make that date is at the moment quite unclear. Firstly, there are issues with its funding. There is a lot of complicated and legal mumbo-jumbo about a particular fund in Texas, but fundamentally the Major Events Trust Fund can provide money for a number of things which will bring big sports into the region. The Grand Prix is one of those events, and that money was a major part of the financing. In November of this year, State Controller Susan Combs stated that some of the money would not be forthcoming until the first race has happened at the track. But without that money, can they build the track? It really is a Catch-22 situation; they need a track to get the money, but they need the money to get the track. As such, work stopped on site. With less than a year to the event, can they get it built in time? It’s a mighty ask. Alongside this sits Bernie Ecclestone. Bernie is famous for being able to get what he wants and get a good deal, but the Circuit have complained about his contract offer, which they said ‘contained unrealistic and unfeasible demands.’

It was around this time that the New Jersey Grand Prix was announced for June 2013. Bernie has always wanted to do a race in New York, like Rome and London, and New Jersey will have a backdrop of the Manhattan skyline, but that is obviously more for us fans than for the drivers. I would wager that if you asked most fans whether they would want another street circuit, most would say ‘no’. A quick look at the races this year shows that the permanent tracks have been so much better. Mind you, the Circuit of the Americas wouldn’t be all that superior, as it is designed by Herman Tilke (which is never good), and is fundamentally a rip off of a number of tracks already on the calendar. But why, with a brand new circuit being built for the American race, with a multi-year contract, would you then find another place in the same country, especially when there is already a lack of space on the calendar? It reminds me of the Donington Park-Silverstone debacle, where the Leicestershire circuit was fundamentally used as a bargaining chip against the BRDC. Consider the fact that the first of the American tracks announced that Bernie was asking for ‘unrealistic’ things in the contract, and the pressure is now put on them due to the second circuit. It worries me. It looked like we would have two races in America, and I am concerned that we may, in fact, not get any.

The trouble is, Formula One needs America, but America doesn’t need Formula One. At this rate, it would be a surprise if they want it at all.

2 Responses to “Oh! Say, Can You See Two Races in America? Well, No…”
  1. Tim Bosanoz says:

    What F1 venues were non-championship events?

  2. T S Rowson says:

    Santa Monica, San Francisco, Milwaukee, and Savannah hosted the United States Grand Prix before 1950, making them technically non-Championship. Riverside, despite hosting a Championship race, also hosted a non-Championship race, as did Fair Park in Dallas, but I haven’t counted those, as they did count at some point. Dallas had two other tracks, at Addison and Reunion Arena, and the Indy 500 hosted a round in the early years, though few went across to compete. The other tracks which have hosted a race that was part of the Championship are Indianapolis, Phoenix, Watkins Glen, Sebring, Long Beach, Detroit, and Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, although some of those were under different names to the United States Grand Prix, such as the United States Grand Prix West or the Detroit Grand Prix. Add to that the Circuit of the Americas, and the Port Imperial Street Circuit, and you have an impressive list of venues. So, that is, if you include the two new ones for 2012 and 2013, 9 Championship tracks, 6 non-Championship tracks, 2 more that were both, and the Indy 500, making 18 tracks in total.

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