Formula One still chasing American dream

Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:27pm EST
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By Steve Keating

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A year after making a splashy return to the United States, Formula One's American dream has yet to come true with the glamour sport unable to captivate a market it has long coveted.

While motor racing fans across the globe planned their Sunday around the U.S. Grand Prix, for Americans it was just another event on an action-packed day of National Football League (NFL) games and NASCAR.

The Circuit of the Americas carved out of the south Texas scrubland, one of the most popular stops on the calendar for paddock regulars and praised by drivers, teams and spectators alike, was supposed to provide the launching pad for a new era for F1 in the U.S. but has so far failed to take off.

When Formula One returned to the United States in 2012 after a five-year hiatus F1 commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone stood in the paddock and enthusiastically outlined a coast-to-coast vision for the sport in America with races in Austin, New Jersey and Los Angeles.

A year later, talk of a race in Los Angeles has disappeared while the elfin Ecclestone breezed through the Austin paddock on the weekend avoiding questions about a New Jersey race that is struggling to get off the ground.

"We can always do more," said McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh, noting that the U.S. is a major market for many F1 sponsors especially car makers such as Ferrari and Mercedes. "This is such an important market that I think we have to treat it as a new market.

"I know there have been lots of races in the States before but we have never cracked the States in the way we should have done and I think the opportunity is there and all of the stakeholders, the commercial rights holders, the teams, the promoters all of us should be working together and harder to make sure we demonstrate to the great U.S. public what a fantastic sport Formula One is.

"I think it is reasonable to say we are not doing enough."   Continued...

McLaren Group Limited CEO Martin Whitmarsh attends a joint news conference with Honda Motor Co's President and Chief Executive Officer Takanobu Ito (not in picture) in Tokyo May 16, 2013. REUTERS/Issei Kato