Whitmarsh: F1 needs more than one race in the USA

2011 F1 season

Tony Stewart, McLaren, Watkins Glen, 2011

Tony Stewart, McLaren, Watkins Glen, 2011

McLaren team principal and F1 teams’ association president Martin Whitmarsh says F1 has to “conquer” America.

Whitmarsh told the FOTA Fans Forum at the McLaren Technology Centre that F1 should look to having two races in the country – and its focus should be away from Texas, the destination for next year’s Grand Prix in Austin.

Whitmarsh pointed to the former F1 home of Long Beach in California and New York, where F1 previously raced at Watkins Glen, as ideal locations for Grands Prix.

He said: “I think it’s a big enough market and an important enough market that we should be over there.

“And I think – nothing against Texas, I hope that is a very successful race – the natural hinterland for us, in my view, are the east coast and west coast.

“Long Beach, around New York – those are where we’re going to really create the interest in Formula 1 and I think we’ve got to go there.”

Whitmarsh added F1 needs to work harder than before to market itself to new fans:

“We’re going to the USA but we’ve really got to go to the USA. That’s to say, going there, having the race and coming home isn’t good enough. And that’s what we’ve done in the States before.

“After football, the only other world sport is Formula 1. And we are not really in America. America doesn’t need us but I think we need to conquer it, we need to go there, maybe we need to be two races a year, we need to have a proper marketing programme, we’ve got to create the interest.

“We’ve demonstrated that, within Europe, people understand Formula 1, we’ve got a fan base, also in some parts of Asia, Japan and obviously South America. But I think what’s a worry is that we’re not doing enough. We talk about China, India, I think those are exciting markets, they’re markets [where] again, we can’t just have a race and come home. We’ve got to tyre harder.

“Formula 1 hasn’t had to sell itself in the past, the fans have come to us. We’ve got to recognise there’s lots of competition in the entertainment business, we’re just part of it. We’ve actually got to do a lot better.

“So I think we’ve got to conquer America, that’s a five-year programme, we’ve got to be on the east coast, the west coast, we’ve really got to make sure. There’s a great opportunity there. There’s obviously NASCAR in the south-east corner, but I think they could really get Formula 1 if we go there, explain, promote and market our sport.”

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90 comments on Whitmarsh: F1 needs more than one race in the USA

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  1. Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 30th June 2011, 22:05

    Oval race around Indianapolis, not another street circuit. Or Watkins Glen upgraded (the run-off, not the layout, keep your hands off of it!).

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 30th June 2011, 22:14

      All for it. One of the smaller ovals would be quite fine, I think. And the Glen …

      • Eric said on 1st July 2011, 0:50

        Watkins would be good because of the history. I would love to see F1 cars at Road America however I think they would destroy the character of the circuit to accommodate F1.

    • MVEilenstein (@mveilenstein) said on 30th June 2011, 22:30

      Milwaukee. At night. Oh, the possibilities . . .

    • Calum (@calum) said on 30th June 2011, 22:34

      A second USGP would have to be an oval, so why not Indy.

    • Dipak T said on 30th June 2011, 23:34

      Theres nothing in the regulations that could prevent a Grand Prix taking place on an oval. Not sure the engines could take being at consistently high revs for a long time though.

      Secretly, Im hoping for another Hockenheim to pop up in a forest. Americans seem to love brutal speed. And nothing says brutal speed more than an F1 car screaming though a forest at 210 mph. To many tracks try to show off the F1 brilliant cornering – we need to have a track that showcases the awesome speed they possess.

    • ajokay (@ajokay) said on 1st July 2011, 9:10

      Icthyes, I agree. They need to go to an upgraded classic American circuit. Having played a few of the more modern racing games recently, especially iRacing, which is based and made in the US, I’ve come to realise that the Americans are quite good a ‘road courses’, as they call them. There are some great tracks out there, they just need some more run off. Who cares if the pit garages at a lot of them are esentially big tents?

      F1 should have 3 races, one in the east, one in the west, and one in the middle.

      I for one would love to see F1 at Barber Motorsports Park. I really enjoyed the IndyCar’s there earlier this year, and the track itself looks just generally nice.

    • rubber_side_down said on 1st July 2011, 23:13

      an oval … how boring. Vettle would be on the rail and nothing stopping him. Seriously F1 on an oval? Only thing fun is swapping paint and bumping. Neither good ideas for an F1 car. I like F1 cause it handles lefts and rights, ups and downs. It’s the ultimate in driving.

  2. BasCB (@bascb) said on 30th June 2011, 22:12

    First of all, I am really looking forward to what F1 and Austin can bring for the first USGP in years.

    COTA having to go green for the city fits in very nicely with the new direction Todt is going (and a good portion of the teams seem to be into this as well), so that might work fine.

    Then when they show the world F1 is able to get it right, take it to long beach again. Or create something similar in another city.

    • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 30th June 2011, 22:51

      I am greatly looking forward to it too.

      I like Whitmarsh, but no offense to him, he doesn’t know much about America. I am from Texas, and I think Austin is a perfect location. Far too often do Europeans and other foreigners think of America as only California or New York, or in the least the East and West coasts. There is simply so much more, so many good places, like Austin that deserve to get in on the action. The Austin-San Antonio area is a metropolitan hub to millions of people. A few hours away you have Houston, home to 4 million and a few hours to the north is Dallas-Fort Worth, home to 6.5 million people. That’s a good 12 million plus within driving distance of the Austin track.

      I’m certain the teams will love Texas and the accommodating people they will find here. Montezemolo should love it, we are apparently the biggest US market for the newly introduced Fiat 500, with up to 70 percent of buyers choosing the manual!

      • HoHum (@hohum) said on 1st July 2011, 3:35

        I thought everything had to be bigger in Texas.

      • DaveW said on 1st July 2011, 6:40

        I’m sure Texas will embrace the event, but Whitmarsh didn’t name the coasts because he thinks that is the true heart of America, or because its where a lot of people live. He named them because that is where the people live, many many people, who will drop huge wads of cash for weekend race tickets for racing series with no American drivers. Let’s face it, we don’t tend go crazy for foreign based anything here. As far as selling cars, I think Luca knows he can ultimately sell more 458 Italias between Greenwich and Short Hills than in all of Texas.

        • MagillaGorilla said on 1st July 2011, 8:41

          Oh and too be honest I agree very much with you. However, I think an American driver…a good one should be found and recruited soon. That will make us Americans have something to truely cheer for. I’m not sure too many Americans want to hear a national anthem from somewhere else, trust me most of them wouldn’t know it was another nations anthem.

        • Sean said on 1st July 2011, 12:40

          I think realistically, the west coast would be the next target for F1. Despite being in a different country, Montreal is on the east coast, Austin is at the bottom (important for the Mexican market) and middle, the west coast lacks coverage. When you consider there are over 37 million Californians alone not to mention the other states on the west coast (and Canada) as well as the easy access for Mexicans, you quickly realise this is a huge market that is being neglected.

          I say a new variation of the Long Beach street circuit or Laguna Seca would be brilliant.

          Although unlikely to occur, imagine F1 cars entering the corkscrew two abreast!

      • MagillaGorilla said on 1st July 2011, 8:38

        I’m not surprised that you only named Texan cities. To be honest a more valid argument would be like…”what about Phoenix or Detroit?” Those are massive cities too. Texas has big stuff, but East and West coast seem to have more tourist attractions, and then the thought of an F1 race as well is pretty cool. However the whole nascar thing is big all over the place in the USA that was the only thing i didn’t agree with him about.

      • JCost (@jcost) said on 1st July 2011, 16:37

        I am a big F1 fan, but how come Mr Whitmarsh fails to acknowledge that basketball is way more popular than Formula 1 globally. Ask him who’s the most popular F1 driver and don’t matter whoever he picks will never be close to Michael Jordan…

        I like the Circuit of Americas, but in case we get a USGP#2, I’d love to see it in California.

        • Snow Donkey said on 1st July 2011, 17:58

          He’s not talking about which sports have produced the biggest individual names. It’s about viewership per event on a global scale.

        • I like the idea of one in Texas one in California.

          The New York thing didn’t work out and Watkins Glenn is a brilliant track but a little too short for modern F1 imho.

      • rubber_side_down said on 1st July 2011, 23:22

        To this I agree. Austin isn’t quite the idea the world has of Texans. They are quite accomodating and love their music, water sports, Football and apparently F1. Way to go City Council.

        PS as a Californian, Laguna Seca would be an awsome venue. But it’s something like the old Nurburgring.

  3. Fixy (@fixy) said on 30th June 2011, 22:16

    Typo:

    they’re markets [where] again, we can’t just have a race and come home. We’ve got to tyre harder.

    Should be try!

  4. I was concerned when having another street circuit was mentioned. Yes they’d be buzz about it, but only because you’re racing through the “parking lot” of some residental tower blocks. If the track is actually rubbish and fails to produce good rcacing, the Americans are gonna keep belittling our sport as boring.

  5. Owen said on 30th June 2011, 22:19

    Does anyone have the stats on the last time two Australians lined up on an F1 starting grid for a race?

  6. MVEilenstein (@mveilenstein) said on 30th June 2011, 22:27

    There’s obviously NASCAR in the south-east corner

    If you don’t count New England, the southwest, California, the midwest, the midsouth, or the northwest, then yeah, just a little sport in the southeast corner.

    • F1Yankee (@f1yankee) said on 30th June 2011, 23:37

      that’s where it originated, where most new blood comes from, and where most if not all teams are based. from a managerial perspective, he’s quite right in viewing it as a southeast entity that does business in the rest of the country.

  7. MVEilenstein (@mveilenstein) said on 30th June 2011, 22:28

    Whitmarsh’s ignorance of American geography aside, he’s right – we need two (at least) race in the USA.

  8. Damon (@damon) said on 30th June 2011, 22:29

    F1 needs a successful american driver to be successful in the US of A.

  9. dave said on 30th June 2011, 22:39

    Personally I don’t care that the US isn’t interested in F1.
    I do have to say that 2 US races versus 0 French would make no sense at all, but there you go.

    • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 30th June 2011, 22:53

      I am from the US and I actually agree with you Dave. I would love 2 US races, but I find it inexcusable that the country which founded grand prix racing is without a grand prix of its own. I rather like Magny Cours, but for heaven’s sakes Bernie, get a race somewhere in France!

  10. Mikemat5150 (@mikemat5150) said on 30th June 2011, 22:58

    I wish Road America could handle F1. I don’t think there is a track that will be F1 ready though besides Austin

    • George (@george) said on 30th June 2011, 23:13

      Yeah, Road America and Watkins Glen are the only two I can think of that really have the scale (track width + length) to host F1, they would just need safety improvements and some infrastructure.

  11. F1 has no future in USA, period.

    • Jess said on 30th June 2011, 23:52

      Well, we will se how it does in TX and if it has a great run for a few years that might spark some intrest. But they will need to put the races early in the year, or they will not only compete with NASCAR but also with the NFL if they have a race in Sep or Oct and that just IMO wont work.

  12. MemroableC said on 30th June 2011, 23:20

    a downtown New York street race possibly at night would be untold amounts of win, mostly because its my backyard

    • F1Yankee (@f1yankee) said on 30th June 2011, 23:42

      promoter: we want to have the world’s greatest car race in manhattan!

      nyc: sounds great! how much will you pay us? we’ll lose several billions worth of business every day of the event, by the way.

      • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 1st July 2011, 0:07

        Yeah, as awesome as it would be I can’t see it ever happening. Staten Island would probably be the closest they could get, and even there it would be a momentous battle to mount a race.

  13. rfs said on 1st July 2011, 0:09

    The only way F1 can conquer America is if an American driver conquers F1. Countries like Spain and Germany were indifferent to F1 until the likes of Alonso and Schumacher started winning. So until an American starts winning F1 races again, the US has no reason to give a damn about F1.

    • Adam Tate (@adam-tate) said on 1st July 2011, 2:52

      I think that is a tad ethnocentric. A lot of Americans are interested in F1, myself included. I have seen a lot of support from an excited and knowledgeable fan base for the upcoming race in Austin.

      The heart of the American ethos is about being the best, and we are attracted to anything that shares that. F1 is the best, it is the pinnacle and America can fall in love with that just the way Europe has.

      As the world becomes smaller, cultural differences between America and Europe are diminishing, F1 gaining further acceptance in America is a logical part of that development.

      • HounslowBusGarage (@hounslowbusgarage) said on 1st July 2011, 11:30

        Well, I think rfs’s comments have a lot of merit. I understand what you say too Adam, that many Americans are interested in F1, but we are talking about grabbing the attention of the broad mass of American citizens to events that (mostly) happen overseas. The thing that is going to change F1 from being a minority two-minute slot on the sports news to a twenty-minute special feature is the success of an American driver.
        Rfs’s point about F1 in Spain is well made. Motorcycle racing was always very popular in Spain, but only when Alonso starting winning regulalry did F1 become really newsworthy, and it was that media coverage that propelled F1 into the mass consciousness.
        With great respect, the US is relatively insular in terms of news coverage and media attention, and it’s only going to be through a US driver or team succeeding against Europeans, Asians and South Americans that the US media will afford F1 extended airtime.
        Cultural differences might be changing as you say, but I think you will find that the rest of the world is becoming more like the US rather than the other way round.

  14. I thought Martin was great on the FOTA Fans Forum. He made some great points and really looked like the captain of the ship.
    I attended the event and wrote an overview so those who are interested, can have a read here: http://literalf1.co.cc/?p=36

  15. Sam said on 1st July 2011, 0:25

    I think he forgets Basketball as another big global sport…also big here in the states. I also wonder if Whitmarsh being FOTA chairman takes away from his team principal duties. Seems a lot to juggle.

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