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

  1. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 1st July 2011, 1:51

    I don’t think there should be a second race in America until Texas proves successful.

  2. Byron R said on 1st July 2011, 2:30

    First off, NASCAR only in the south east, quite an ignorant comment.

    VIR would be a great track , a true American, old school road course. Check it out. http://www.virnow.com/

    • mfDB (@mfdb) said on 1st July 2011, 3:31

      Yea, that isn’t the only comment in there that shows that Martin lacks an good understanding of US sports.

      However, I’m all for racing in the US….at least one race!

      VIR looks pretty sweet.

  3. mfDB (@mfdb) said on 1st July 2011, 3:23

    I like the idea of 2 races, but I think he’s wrong about the east and west coast (or New York and So Cal) being the prime areas for interest in F1. New York would be good (and close to Montreal), but not So-Cal. In the mid-west and southeast, auto racing is far more popular than it is in So-Cal. I would say Austin is good because it will be a purpose built track and then, as far as demographics and racing interest go places like Charlotte and Indy will be more successful than So-Cal. So-Cal might be more glitzy than Charlotte, but they’re not even into the Indy race there.

  4. wasiF1 (@wasif1) said on 1st July 2011, 4:47

    I think having once race in the USA is good, the thing they need to make sure that it’s easily reachable from many parts of the country.

  5. iD (@id) said on 1st July 2011, 7:01

    I wish they wouldn’t use the word need. I want 2 races in the US but we don’t ‘NEED’ them.

  6. AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 1st July 2011, 7:47

    While this kind of statement may upset a few people, I do agree with Whitmarsh. The US is too diverse a country to expect one race on unknown turf to really make an impact. If America want 2, give them 2.

  7. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 1st July 2011, 8:40

    I’d be up for a Grand Prix in Manhattan. There’s plenty that could be done:


    Of course, it would shut down the heart of the world’s biggest economy …

    • sam3110 (@sam3110) said on 1st July 2011, 9:56

      Seeing as many New York Sporting Events happen in New Jersey, how about they have a race around the carparks of Meadowlands?


      Can’t be any worse than the Las Vegas race!

      • Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 1st July 2011, 10:40

        It’s not really in sight of Manhattan, though. And that’s what Bernie wants. It would certainly look spectacular.

        And carpark circuits aren’t necessairly a bad thing. There was an American Le Mans Series race in the carpark of RFK stadium in Washington, D.C. that looked very simple, but the drivers agreed it was actually very demanding. The race only lasted one year after the residents complained. But car park circuits can work. The reason why Caesar’s Palace didn’t was because the casino treated it as something of a sideshow.

  8. Rohan (@rohan) said on 1st July 2011, 10:09

    It seems to me that people are being massively hypocritical here. They make a fuss about going to Bahrain over human rights issues, yet when it comes to the USA (the country with some of the worst abuses of human rights in the world – witness Guantanamo Bay), everyone bends over backwards to go there. It’s disgraceful.

    • David said on 1st July 2011, 10:55

      Compare a few years to a few thousand years, why don’t you? Sure in the relative time structure of things, USA has committed serious human rights violations for about 1% of it’s time as an independent nation. It’s nowhere near the best country as far as human rights…

      Japan ruled Korea like Koreans were slaves for 40 some odd years.
      China pretty much owns women in half the country.
      India still serves marriages (illegally, of course) for those as young as 9 years old (females…).

      Give me a nation and I’ll give you a serious human rights issue.

  9. austin said on 1st July 2011, 10:22

    Long Beach sounds great.. the long beach grand prix (indy cars) has some history behind it here.. Run it during that weekend.. Or even Laguna Seca, which is an awesome race track. Will be hard for F1 to make it above Indy cars here in the US.. alot of people will see it as another open wheel sport and probably not care much for it.

  10. topdowntoedown (@topdowntoedown) said on 1st July 2011, 11:20

    I do like Whitmarsh and he talks a lot of sense.


    After football, the only other world sport is Formula 1.

    Erm… cricket. Athletics. Tennis. Rugby.?

  11. xabregas said on 1st July 2011, 12:33

    Martin Whitmarsh is right, bring more F1 races to the US.
    I would stick with Watkins Glen and the new texas circuit, that should be enough. No need of street circuits, what the americans wont is spectacle ( exciting racing ), that´s the only way to keep them interested and street circuits don´t provide that, look at the ones in the F1 calendar, they´re boring, exception for Monaco only because it´s……… Monaco.

  12. BDunc82 said on 1st July 2011, 12:51

    At the moment, there is some low-level debate within NASCAR and the NASCAR reporter pool about dropping road courses altogether. That, or add a road course to the “Chase for the Championship.” I’ve lived in the southeast my whole life, and grew up a NASCAR fan, until I watched the 2008 German Grand Prix, which won me over to F1 (if you can believe that). I’ve actually stopped watching NASCAR in favor of F1, but I still go back for the two road courses each year, and I like it when the Nationwide series goes to Road America, or Circuit Gilles Villneuve (may have misspelled that, and sorry if I did). To wasiF1’s point about the track being reachable for the rest fo the country, that is the logistical nightmare of living in the US. At least Austin is more centrally located than NYC or Long Beach.

  13. marc512 (@) said on 1st July 2011, 13:26

    i couldnt see myself watching f1 going around in a oval track for possible 200 laps. Then again, vettels brain only works when its going left and right, not just left! so he could become dizzy then crash.

  14. The Limit said on 1st July 2011, 14:39

    I agree to an extent with Martin Whitmarsh but I think it would be prudent to see how the Austin event goes after several years before another event is considered. The 2012 grands prix will have a certain amount of novelty value to it as its the first F1 race the US has hosted since 2007. If it was me, I would wait atleast three years and see if the race was still attracting enough people and then decide.
    As for marketing, Whitmarsh is certainly right when he suggests F1 needs a higher profile in America which can only come through hightened media coverage. Therein lies the problem, and one that is often overlooked.
    Now NASCAR may not be everybody’s cup of tea outside the United States buts it appeal is regionwide and not just limited to the ‘southeastern corner’ as Whitmarsh alluded to. Also, the major American tv networks provide blanket coverage for all NASCAR events, the sponsorship money and advertising value from it runs into the tens of millions, and there are races everyweek that attract crowds of 100,000 and more.
    Like it or not, that will prove stiff opposition for Formula One. You only have to look at football (or soccer) as the Americans say, to see that Formula One has a huge task on its hands if it wants to ‘conquer the States’.
    Football in America has grown hugely in the last five years, people are interested in it and it is shown on tv alot but it will never be more popular than the NFL or the NBA or the World Series in the USA. That is a simple fact that I believe FIFA and others have come to understand. The market is there, but its a slice and will never be the whole pie. Formula One needs to realise that and appreciate it. I can’t wait for F1 to make its return, but lets not put the cart before the horse.

  15. Fiona said on 1st July 2011, 16:03

    I wouldn’t mind seeing a second US race. It’s better than holding races in China or the middle east (let’s face it, not regions with the best human rights policies).

    My only comment would be that the race would have to find a home in a state other than California & New York. Neither state is business friendly, with high taxes & a strong union presence. Texas is a perfect choice. It’s EXTREMELY business friendly. In fact, about 47% of all jobs created in the US for the past 2 years have been in Texas.

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