Tony Stewart, McLaren, Watkins Glen, 2011

Whitmarsh: F1 needs more than one race in the USA

2011 F1 seasonPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

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. 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.

  2. 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 …

    1. 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!

      1. 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.

  3. 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.

    1. 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.

      1. If you dig deep enough you will find nasty stuff about any nations history.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.?

    1. Cricket and rugby are not world sports – only a handful of nations actually play them.

    2. Agreed with PM. I believe the viewership and the hype of rugby and cricket in term of countries are nt as big as F1.

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. marc512 (@)
    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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. I think this is going to be a hard sell with no American drivers.

  12. I think we are all a little irked when people from another country talk about our country.

    I live in the US (Nebraska). Here for racing interesting it seems the order is Nascar, then IndyCar, then F1. Drag racing might even beat out F1 and IndyCar in TV ratings.

    I love F1 and IndyCar. However, I do think the F1 organizations are deluding themselves if they think they can “conquer” the US market by holding 1, 2, or even 3 races here. If they want to build the US market to the extent of Nascar or maybe even IndyCar, it would take moving half the season to the US.

    Also, if they hold a race in the fall it will be competing against the NFL and college football. I can’t see that working out.

  13. I’m from Texas and am currently living just a few miles away from another great American circuit, Virginia International Raceway, which some of you may have seen featured on an episode of Top Gear last season. There is a huge love for motorsports in America, and I think Formula 1 can attract many millions of new fans with a race in Texas and another one on either coast. However, I think the real issue is the coverage F1 receives here in the U.S.- it sucks. It sucks really, really bad. If you can catch an F1 Qualy or Race, you must either awake at 5 or 6 am, or tune in sometimes days later to watch a replay. If GP2 is covered at all, it is even earlier in the morning and only the Sunday race. Once you do manage to watch the Qualy or Race, the media absolutely ruin it with mumbled comments, idiotic statements of facts, silly jokes, and just overall uninformative gab. It’s horrible to watch and I don;t blame anyone for just turning off. Personally, I don’t watch it and often wait hours to download a torrent of the race weekend (P1 through to the Race) because the BBC coverage is so many million times better.

    If Formula 1 truly wants to establish itself in the U.S. market, they MUST pressure Speed Channel to do a far better job of covering the race weekends. I would suggest, doing that first actually. Because just changing the way Speed covers the race weekend would attract so many millions more fans that I think the U.S. fan base would ask for more races instead of F1 having to push for one. Formula 1 already has so many aspects that Americans love: racecraft, speed, technology, etc…it just needs to be marketed well.

  14. Hope it would be indianapolis but i doubt its going to happen

  15. SennaNmbr1 (@)
    2nd July 2011, 10:34

    I’d love to see Road Atlanta have an F1 race but there’s precious little run-off in those esses :(

  16. I reckon a street race around Miami Beach would be pretty cool

  17. Agreed with PM. Cricket, rugby are nowhere near as a true world sports, the hype is nowhere near the Soccer World Cup for sure.

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