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06/25/2012

Less than 5 months away from F1's return to the U.S. & why it's not a sure thing in Austin

Formula-one-race-start1According to its website, six grandstands for the 2012 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix are already soldout. This means there is more than curiosity for the return of F1 to the U.S. Or there better be more than curiosity.

As we have seen before, curiosity among U.S. race fans for this European product has been the death of this series in the U.S. Curiosity can sell tickets for about a year or two. Maybe three. Only a genuine interest and a following is going to make this a sustainable venture.

The United States Grand Prix is scheduled for the weekend of Nov. 16 to 18 in Austin; it will be the 19th race on the 20-race F1 schedule. 

According to a recent story in the Austin-American Statesman, no one is quite sure what this race is, or how to promote it. One driver thought the race is in Houston.

Personally, I am jazzed that F1 is coming back to the U.S., even if it does mean that the one of the worst people in the international sports scene - F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone - is back in this country. My feeling remains the U.S. should never even have considered F1 until Ecclestone is out.

Circuit-of-the-americas-almsJust because Austin/Travis County built a world-class F1 course means this thing will work.

Long Beach, Phoenix, Watkins Glen, Detroit all tried with F1 and gave up. The last time F1 tried the U.S. was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, from 2000 to 2007. 

Now Austin is going to try, and it has a 10-year deal with F1 to make this fly. The thought is Austin is more of an international destination, which could potentially bring in fans from overseas. Perhaps race planners have completely bowed to whatever Ecclestone wants, which former IMS president Tony George (finally) would not.

As race fans in Indianapolis experienced, other than the four wheels the F1 series breathes much differently than NASCAR or IndyCar. American-based auto racing series are much better catering to fans than F1, which distances itself from spectators.

Whereas NASCAR and IndyCar at least create the illusion of fans mingling with the drivers and the race teams, F1 very much has a moat feeling around its central figures.

The variables make this equation feel very uncertain, which it should given F1's poor history in the U.S.

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Comments

The Indianapolis F-1

F-1 belongs in Indy. Indy is the Motor Sports Capital of the US. Indy needs it, wants it, and can put the butts in the seat to warrant it being here.

atxflyer

I think there is a bit of jealousy regarding Austin, especially from places like DFW and Houston.. who simply can't believe some of the things Austin pulls off.

Also, the makeup of the fans will actually be significantly non-US. With Mexico being F1-crazy and only 250 miles away, you can bet a significant chunk of the audience will be from there, and not because of "curiosity". The bulk of the population of Mexico is closer to Austin than the East Coast megalopolis was to Indy. Then you have all of Texas and the south, the southern west coast... markets that haven't had an F1 race this close in decades. Certainly never had a purpose built facility.

PullYourHeadOut

Didn't you read the article? F1 was in Indy for seven years and it didn't work. Indy is really no longer the capitol of US racing but it is the US capitol of boring and no one wants to go there. I heard and read some pretty bad things about the Superbowl there basically saying that the events that Indy put on for the game were a joke. At least Austin is cool (especially in November!)

NoGoSlow

Indy is a wonderful place, and a wonderful, historical track if you want to race in an oval. It will always be the jewel in the crown of IndyCar racing.

F1 was not successful at Indy because the "road course" was more like a stadium layout than a world-class F1 track. It, like so many other street circuits, suits neither the F1 style of racing nor the fans that follow the F1 series. The Michelin tire debacle in 2007 (no fault of Indy's) was the final blow that ruined Indy's chances of succeeding.

While the Austin promoters may be clueless about auto racing, they do have a few things going for them... a 10 year contract with F1, and the only purpose-built track in the western hemisphere that is up to modern F1 standards for starters. Also, as mentioned above, there are many wealthy people in Central and South America that follow F1... and Austin is the closest place where they can follow their passion in person.

I know good fortune will continue for Indy, and personally think the same will be true for Austin's CoTA track.

Really?

I attended 7 of the 8 races in Indy, (all while living in California) and was underwhelmed at the turnout, and the venue. I spoke with many locals from restauranteurs to cab drivers, and none of them embraced the event in Indy. Most mid-westerners were more kind to the 500 and Nascar, and looked at F1, and their fans, as high brow snobs. Grab yourself a nasty "pork tenderloin" at IMS and go away. Austin, on paper, looks to be a fine venue, but unfortunately, the current organizers are knuckleheads.

Big E

Indy, Meh! it's time for indy to move over, it will no longer be the Motor Sport capital of the U.S.. It's time for a new era. A new capital of Motor Sports will emerge in the live music capital of the world, Austin TX, why because Texas does everything bigger and better! Y'all come down and enjoy your selves and stay a while just make sure y'all go back!

Mark

I agree with most of what NoGoSlow posted. With the addition that not only is the Austin track a purpose built F1 track but it also has more than 130 feet of NATURAL ELEVATION CHANGE. Indy is an OVAL track with a flat featureless mickey mouse infield road course that still uses part of the oval course. It was that part of the high speed oval that caused the tire degradation debacle back in 2007.
Any true fan of F1 has no desire to see F1 return to Indy.
The Long Beach, Detroit, and Phoenix races didn't last long because they were narrow, bumpy, UN-entertaining street courses. Even now people are discussing if Monaco still has a place in modern F1 racing. The only reason it can still survive on the F1 calender is because of its historical locale and mystique that still holds the imagination of F1 fans, teams, drivers.
Watkins Glen couldn't last because even tough it is a proper road course it is not up to current F1 safety standards and it is out in the middle of fricking nowhere in upstate New York. Nowhere near any major cities. Circuit of the Americas is minutes from Bergstrom International Airport and less then 30 mins from downtown Austin, 1 hour from San Antonio, 2.5 hours from Houston, and less then 4 hours from Dallas.
Austin is also considered the "Live Music Capital of the World", so F1 fans, teams, and media will have lots to do outside of the track. On top of that they are building an outdoor amphitheater at the track, so there will be plenty more entertainment there besides the racing.
I am pretty sure a city and people that can pull off SXSW can pull off an entertaining and successful F1 weekend.

Ed

Those sold out seats have largely been bought out by ticket houses and scalpers. I'm not saying that fans haven't bought tickets, but the inside story is how many of these psl's and tickets were bought for resale. Sold tickets do not always translate into full bleacher stands. It will be interesting to watch the scalpers selling from the shuttle locations, since they won't be allowed on the grounds.

Duder

The tire debacle was in 05 not 07. This is why f1 fails. Half the people don't know what the f they are talking about. Indy is an oval track that was hacked to look like a road course. Indy is the center of oval racing.

Dale

I'm sorry... but nothing belongs in Indy. Especially Formula One.

If Formula One has anything remotely close to a home in the United States... it would be Watkins Glen.

But Austin is a much better destination city than Indianapolis. Sorry... but it is. That is why Austin is always landing on the top ten lists. Best place to live, work, eat, visit, etc...

Jealousy is strong for sure.

F1 now actually has a home in the US... and it is in Austin. So get over it.


Steve C

The Circuit of The Americas is going to be a wonderful track with plenty of elevation changes and very fast turns. Get on board America, F1 is coming back.

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