According 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.
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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