SEPTEMBER 8, 2008
Putting America back on the F1 calendar
There continue to be stories that Formula 1 will be going back to the United States next season, although the only workable venue is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The track is happy to host a race but it does not want to pay the fees being demanded by the Formula One group. The two parties have been negotiating for more than a year but there is still a sizeable gap between what Indianapolis wants to pay and what the Formula One group wishes to earn from the deal. There is, however, almost constant pressure from sponsors and manufacturers to agree a deal and there have even been attempts by sponsors to help solve the problem by paying the difference in order to get the F1 circus back into the US market.
There are some drawbacks with having a race in Indiana, as it lacks the glamour of California or Florida. The problem is that it is the only venue in the US that can be seen as a turnkey operation, and there is very little chance that anyone else will be willing to build and fund a venue for F1 because other sporting events are more competitively priced and appeal more to the US audiences. F1 still managed to pull in decent crowds but time is needed for interest to grow. It would help if there was an American driver or team, but participating is not enough. Interest is only really generated when a team or a driver begins winning.
Formula One did have the chance a year or so ago to buy the Long Beach Grand Prix when Champ Car went out of business but it chose not to go down that route, despite the fact that it might have been able to promote the event itself. The reality is that most races these days do not cover their costs from the sale of tickets which is why the Formula One group is not keen to get into direct race promotion. There was a time when Allsport Management promoted races for F1 - the last being Austria - but it too stopped being a promoter as it was not a profitable enterprise.