JUNE 28, 2006
How big will the crowd be at Indianapolis?
As Formula 1 heads back to Indianapolis, a year after it attempted to commit suicide in front of the US audience, there is much speculation about how much support the Americans will give the sport with some arguing that the fans will stay away and others saying that the madness of 2005 will have attracted a large number of new fans. There is the additional factor that now Formula 1 has an American driver in its ranks with Scuderia Toro Rosso's Scott Speed.
"I think you will see an increase in interest with having Scott Speed around," says Michael Schumacher. "At the end of the day, if you have your own sportsman there competing at the top, it will obviously help a lot."
That is a nice idea but generally only seems to work when a driver is winning. Australian interest in F1, for example, remains patchy because Mark Webber has yet to win a race.
Speed himself says that he expects more support.
"I expect that I am going to have a lot of support from my countrymen," he said, "and I hope we have a good race to give them something to watch. It would be great if F1 becomes more popular in America, but it is not something that puts added pressure on me."
Indianapolis itself will not give any information about ticket sales but with a facility that can house 400,000 people there are always going to be tickets available. The speedway pricing is certainly very competitive with a three-day pass to the track costing only $60 with free seating on Friday and Saturday. Reserved grandstand seats on Sunday start at $75.
It should be remembered that Michelin has agreed to provide 20,000 tickets for fans who were unahppy last year.
The future of the sport in the United States does not really rest on what happens this weekend but it will be a good sign if there is a bigger crowd than in previous years. The city of Indianapolis is very keen to keep the event as it brings in a great deal of business with the free-spending teams and fans leaving an estimated $100m behind them each year.
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