Honda F1 website

APRIL 2, 2007

A wild idea for Bernie

Bernie Ecclestone has achieved many things in Formula 1 but the one thing that has still escaped him is F1 success in the United States. This is largely due to the fact that America has not had an F1 star since Mario Andretti retired back in the early 1980s. Ecclestone lost the Long Beach Grand Prix and the replacement races were never very successful. Finally he gained a foothold at Indianapolis and the event has been a moderate success, despite the mess in 2005 when only six cars took the start.

Bernie has been quietly looking for a second venue for some time but finding a promoter who is interested in paying his fees is almost impossible as the American promoters can get any number of crowd-pulling events that cost considerably less. What he needs is someone with a vested interest in F1 - as with Tony George, who needs the race to keep Indianapolis a global name as the importance of the Indy 500 wanes.

There is one solution in the not-too-distant future which would be interesting. The Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg has been a success in the last few years. It began as a Champ Car race in 2003 but then returned in 2005 as an IRL event and is fast becoming a big draw as the cars race through the streets of the marina area. They like to think of it as "the American Monaco" although perhaps Long Beach might dispute that claim. Formula 1 is currently in the process of creating a number of Monaco-like race in places like Korea, Abu Dhabi and Singapore.

St Petersburg would thus fit in with the current philosophies of F1. The track is a little short for a Grand Prix but these things are not that important if the money is right. The interesting thing is that the race is promoted by an organisation called Andretti Green Promotions, a collaboration between Team Green Investments, Andretti Green Racing and CSS-Stellar. Ecclestone knows CSS-Stellar well as for many years he has been dealing with its chief executive Julian Jakobi, the man who used to manage Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Juan Pablo Montoya and others. Bernie also knows the Andretti Family well and he knows that one day young Marco Andretti may be heading for F1. That could be sooner rather than later given that Honda has been testing Marco in recent months and is clearly interested in him.

Getting together in St Petersburg would be a good step for Ecclestone to expand F1 in the US and for the Andrettis to spread the word about Marco.