One of the things I was most excited for looking into the 2012 season was the 19th round of the championship to be held in Austin. I was looking forward to it for a couple of reasons, the primary one being that F1 was coming to a purpose built facility.
American race tracks are designed under different principles than their European counterparts. The simple fact is that spectatorship is very different and Americans tend to prefer road tracks with open areas to walk around in rather than grandstand seating that is so prevalent in the rest of Europe. Yes I know about the ovals, but name name a road course that has the same level of grandstand seating as Hockenheim and I’ll give you a prize (1 internet point worth exactly 100 monopoly dollars). Comment field below on that one.
The other thing that was so exciting to me about Austin was that, though it was a Hermann Tilke designed circuit, I read an article somewhere about the owners and promoters and learned that they were real racing guys. I knew they wouldn’t let Tilke get away with another one of his lazy and flat creations that have so blighted the F1 landscape. I reference the Kimi Raikkonen interview on Top Gear when he called the Tilke designed circuit in Abu Dhabi “shit.”
But its more than that. A sequence of events, part happenstance and part arranged by Bernie that are all coming together to make F1 viable in the US, something that hasn’t really happened since the race was in the middle of nowhere, oops, I mean Watkins Glen (great track but it really is in the middle of nowhere).
First, we have the accumulation of F1 races in US friendly time zones. You want to watch an F1 race from Asia live? You wake up at 4AM EST. Live on the west coast? Sucks to be you. This season alone there will be three races naturally occurring in US friendly time zones – Austin, Canada and Brazil. In 2013, that number may jump to five by adding New Jersey (that one is going to happen, Bernie needs NY more than NY needs F1) and Argentina (okay, that one may not happen).
Second, but related to the first. With this accumulation of American time zone races, TV will be far more inclined to give F1 prime racing time slots or rebroadcast races that would otherwise be unwatchable. Even this year, we have a shift in the right direction. 2011 saw Fox broadcast the Canadian GP and the European GP in a prime slot, 12 or 1PM EST (I forget which). This year, they added the British GP. Now imagine a clump of three or four races in a row (the NJ race will go back to back with Canada) in prime time on Fox. Pretty persuasive, especially in the face of a declining NASCAR and a nonchallenger in IndyCar.
That brings me to my third factor, the decline of NASCAR. NASCAR has become aero dependent (who would have called it) and their golden boy is really not that good (sorry Dale Jr.). Apparently, Goodyear is pulling a Bridgstone so races are now processions and Americans don’t have the patience for it. That and Dale Jr. doesn’t win races (witness the explosion when he won Michigan this year). Combine the two and there is an American racing audience ripe for the taking.
I think F1 can do it. Do you?