US non-participation in Formula 1 racing

There doesn’t seem to be any serious US participation in international Formula 1. I suspect that, if they competed, US teams would put forward some seriously good competition. Any idea why this is so?

Just read last week’s Sports Illustrated. The article on Schumacher was very informative and one of the stat’s they put out was that a successful F1 team sponsorship could run 250-450 million US compared to 15 mil US for a successful NASCAR team. Not including the donuts.

I read/heard something along the lines of Red Bull putting together a team. They had a driver search last year if I’m not mistaken. Ah yes Driver Search seems like 2002 didn’t turn much up, they are still looking in 2003.

Just getting a Gran Prix back into the US was a great leap forward, I can’t see having a US team without at least a US Gran Prix.

I bet Red Bull could afford some last-year Minardi cars. Maybe this years…

Well, things may be slowly turning around. As mentioned, Red Bull is sponsoring a gaggle of Americans in European junior formulas this year, and they seem to be serious about this. The stated goal of Red Bull is to put an American in an F1 seat, and at least they are going about this the right way, finding a person who can prove themselves on the track, rather than plucking a raw kid and dropping him into 2nd Minardi car with little to no preparation.

Also, after nearly ten years of non-participation, there are suddenly 3 Americans in F3000 competition (all with no Red Bull involvement either). Townsend Bell, late of CART, running for the Arden team, Derek Hill, son of 1961 World Champion Phil Hill, running for the Jordan Junior team, and Phil Giebler, who just secured a ride (unfortunately just a one-shot deal at the moment) with the Den Bla Avis team for the race in Spain this weekend.

Townsend showed pretty well at the first race Imola (punted out of fifth place, fell back to last, charged back to ninth), Hill not so much (qualified at the back of the pack and crashed while overtaking in the race). It’ll be interesting to see how Giebler makes of his opportunity.

Other than Red Bull, most American companies have little interest in open wheeled racing in general, even the domestic varieties. NASCAR has become such a juggernaut that it has basically driven funding for all non-stock car forms of racing to the margins. BoogityBoogityBoogity. All Hail the France Family.

And I found this website:

Which says that sponsorship of Indycars (a bit closer in style to F1 cars) can range in cost from $100,000 to $10 million. Again, no where near the cost of sponsorship in F1 BF quoted from Sports Illustrated.

I guess I’m not sure what you mean by “serious US participation”. There have been US drivers over the years, Eddie Cheever, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, Mario Andretti (although he was born in Italy). Each of them individually did their best, although Mario’s the only one with a championship (IIRC). And there may have been others I can’t think of right now. Red Bull is doing a driver’s search at the moment, as Duke of Rat mentioned. And, as part of this search, drivers will then be shuffled off the the European formula championships. ie, not training in the US.

On the other hand, there are non-US drivers in Indycar and IRL, so maybe you mean participation in ways other than drivers? Well, there are no Canadian owned/operated teams either, but I don’t expect that there ever will be. In fact, there isn’t a lot of variety in the countries where the teams are from - there are a heck of a lot of French and British, and one Italian. Heck, even the one team that sounds Japanese is based out of Germany (Toyota).

It is admittedly a very eurocentric sport, and there are resources in Europe that wouldn’t be found in North America for an American based owner/team. (I think this is similar to the situation for football, or soccer as we call it)

The teams that do put cars forward put millions of dollars into producing these cars, and the technologies created are only sometimes transferrable to commercial products. Do you think that American car companies (who are having their own financial difficulties at the moment) would spend millions of dollars on producing a car that they can’t re-use or take technology from, will almost definitely be trashed in a number of weeks, for a sport that no one in America watches? (Well, to clarify, a very small minority watch it. I think more should, it’s an awesome sport, and I wish it got more American coverage, but I think it would have to be a bigger sport before American car companies/car part companies would get on board.)

But that’s not what you said, you said you think they would put forward some seriously good competition. There’s really no way quantify “seriously good competition”. There are teams who have been in F1 for decades, and have never been serious competition (Minardi, for one!), and there are new owners that are throwing money at their teams like crazy, and are still not serious competition for the leaders (BAR, anyone!?). Being World Champions in F1 takes a complex combination of the right engine, the right tires, the right driver, the right circuit, the right day/weather, the right pit team, and about a 1,000 other things. I don’t see why/how an American team could somehow get all of these things together, let alone all of them right at the right time. Nothing against American cars, or against American owners/drivers, I’m just saying that F1 is really hard to succeed in.


Well, seeing as how Red Bull is an Austrian company, I’m not sure how that qualifies as an American team :wink:

The whole US vs foreign manufacturer in F1 is not as clear cut as it once was, after all Ford fields a team in F1 (Jaguar, a wholly owned subsidiary). And there is at least one team sponsored nearly exclusively by a US company (HP is the primary sponsor of WilliamsBMW).

What would it really mean for an F1 team to be considered a US team anyway? I think far more interesting would be a US born driver in F1, which is what the Red Bull driver search is about.

Besides, Red Bull might be hard pressed to afford some Minardis because they ALREADY sponsor an F1 team (Sauber). :wink:

Minor correction : Whatever their interest in American drivers, Red Bull is an Austrian company.

… as nicely pointed out by racekarl.

Well by being an uninformed yank I guess I assumed (oh no…that word!) that Red Bull must have had some American connection to go about trying to find an American driver. Maybe just trying to increase their name recognition, but F1 is not even televised here unless you get Speed Channel. Network TV does show the US and Canadian Gran Prix, hardly an overwhelming exposure to F1.

And I was just making an off-the-cuff remark about Minardi, they seem to be the butt of many F1 jokes. Guilty of piling on.

As other posters have pointed out, it will be next to impossible to pry the type of money needed to field even a bottom rung F1 team from the NASCAR loving sponsors.

In the discussions I’ve seen, it’s considered likely that even if a American-owned team were to be created or purchased, it would be based somewhere in Europe - solely for logistical reasons.

All ten existing F1 teams have their headquarters in Europe - many in England, the rest on the continent. Of the sixteen races on this year’s calendar, only six are not in Europe. These “fly-away” races are much more of a logistical headache than the other ten. A team based in the United States would be faced with fourteen fly-aways and only two (US and Canada) on its home continent.

The Toyota team, in its 2nd year of competition, is based in Cologne, Germany - almost certainly, I think, because tackling the logistical hurdles of operating out of Japan would be folly. The team is most definitely Japanese-owned, though.

So if Toyota were to win a race, would we hear the German or Japanese national anthem for the winning constructor? Not that that’s likely anytime soon given their recent showings, but if a Jordan can win, anything can happen.

As has been pointed out, the Jaguar team is wholly owned by Ford, and the team boss (whoever it is this month) answers to Detroit.

I agree with you that the logistical hurdles of operating a team out of Japan would be formidable, but I don’t think that is the reason that the F1 team is based out of Köln.

Really, this is a legacy of the fact that TTE (Toyota Team Europe) has been based there since 1979, while building and supporting teams in the World Rally Championship, European Rally Championship, and Le Mans. Given that Toyota have now focused their efforts on F1, it made most sense to keep the operations there, as the infrastructure and knowledge to run a world-class effort already existed in Germany.

  • Bjorn240

I’m pretty sure the last team that could be called an “American” F1 team was Roger Penske’s operation, back in the mid '70s. His American driver Mark Donahue was killed driving the Penske at the Austrian Grand Prix in 1975. The following year John Watson (Northern Ireland) won Austria in a Penske, but 1976 was the last year Penske competed in F1.

Even so, I’m fairly sure that the team was completely based out of England in those days, as that’s where he built his own Indy/Champ cars until he gave up on that around about the year 2000.

Wasn’t most of the Jaguar Team Aerican - when ford bought it from Jackie Stuart, i thought that they brought in an ex Indy manager and a load of techs.

I think that F1 is more exacting that Indy - look at the success that a lot of mediocre F1 drivers have had with Indy (Mario Andretti, Alex Zanardi) but I can’t think of a driver that crossed over the other way.

The sports have developed over a number of years and are very different.

Anyway, wouldn’t the Americans want to have a break every 200 yards and the drivers would want to call timeouts : )

I suspect you’ll find the reason for lack of a US team being in the lack of a payoff for the mind-boggling investment by US-centered sponsors that would be required. This is not a void for racing fandom, just waiting for Uncle Bernie to come in and fill it. NASCAR, having been brilliantly marketed in recent years, fills the needs of the vast bulk of the fan base here, and that’s where the sponsorship money naturally goes, attracting the best American drivers and other personnel with it.

While the open-wheel fan base here is real and devoted, it’s also pretty small now. That’s a shame; it didn’t have to become that way, but it’s fact. Most American fans don’t really want to see Brazilian drivers in British cars with Japanese engines and French tires, they want to see Americans etc. and that means NASCAR.

No sponsor is going to put much money in to reach an advertising market of that size, not even as much as they do to NASCAR. For a sport that costs ten times as much just to be in the middle of the pack, that’s just way too much money, even if it’s thought of as an investment in creating a larger market in the future.

Bobby Rahal was there less than a year before going back to his own full-time team in CART, which he had not left.

Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya had Indy 500 wins to their names before going to F1. I wouldn’t call either one mediocre - Jacques has a title and Montoya is near the top of the list. Andretti, further, was a dominant Indy driver (1967 winner) before going to F1 (1978 champ).

Bjorn240 - Thanks, I hadn’t realized that. Cologne had always seemed rather an odd choice to me, but now it makes sense.

Just today I read a report at suggesting that an American-owned Formula One team MIGHT be a possibility in the near future.

Last September at the US Grand Prix, Phil Hill and Dan Gurney announced that they were going to be starting up an American F1 team - I believe to compete in 2003, although that seems far too quick to put together a team from scratch. The project was soon shelved, though, for lack of money.

Now it seems that those guys are starting to explore the possibility of buying the Minardi team, which is kind of for sale, should a nice offer come along.

The linked article says that should Hill & Gurney get a team started, they plan to have a design and production facility in the US and a race headquarters in Europe somewhere.

Living in the only city in the USA with an F1 race, I see how it would be much more sensible to have the HQ in Europe. That’s a lot of hardware to move around, not to mention the crews and drivers. Europe is where all the action is. In the US, there is usually very little interest in sports that do not take place in the USA. I do think there will be at least one US-owned F1 team in the near future, but it will probably be a break-even prestige thing, just to say that they are the US F1 team.

I think it’s entirely up to them - Benetton played the British national anthem as a British based team, despite their obvious non-British ownership between 1985 and 1996. In 1996 they decided they were actually an Italian team…and promptly stopped winning races :slight_smile: (I think they won one race as an Italian team - the 1997 German GP)

On the other hand, Jordan are British based (Silverstone) but now play the Irish national anthem.

I think they play whatever national anthem the team asks for.