Bernie Ecclestone has hinted he wants many more American races on his F1 calendar.
After a five-year absence from the country, F1 has returned to the US in 2012, this weekend christening the brand-new and bespoke Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. And Ecclestone wanted two American stops on next year’s schedule, until plans for a street race amid the Manhattan skyline were put on hold for financial reasons until at least 2014.
“It’s a world championship, so you need the US,” the F1 chief executive is quoted by German news agency DPA. “America is about as big as Europe. So we should have the same number of races (in each),” said Ecclestone.
In 2013, seven of the 19 grands prix – Spain, Monaco, the UK, Germany, Hungary, Belgium and Italy – will be in Europe, the sport’s traditional homeland.
For now, many in the F1 paddock are simply relieved that the US is back on the calendar at least with one race — Norbert Haug pointed out this week that it is Mercedes-Benz’s single biggest road car sales market. But F1 chief executive Ecclestone acknowledged that his sport is “not very big” in America, causing the US-naturalised Mario Andretti to proclaim: “I can only say thank god for the Texans!”
“This,” agreed McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh, “is a golden opportunity for the sport to finally put down roots and find a long-term home (in the US).”
After contractual and construction delays, the Circuit of the Americas is a hive of activity in the hours before the F1 paddock comes alive on Thursday. Signs, seats and landscaping are still being finished off, circuit spokeswoman Julie Loignon admitting: “Things are very hectic, but everyone is making steady progress.”
Michael Schumacher, a regular visitor to the US, is already in town, kicking off his stay by watching the NBA basketball game between the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves, according to Bild newspaper.