Category Archives: American F1 circuits

F1 to California?

While Austin serves as Formula 1’s current beachhead in the United States, a larger plan to expand the sport has brought venues such as New Jersey and Long Beach into the fold as new races stateside to fill the calendar eventually.  Putting more pressure on existing races to stay on the calendar, word of a new venue in California has some speculating as to where a race would make the most sense for F1 as well for the city and municipality involved.

In the midst of a very wet United States Grand Prix practice at Circuit of the Americas, Formula 1’s CEO revealed to Sky F1 Reporter Ted Kravitz his current thinking on America’s next Grand Prix:

“Basically, I think we’re going to have to go California way.”

Existing locations like Sonoma Raceway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca have been mentioned, but it’s not clear what incremental value the worldwide exposure a Formula 1 race would bring to these circuits and regions in Northern California.  A more likely location could be a area with plans to expand its presence on the global stage.

Long Beach’s development and revival beginning in the 70’s and 80’s with Formula 1 at the front of a long list of series that have raced there serves as an example cited by any city in contention for a street circuit, but when asked if Formula 1 would return there, Bernie’s dismissed the idea at the suggestion.   Reading further into his statement, by any impartial definition to judge Bernie’s words, ‘out California way’ would include points in between Austin and the Pacific Ocean.  Las Vegas couldn’t be ruled out for a stop on a drive West, for example.

New Jersey’s hopes for a race were not dashed, and when asked about the future of Formula 1 at the Port Imperial circuit, Bernie replied “We’re still battling it on with that.”

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GP of America on Hold as Port Imperial F1 Circuit Plans for 2015

Ahead of an official announcement due Dec. 6th from the FIA, Formula 1 this morning released the 2014 race calendar:

March 16th:  Australia
March 30th:  Malaysia
April 6th:  Bahrain
April 20th:  China
May 11th:  Spain
May 25th:  Monaco
June 8th:  Canada
June 22nd:  Austria
July 6th:  Great Britain
July 20th:  Germany
July 27th:  Hungary
August 24th:  Belgium
September 7th:  Italy
September 21st:  Singapore
October 5th:  Japan
October 12th:  Russia
November 2nd:  United States
November 9th:  Brazil
November 23rd:  Abu Dhabi

Despite hopes of two new races in North America, both New Jersey and Mexico have been removed from an earlier provisional calendar.  The Grand Prix of America has been the focal point of an ‘on again, off again’ series of headlines in recent months, and major construction work at the Port Imperial circuit has recently come to a winter halt despite hopes a 2014 race would take place.

GP of America’s race promoter and chief executive Leo Hindery Jr. has made a statement regarding the race in New Jersey:

“Bringing a world-class race to the world’s largest media market is a huge undertaking that has required balancing construction of our road course, without tapping any public money, with the sport’s own timing demands…”

Also commenting today was Bernie Ecclestone, a strong supporter of another race in America:

“There is great demand for a race in New Jersey and I have no doubt we’ll be racing at Port Imperial in 2015 … New races can take many years to get started, but there is significant momentum and we are close to realizing a New York City F1 race.”

Ecclestone has also been quoted recently as saying this year there have been “…lots and lots and lots of reasons” why the race won’t happen in 2014, so it’s fair to say that the past year has felt a bit like Formula 1 ‘rope-a-dope’ for fans in a perpetual state of ‘will it or won’t it’ as they patiently await a date.

Knowing this week’s announcement about the GP of America would take some celebrating or hard evidence of progress, it was time for a visit to the Port Imperial circuit just before the Austin race in November.  Against New Jersey’s fall colors, it didn’t take long to find clear signs of construction progress at various parts around the circuit, including this service area along Pershing Road built into the Hudson Palisades:

Service Area between T4 and T5, view against race traffic on Pershing Road

Service areas like this one along a course are a part of the race infrastructure and can be for placing a wrecked car off line, cranes, course/saftey workers, etc.  As a documented feature of the course, this is a purpose built retaining wall and concrete pad located in an area that for doubters is just too inconveniently placed here to be a bus stop.

Pitlane garages will be located on the ground floor of this completed parking garage

The Port Imperial parking garage has been completed and is now open, this is definitely progress since a visit to the circuit in May of 2012.  Designed to serve as a main pitlane building, the garage is located across from the ferry terminal where team hospitality and paddock club events can be held in the structure and expansive roof area above the main straight.  Currently team stall fronts are enclosed in glass.

While more work has to take place for a normal urban sidewalk setting to be transformed into a main straight, how can F1 fans see more progress is being made on the circuit in the meantime?

  • Keep a lookout along Pershing Road and JFK boulevard East, where road crews will knocking down the crowned surface with heavy machinery to level the road.
  • Utilities buried underground have already been marked along the relevant portions of the circuit for excavation work – likely starting points for more work in the spring.
  • Crews moving high power lines and poles around the circuit and near the hairpin at Anthony M. Defino Way/River Road are more clues that more GP-specific work is underway.

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America’s Return to Formula 1

Californian Alexander Rossi in FP2 at Circuit of The Americas photo: Caterham F1 Team

Circuit of The Americas has been building a home for Formula 1 in America, and this weekend marks the second year of the race in Austin, Texas.  Sellout crowds last year demonstrated how teams, drivers and fans have embraced F1’s newest circuit and surrounding city at this global sporting event.

Austin is in the exclusive company of 19 other cities around the world that will host an F1 race this year, and while signs this weekend are showing that America can produce an F1 event that attracts and builds an audience, there is still one thing missing:  A hometown hero.  Americans have been competing with the world on four wheels since the days of the first automobile, but more accessible opportunities to drive in US-based racing series have typically kept American driving talent closer to home in IndyCar and NASCAR.

Formula 1’s annual visit to Austin has now become a focal point for discussion around what it can do to bring the right opportunity for a driver to compete in front of a hometown audience.  In Friday’s first practice session, Caterham F1 Team’s reserve driver,  Californian Alexander Rossi, drove, besting his teammate Charles Pic by over half a second, and marked the first time an American drove in a grand prix weekend in front of his home audience in nearly six and a half years.

In attendance this weekend at the circuit are Alex’s family, friends, and many supporters, as well as the last American to win a title in Formula 1, Circuit of The Americas ambassador Mario Andretti, who said:

“Everyone seemed to be awaiting [Rossi’s session] . . . I came in this morning, and Helmut Marko (Red Bull Racing) approaches me and asked ‘Why don’t we have an American driver?   Do you know of any youngster maybe around 16 to 17 that you could see could be a good prospect?’  . . . The teams are beginning to think in those terms.”

Broadening a foundation of support for Formula 1 in America is a topic of much discussion in the paddock this weekend as sponsors and teams measure the impact that their appearances on and off the track have with the public.  Sponsorship is the lifeblood of racing, and conventional wisdom up and down the paddock is that the U.S. is a key market for the continued success of F1, with teams here actively looking for American opportunity and talent to compete at the highest level.  Mario continued:

“To have a venue like this now that is going to be hosting Formula 1, and a solid home in the United States – that can play a very big in my opinion in advancing that spirit.”

Corporate sponsorship has always been a key part of getting into F1 for any American driver, and while team budgets and use of technology has grown since Mario’s years of racing in the sport, for him, there’s something more about representing one’s country on the track:

“I remember when I was in Formula 1, there was a special, a different sort of pride that went along with bringing the results because you were making your country proud as well.  It was like being in the Olympics.”

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