At least once a year, the inevitable happens. Someone in the ol’ Formula One camp has decided yet again that, actually, America is very high on the series’ priority list, thank you very much. America is so important, in fact, that we’re going to get some more races and even better activation opportunities! We promise!
Yes. It’s happening again.
F1's new CEO, Stefano Domenicali, has reiterated the claims previously made by American-based company (and former F1 owners) Liberty Media: F1 is going to do its damndest to raise its profile in the United States.
Here’s what Domenicali had to say:
I can guarantee to you there is now big interest in the USA with Formula 1. What we don’t have to do, in terms of mistake, is that the US needs to be fed with F1 news every day.
It’s wrong to go there one week, and let’s say you have an incredible push one week before the Austin race and then being silent.
What we have is a plan of communication quite strong in the US. We need to hammer information with the right channels in a continuous way.
It will take a lot of start-up time in terms of investment, but the payoff will be huge. So this is part of our strategic global communication campaign that we need to push this year.
I want to be optimistic about Domenicali’s claims, because he’s on the right track. But I just can’t imagine it’s anything but lip service. Especially since he listed the ill-fated Miami Grand Prix as being a factor in F1's revitalized image within the US.
But I will agree that, if F1 truly wants to expand its American presence, it needs to give a bit more of a damn about the country as a whole. I lived in Austin for four years while I went to college, and the only people who ever knew there was a Grand Prix taking place just outside the city were the people who were going to the race in the first place. I went to my first US GP in 2014, and F1 shut down entire streets in downtown Austin to essentially throw a giant party and show off cool cars to promote the race, and it also allowed Red Bull to do a demonstration run in front of the capitol building. It never did anything to that magnitude again.
A second race in America could have the potential to further increase F1's profile in the US, but I’ll be honest: the best thing for the series is getting its head out of its own ass so to speak.
America has a passionate sports fan base, generally. We’ve got baseball, basketball, football, soccer, hockey, and other forms of racing that draw crowds. The best way to get a person into F1 is to appeal to the people who already like sports and to be ever so slightly less elitist about everything. I understand that F1 likes to situate itself as the pinnacle of racing (and that many F1 fans like to situate it as the pinnacle of all sport, ever), but you’re generally not going to appeal to Americans by being hoity-toity and drawing distinctions between F1 and the NFL.
Drawing more fans is going to take a lot more work than just plonking a race track down in a different part of the country. F1 has tried that before. It didn’t really work. It’s time to start looking at other ways to build a fan base.