Third fiddle in a one-fiddle location

That’s pretty much where (at the best) Formula 1 is in the USA. Of course, the major motorsport here is Nascar. The split between Indycar CART and Indycar the IRL has all but decimated the domestic open wheel competition. The only other major open wheel series, for all intents and purposes, is F1. The story of the series in this country is an interesting one, and one to which, over the last 25 years or so, stability is something that has been fleeting.

Consider that between 1980 and 1991 (the last race until it moved to Indianapolis in 2000), the series raced in the following locations – Long Beach CA, Watkins Glen NY, Detroit, Dallas, Las Vegas and finally Phoenix. Add to that the fact that TV coverage had gone from the occasional race on a regular network to all races being on cable, and you have a recipe for near-disaster.

However, Indianapolis’ plan to get the cars there has worked somehow. It has been reported that this race sees some of the largest paid attendances in the series. If it weren’t for the mishap in 2005, the likelihood would be that the track would have a long term deal alredy.

The head of F1, Bernie Ecclestone, recently had an interview with Sports Illustrated, in which he says that part of the problem with getting F1 to succeed here is not having it airing on regular TV. He is right, and I think his people did something quite smart when renegotiating into the rights contract a proviso that says that some races will be shown on Free-to-air TV. Fortunately, unlike the last deal that led to races being shown on regular TV, two of the races selected for this are the ones from Montréal and Indy.

Bernie says that he thinks part of our problem stems in the fact that the whole series isn’t aired on FTA TV. I think that this time, they’re doing the FTA thing right (i.e. using the announcers from Speed, who actually know something about the sport they cover instead of the CBS-all rounder they used last year). It’s likely that there will be more than the 4 races on Fox next year, but right now I think that if the shows acually rate, it will be considered a success.

So, here’s to having a good year of being in third place again, but maybe closing the gap to drag racing. 🙂

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