America’s relationship with F1 has been a bit of an on & off affair, with the sport failing to gain any consistent following despite having produced 2 world champion drivers and found home at innumerable racetracks and venues. The news that Gene Haas may well have had a US entry as the 12th F1 team accepted has been met with raised eyebrows and scepticism in the paddock. If F1 and the USA find it so difficult to get along, can an American F1 team ever be successful in this most European form of motorsports?
Things are just different
On the face of it, the USA and Europe are very similar. This should be especially true of the UK and the USA as we share a common language. In reality however there are some polar opposites on either side of the pond and motorsports is no exception.
F1 was born in Europe and still has its core races and history in that part of the world. Despite the US producing 2 F1 World Champions in the past and staging races at a whole host of different venues across the country, Americans just never quite get Formula 1. NASCAR is hugely popular in the US (largely the southern states) and the Indy 500 has remained a flagship event despite long term poor ratings for the series as a whole. I might be stepping on toes here but Americans like things from America and generally don’t like sports or teams from abroad being touted as better or equal to home grown talent. F1 markets itself (rightly or wrongly) as the pinnacle of Motorsport and that doesn’t sit well with some.
Who needs who here?
As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I cut my teeth in American racing of different sorts and I have a huge soft spot for US motorsport. It’s very different from F1 but I’m not sure it’s fair to say it’s inferior, it is just different. Most Americans are quite happy with their range of sports as they are and F1 seems a very alien concept to many. I don’t honestly think the US needs F1 half as much as F1 needs the US.
Commercially F1 has a huge potential market in the USA however and almost every team could benefit from a strong audience in what is still one of the largest free economies in the world. The success of the US GP in Austin, Texas has shown what can be done, with the race being enormously more successful than the countless attempts that have gone before it. To take things to the next level, both F1 and the USA now need an American competitor in F1, someone or something for US fans to really get behind as their own. It is my opinion that this is the only way that America and F1 will truly get together.
Bernie Ecclestone is no fool and has seen this potential well before I did. He has been quick to back the proposed new team owned by Gene Haas and it wouldn’t surprise me if he were backing it financially in some capacity too. He wants to see F1 succeed in America and will go well out of his way to help that happen.
This could go one of two ways
Personally I think it would be fantastic to have a successful F1 team from America. To broaden the sport’s appeal in this way could open up enormous possibilities for teams and sponsors and would be a great endorsement for the sport’s future. What’s not to like?
It won’t be easy however. F1 is notoriously difficult to get right even for huge, experienced teams like McLaren, Ferrari & Williams. Caterham have built up an expensive and well equipped team at Leafield and yet do not have a single point to show for their efforts. Money is no guarantee of success even if the new team is well backed.
US motorsport is not an engineering competition on the scale that F1 teams do it and even if Haas is used to running competitive race teams he will also need to run a competitive design and manufacturing facility if he is to succeed in F1. This is where the difficulty may lie.
As I mentioned in my post where you need to be to work in F1 the F1 industry has grown up in quite a small locality in Europe mainly so that teams are close to specialist suppliers and the established experienced workforce. To setup outside of that network has many risks and difficulties. North Carolina may be a centre for excellence in stock cars but the skills and manufacturing techniques needed to be successful there are very different to those required for F1.
The legacy of the ill-fated USF1 Team of a few years ago doesn’t help but if Haas can learn lessons from that then it should be a good starting point. They certainly seem to be a serious operation and I know several established F1 people who have been contacted by agents already recruiting on their behalf. The ball is seemingly already rolling.
More teams, more jobs
I genuinely hope that Haas can create a successful and competitive F1 team from this venture as it could benefit everyone involved. Having more teams in F1 will mean more jobs and more opportunities and that is especially so for those aspiring F1 engineers who live in the US or South America. Greater diversity in the teams themselves will lead to greater diversity in the employees of those teams and I think ultimately that is what F1 really needs.
Now is the time to keep an eye out for developments around this new F1 team as it is likely to get up and running very quickly. If rumours are true that there could also be a second new team on the way then it could mean even more opportunities for newcomers to work in F1. That after all is what this website is all about and so this is potentially the best news we have had in some time. Make sure you are ready to take advantage.
Keep in touch
The 2014 season is well underway now and despite reservations about the sound of the new cars and doubts about the new technologies I think F1 has proved that it can still provide as much thrill and excitement as it has at any time in its history. I’m already working on our 2015 car (can you believe it?) but should have time to keep the blog up and write about some relevant topics.
If you want to keep up with those future posts you can follow my blog using the box just below this post, and join my ever increasing band of merry followers ! I’m amazed how many people have been keeping up with my ramblings, we might have enough to start our own team soon ! Why don’t you join in?
Alternatively you can follow me on Twitter @Work_in_F1 where I post my tips and tricks or links to job postings and relevant articles around the web.
Best of luck and here is to a good result in China!!