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How Can Formula 1 Get More American Fans? Fan’s View
I think Formula 1 is an exciting, international sport that has made great progress in creating a truly global business. The race calendar now brings races to every part of the world, including exotic destinations like India, Singapore, Abu Dhabi, South Korea, Malaysia and more.
Even with all the success and international popularity, the sport has not been able to establish a fanbase in the U.S. and has been missing out on the enormous revenue and passion American fans bring to a sport. As savvy a businessman as I think F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone is, I don't understand why he hasn't made cracking the U.S. market as important as spreading the sport to the furthest corners of the earth. Here are my top five suggestions on how Formula 1 racing can increase its popularity here in the United States.
Given the huge revenue possible, I think Formula 1 should stage exhibition races as part of NASCAR weekends, IndyCar events and other races. They need to put the product in front of race fans. Why not have a rotating schedule of teams and drivers that appear at other race events. There could be cross-promotion with NASCAR exhibitions as part of Formula 1 weekends to attract international fans to that sport.
Get a U.S. constructor team
We need a Ford, Chevy or Dodge presence in Formula 1, even if it's in partnership with another group. We also need a real U.S. based Formula 1 team (hey Donald Trump how about starting Trump Racing) There was an effort to launch a U.S. based GP team in 2009, and although promising, they never made it to the starting grid. The team, which was to be based in Charlotte, North Carolina experienced financial problems and eventually folded.
Get more American drivers
American fans want to watch American drivers. Formula 1 should encourage Americans to compete. An American driver has not won the F1 championship since Mario Andretti did it in 1978. And the last American driver in F1 was Scott Speed, who drove for Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2006 and 2007. He fell out with the team and now drives in the U.S. Sprint Car series.
Schedule more races in the U.S.
Formula 1 needs to be more aggressive about scheduling races in the U.S. I think they should look at existing tracks like Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca, along with street courses like Long Beach to avoid the cost and time of building purpose-built facilities. We are excited about the United States Grand Prix scheduled for Austin, Texas in 2012 and the Grand Prix of America at Port Imperial, in New Jersey scheduled for 2013.
Advertise and promote more in the U.S.
Formula 1 makes huge amounts of money and should create a bigger advertising budget to promote the sport in the U.S. I also think they should make a better deal with a broadcast network to carry races, in addition to Speed, a channel only available to cable and satellite customers. They need a to make a TV deal with Fox or NBC to show the races, even if they're not shown live (due to time zone issues). Maybe take a lower fee just to get the races on in front of that huge broadcast audience.
A lifetime auto racing fan, Freddy Sherman collects vintage muscle cars and attends races and rally events in the U.S. and around the world. You can follow him on twitter -@thefredsherman
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