The idea that there might be a new GP2-style championship for the Americas should be treated with caution. Trace the story back to its roots and it comes from a leak from Formula One Management to its usual unquestioning pet “journalist”, who gobbles up everything lobbed at him without ever asking a question. One has to admire Bernie Ecclestone. Pavlov could not have trained dogs better. So, from the start it is a piece of PR. Probably a little bit of kite-flying to see what the response is.
Of course, in principle, GP2 Americas, or whatever one would call it, is a good idea. A feeder series to bring new stars, sponsors, engineers and teams to F1 from new regions. Perfect.
But what happened to GP2 Asia? How come that was so poor and disappeared without trace?
It is very easy to explain. It was not cost-effective. And the key question with all new championships is really very simple: who is going to pay for it? The fact that IndyCar is weak is a bonus, but an F1 feeder series in the Americas would still need to make financial sense. And one must ask why local drivers would pay large sums of money to race in it, when the cash would be better employed sending the youngster to Europe to learn F1-style racing properly, in the right environment, with all the different inputs that meld to create the F1 drivers of today. Racing in Europe is different to Asia and America. This is why drivers come to Europe to learn how to be F1 drivers. Those who turn up in F1 without that training rarely do well.
The primary problem, therefore, is a philosophical one: if the series will not provide the right kind of training, can it have a value? And thus, can it survive and flourish? In a US market now dominated by stock cars, is there room for such a thing?
My feeling is that best that such a series could aim to do would be to feed new drivers into the main GP2 Series, not into F1. So the question is rewally whether drivers would bother or rather go there directly and save money?
Leaving that aside, it is unlikely that such a regional championship would work unless there were seven or eight F1 races in the Americas. Currently there are only three: Montreal, Austin and Brazil. Yes, in future there ought to be a second, and perhaps even a third race in the United States. Yes, there are plans in Mexico, but the best case scenario is six events. GP2 only survives because it is held in league with F1 races. Without that link no one would be interested, as GP2 Asia has proved. The teams were willing to do it in the hope that they would find rich kids to pay for it, but they were hostages to the prices charged by GP2 – and the budgets were wildly bloated. The primary motivation for GP2 has always been profit, not to showcase young talent. This is why Red Bull sends its young drivers to the Renault World Series.
Are there really enough talented youngsters out there with budgets of $2 million to race in GP2 Americas? Why would they bother? This is why half the current GP2 grid is made up of drivers who will never be seen anywhere near F1. A new series in the US would be no different and in consequence would be bound to ultimately fail.
This is why the FIA is now looking at how to create more meaningful and cost-effective series for youngsters to get to F1.