Yesterday was a good day for F1 in the United States of America, not that this means a lot at the moment. The news came through (finally) that the Circuit of the Americas has wheeled and dealed itself into a position where it can afford to pay for a Grand Prix again, a process which involved a tax re-evaluation and some lawsuits. The promoter believes that he can make a success of the event, planned for October 23. This year the University of Texas Longhorns college football team will be playing away that weekend at K-State in Kansas, so there might be some more available hotel space, while NASCAR will be 800 miles away in Talladega for one of its biggest races of the year, the Alabama 500, which traditionally brings in a crowd of 160,000 race fans. In an effort to sweep up every available fan in Texas, COTA has signed up the singer Taylor Swift to headline what the promoter says, tub-thumpingly, will be the biggest concert in the history of Austin. Swift is a big name, but her demographic is a bit odd for F1. To quote a reviewer from one of last year’s concerts, “the demographic of a Taylor Swift fan is a curious thing. The women to men ratio is exactly what you’d imagine: women. Mainly. Yummy mummies with their pampered children, single young professionals with their friends and an almighty plethora of pre-pubescent teenage girls.”
While this might sound like a target-rich environment for testosterone-fuelled pretty boy racing drivers, it seems an odd choice for the promoter, unless the goal is for them bring their boyfriends along. I have long advocated F1 aiming for young mothers because women make the decisions about leisure spending and they will bring the fans of tomorrow with them, even if they won’t be buying Rolexes…
We’ll have to see if this works.
There was good news too for Alexander Rossi’s airline mileage account with the announcement (not unexpected) that he will be the Manor F1 reserve driver in addition to being an Andretti IndyCar driver. Rossi will be cross-crossing the world, doing 11 Grands Prix and 16 IndyCar races. It is a good place to be and it is clear that Alexander has not given up on his F1 dream. In fact, it’s terrific because he will increase his fanbase at home by racing IndyCars, which has been difficult given the amount of time he has spent in Europe in his career. I would suggest that he finds a way to snuggle up to Ms Swift and we would then be well-placed to conquer the United States with her 72 million Twitter followers joining forces with his army of 38,900. If someone could invite Katy Perry along (with her 84 million followers) we could really make an impression, as apparently they don’t get on at all and a bit of bitchiness would be grand for drawing attention to the prix. Lewis could bring along some of his pet Kardashians (which I think is some rare race of canines) and F1 would be front page news.
Fantasies aside, Brad Hollinger, a jolly healthcare magnate, who comes from the splendidly-named Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, increased his shareholding in the Williams F1 team to 15 percent and made the point that what F1 really needs is to have races in the New York area and in California. Austin is great, but it’s not really mainstream America. You know that because they have tee shirts that say “Keep Austin Weird”. The folly of F1 losing out on races inNew Jersey and Long Beach was highlighted by these remarks…
There was also a curious story of FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting popping up at Watkins Glen, in upstate New York, which used to be the home of the United States GP until the early 1980s, before it was priced out of the market by Mr E. Charlie made lots of nice remarks about the place and naturally that has led to speculation that something is afoot.
I’m not sure what that could be. The Glen is owned by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC). This is a listed company, to a large extent controlled by the France family, who also own NASCAR. They like making money and the last thing they need is F1 to be big in the United States, so the idea that they will shell out vast fees for B Ecclestone and the Sherman McCoys that follow him around slavishly, is at best outlandish. The Glen packs in about 95,000 spectators for NASCAR, but a lot of these are the RV crowd and F1 has its heart set on the high-heelers and Rolex-wearers from New York, but that is 250 miles away, which is a long haul for beautiful people without helicopters.