'F1 needs more races to crack the United States, not only a team'
IndyCar's Ryan Hunter-Reay doubts newcomers Haas will increase sport's fan base in America
By William Esler
Last Updated: 05/01/16 10:52am
F1 needs more races in the United States and not just a team if it is to crack the American market, according to IndyCar's Ryan Hunter-Reay.
The 2012 IndyCar champion and 2014 Indy 500 winner believes Haas's arrival on the F1 grid this year will not help increase the fan base in the US, particularly when the start-up team also have a factory in Banbury in the UK.
Currently only one grand prix is held in the United States and even its future is rumoured to be under threat after a reduction in government funding for the Circuit of the Americas.
"It is so hard to crack the sporting market in the United States because it is so saturated. We have football, basketball, baseball - there are so many options you have to capture the fans' attention," Hunter-Reay told Sky Sports.
"I think Formula 1 racing in general can do it, but it is going to take more of a presence in the United States other than just a team that calls itself 'USF1' even though it is based in the UK, which it has to be I think.
"Hopefully we can get some more races over there, I'm not sure what the solution is, but I'm a fan of any success of motorsport in the United States."
A planned race along the banks of the Hudson River in New Jersey never materialised, but Bernie Ecclestone is reportedly eyeing another race in California.
In 1982, the USA staged three of that season's 16 races, with the United States GP West at Long Beach, the Detroit GP on the streets of the city and the Caesars Palace GP in the car park of the casino.
Another reason perhaps affecting F1's American fan base is the lack of a home-grown driver to support. Alexander Rossi became the first American to contest a grand prix since Scott Speed eight years previously in 2015. Michael Andretti's 13 races in 1993 represent the only other appearance by a driver from the USA in the last 32 years.
So why has a country with a population in excess of 300 million produced so few F1 drivers in recent years?
"I think it is really about a fork in the road very early in your career," said Hunter-Reay.
"If you want to be in Formula 1 you have to come up through the Formula 1 ladder which is in Europe and if you want to be an IndyCar driver you come up through the American ladder and that is just the way it is.
"Once upon a time there was a road to Formula 1 through IndyCar success and I just think that after a few weak years by IndyCar that kind of went away. Now IndyCar's championship is as strong as ever, I think it is the best and most competitive it has ever been, and I'm not just saying that because I am in it. We demonstrate that week in, week out with the product on track."