Lewis Hamilton confident F1 has scope to continue to grow in United States market
Mercedes driver also eyeing repeat of his 2012 Austin win
Last Updated: 18/11/13 5:16pm
Although F1 has a regular history of staging grands prix in the United States dating back to 1959, the general perception inside F1 is that the sport needs to do more to infiltrate the large American sports market.
Last year's inaugural race at Austin's Circuit of the Americas - the country's first purpose-built F1 facility - was regarded as a positive renewed first step in that direction with an attendance of 117,000 on race day. Plans have also been afoot to again hold a second U.S. round, although the proposed New Jersey event for 2014 now looks likely to drop off the provisional calendar.
Still Hamilton, who won last season's event and the previous U.S. GP at Indianapolis in 2007, reckons there is sufficient support for F1 to increase its influence Stateside.
"I feel like it can grow [in America]," the Mercedes driver said. "The more I go to the States, the more I meet people who are crazy-passionate about it.
"I'd say more people than we probably realise love the sport. Obviously, most have grown up with NASCAR, with F1 new to many US motorsport fans, so it could take some time.
"But its popularity will grow and it will succeed in America."
Hamilton claimed last year's inaugural Austin win after winning an entertaining race-long dice with Red Bull rival Sebastian Vettel with the victory representing the Briton's final one for McLaren before his switch to Mercedes.
The 5.5km undulating track, which features an already iconic steep climb to the first corner, proved a hit with drivers despite a low-grip surface and Hamilton says he would love to successfully defend the victory this weekend.
"I'll admit I was a little sceptical at the beginning," the 28-year-old added.
"But I got used to the track quickly and I have to say the sequence of fast corners at the start of the lap is very cool.
"It ended up being one of those perfect weekends really, with my best memory that of hunting down Sebastian, catching him and overtaking him to become the first winner of the US Grand Prix in Austin.
"Now I am looking forward to seeing if I can hold on to my title. It is extra special to me as it is the first new track where I have my name tagged to it for the first win.
"That is something that will go down in F1 history."