Bernie Ecclestone has again re-iterated his wishes of six Grands Prix to be held in America. Here are five venues capable of holding Grands Prix if modified to FIA standards:
Sebring International Raceway
Capacity: Open seating without capacity limitation
Track length: 3.74 miles (6.02km)
Best known as the venue of Sebring 12 Hours, its track surface contains a mixture of asphalt and concrete. It held the 1959 edition of US Grand Prix, but was shelved due to poor attendance and high costs. At least $500 million would be required to bring this venue up to FIA Grade 1 standards. Its location in Florida, however, would provide convenience for those fans unable to travel to more illustrious circuits based in North America.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Capacity: 235,000 (permanent)
Track length (F1): 2.605 miles (4.192 km)
The venue of US Grand Prix from 2000-2007, Indy has unfortunately encountered the dark political side of F1 more often than it should done. In its first Grand Prix held on its custom made road course, controversy arose in qualifying due to the position of pole and 2nd place being placed directly on the famous bricked line. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher and McLaren’s Hakkinen deliberately set slower times to start on the second row, but the front row was dropped back on race day to avoid wheelspin issues for their respectative team-mates Rubens Barrichello and David Coulthard. The 2004 race saw a worryingly slow response from the safety crew, who took two minutes to drag themselves to the aid of Ralf Schumacher. The German had crashed into the concrete wall on the banked oval and he would fly home with undiagnosed fractures of vertebrates in his back. He later threatened legal action against the Speedway officials for his inadequate medical treatment. The 2005 edition, however, would witness F1 politics at its ugliest, as Ralf’s practice accident near the same spot of his accident from the previous year’s Grand Prix due to a delaminated tyre sent Michelin into disarray. who later ordered their contracted teams to avoid doing more than ten laps on any set of their compounds. Race day would see a farcical pull out of the Michelin-shod teams, as a failure to agree a temporary chicane before the final banked oval turn would see just six cars start the race.
Capacity: Open seating without seating limitation
Track length: 4.048 miles (6.515km)
Seen as the best road course in North America, this venue located in Elkart Lake, Wisconsin would almost certainly gain popularity with international fans. It contains fourteen daunting turns, with frequent bumps and varying levels of residual grip. Road America has held many encapsulating Indycar races sanctioned by the now defunct CART organisation, including Al Unser Jr’s last lap engine failure in 1996 and Juan Pablo Montoya’s gearbox dying in the 1999 edition. If F1 was to hold a race here, its spectacle may sadly been hampered by fuel restrictions, which would demand the cars to lift off early at the end of straights. However, the close proximity of the walls and blindness of the kinks will demand the respect of the world’s best racing drivers. Like Sebring, work would be need to be done on laying asphalt run-offs, as well as proper permanent seating areas and a high tech pit area.
Track length: 2.22 miles (3.57km)
Based in California, Sonoma is often seen as poor cousin to the famous Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway. This venue is a dusty, twisty circuit capable of testing the stamina of the best road racers, however some F1 fans may see his track mirroring features of the much-maligned Hungaroring. Its capacity would need to be doubled in order to hold a F1 event and its safety features would need to upgraded to FIA Grade 1 standards.
Watkins Glen International
Track length: 3.4 miles (5.43km)
Last, but not least, we have Watkins Glen based in the outskirts of Schuyler County, New York. This track was the venue of US Grand Prix from 1961-1980. The lower safety standards required by NASCAR, Indycar and sportscar racing has allowed this venue to remain with mediocre safety features. The picture above shows Tony Stewart testing a McLaren-Mercedes MP4-23 in a Mobil 1 promotional event.