Five venues eligible to hold additional F1 races in America

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.

Road America

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.

Sonoma Raceway

Capacity: 47,000

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

Capacity: 38,900

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.

Advertisements

Pirelli threatens to pull out of F1 if test plan is not agreed TODAY

Paul Hembery on today’s F1 Commission approval:

This is it. We cannot do our job without this. We cannot deliver.

The continuing procrastination over 2017 regulations has reared its ugly head once again, with F1’s sole tyre supplier showing its frustration at F1 Strategy Group’s inability to ratify a coherent plan to reform the physics of the cars.

Pirelli has developed a rather mixed reputation since its return to F1 in 2011, with the tyre blow out incidents at 2013 British & 2015 Belgian Grands Prix incurring the ire of teams across the paddock. It appears this news announcement is a cunning attempt by Paul Hembery and his executives to arrest some political power towards themselves, as the Italian tyre supplier attempts to redeem its image. It is clear that Pirelli are stuck in an existential crisis, having indulged many of FIA’s wishes for variable tyres with a wide range of degradation and performance. However, it has struggled to avoid heat sensitivity issues related to their compounds, with many teams and drivers infuriated by unpredictable operating temperatures and tyre pressures required to achieve optimum performance and mileage from the Pirellis.

A much touted belief amongst F1 Strategy Group revolves around wider car and bigger tyres, raising the wheel rims from 13 inches to 18 inches. However, there is much debate over the effects over the handling of the cars, as well as how the tyres and the enlarged size of the cars will affect the ergonomics of the driver’s seating position and his peripheral vision. It was Michelin who proposed the idea of larger wheel rim, but Martin Brundle’s unfavourable verdict of this when he tested a modified GP2 car at Monaco, it was quietly shelved. Michelin had been contenders to take over as F1’s control tyre supplier for this season, but disagreements with FIA over the manufacture of tyres meant their return failed to materialise.

Pirelli clearly want as much time as possible to eradicate these prevalent issues, but whether the CEOs are willing to cut their losses and pull the plug on its ailing project is one to be seen.