American F1 drivers? What happened since the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s?

A few months ago, Negative Camber wrote about the most GP circuits used in a country.  While Great Britain has the greatest number of drivers to have competed in the F1 world driver’s championship at 160, the USA is only slightly behind with 156 drivers according to the forix database.  Italy is in third place with 100 drivers, followed by France with 74, Germany with 54 and Brazil with 32. Of the 43 nations to have supplied drivers to the championship, only 11 others are in double figures.

Now a large number of the American drivers may have come from the first eleven years of the championship (when the Indianapolis 500 counted as part of the world driver’s championship), but even discounting these, the USA has had a very active role in the number of drivers provided to the series.

A total of 103 of the 156 drivers have only competed in the Indianapolis 500 and not any race to Formula 1 regulations, leaving 53 drivers that have entered at least one race to Formula 1 rules.  Although five of these never started the race (not qualified or withdrew before the race), this still puts USA in fourth place overall for the number of drivers competing.  The complete list of drivers and the number of Grands Prix they have started is:

Driver           GP Starts
Eddie Cheever 132
Mario Andretti 128
Dan Gurney 86
Harry Schell 56
Richie Ginther 52
Phil Hill 48
Masten Gregory 38
Brett Lunger 34
Peter Revson 30
Scott Speed 28
Danny Sullivan 15
Mark Donohue 14
Michael Andretti 13
Ronnie Bucknum 11
George Follmer 11
Jim Hall 11
Bob Bondurant 9
Carroll Shelby 8
Pete Lovely 7
Tony Settember 6
Hap Sharp 6
Skip Barber 5
Alexander Rossi 5
Danny Ongais 4
Chuck Daigh 3
Fred Wacker 3
Rodger Ward 2
Troy Ruttman 2
John Fitch 2
Walt Hansgen 2
Roger Penske 2
Sam Posey 2
Bobby Rahal 2
Lloyd Ruby 1
Harry Blanchard 1
Jay Chamberlain 1
George Constantine 1
Bob Drake 1
Mike Fisher 1
Fred Gamble 1
Gus Hutchison 1
Herbert MacKay-Fraser 1
Tim Mayer 1
Robert O’Brien 1
Lance Reventlow 1
Bob Said 1
Rob Schroeder 1
Bobby Unser 1
Phil Cade 0
Kevin Cogan 0
Frank Dochnal 0
Tom Jones 0
Bruce Kessler 0

Looking at the list it is apparent that the driver participation from the USA dropped off in the 1980s, although Eddie Cheever (the longest serving American driver was racing then), very few drivers followed in his footsteps, each racing for a short time, with only Scott Speed managing to complete a full season (and a bit more).

It isn’t as if the number of races held in the US was lacking during this period, but for whatever reason drivers from America did not seek out F1 drives, preferring to race instead in other series.  Those few that have tried to make their mark have not stuck around long enough to get a top line drive.

Perhaps it is indicative of the need for F1 drivers to pay for their drives in most teams, while in the US it is possible for drivers to earn a living even in mid field or back marker teams?  What do you think, why did American drivers stop trying to enter Formula 1, and what can be done to reverse the trend?

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Well, no chance to win if not on top 2 teams, stay in the State and make same $$ or more, and a chance to win. F1 doesn’t want Americans, they want American $$$, not Americans. After what they did to Michael Andretti, I would not go to F1 either. F1 and F1 drivers are terrible at PR were as say Indy Car guys are great and you can “talk” to them. Haas put the screws to American drive in not selecting one for his team, ya,ya, need seat time, BS. USA has to many sports, nobody cares about F1,… Read more »


I may be biased, but I don’t think F1 did anything to Michael Andretti. He tried to compete in a predominantly European series whilst still living in the USA nd commuting. This at a time when testing was unlimited and he could have been driving the car virtually every day between races. He put in so little effort that when he was replaced by Mika Hakkinen late in the season the Finn easily beat the Brazillian in qualifying. Senna had gotten used to not really having to try in order to beat his team-mate. It is a shame, because Andretti… Read more »


Senna spill the bean before his death. Yes Andretti didn’t due any good by not moving to Europe. But doing crap like changing his active suspension from the pit wall was one of the “dirty” things the team did to him.
I just don’t see any current talent going to F1 unless something happens.
Which it might, you never know.

charlie white

It’s a complicated answer to that question. I think Michael Andretti’s experience with McLaren played a large part of the answer. It was pretty sour for both driver and team. But since then, I think F1 teams don’t consider American drivers skilled enough for them or the sport. Even now, you don’t see Scott Speed speaking about his F1 experience if asked at all and he just won the Global RallyCross driver’s championship. Or even more recently, look at Alexander Rossi at Manor. He outscored his teammate in the last 5 races in 2015 then placed on the shelf as… Read more »

Tom Firth

Are many many reasons, but one of them is that the motorsport landscape in america and the landscape in Europe saw a lot more convergence heading into the 1980’s, as the domestic championship of by then CART, began to almost imitate F1 in the style of racing it offered. You go back twenty years from then, into the late 1950’s and American racing culture, except for Sportscars which had influence from Europe through the american love affair with the European sportscar that Todd has routinely mentioned, the rest of the motorsport landscape had gone very deeply into the oval racing… Read more »


If say a company like Ford came in and said “One American, One XXXX. Thats the only way I see it happening.
But Ford is a “World Company” and they just pick WEC/LMP for racing, and if you look at cost vs ROI I think they made a wise move.
That is the trouble for American companies, ROI, TV , nobody watches it compared to other US sports.Even if you say TV number where 1 Million, they still poor for the US market

charlie white

Ford came into Formula-1 recently first as an engine builder and financially backing Jackie Stewart’s start-up team(we call them RedBull now) and then took over that team later. But they didn’t use the blue oval but the leaping cat from Jaguar as the team name. Numbers vary but they spent close to a half-billion dollars on a mid-field team until they sold it to RedBull. As the only auto manufacturer that didn’t take a Federal loan to stay in business, Ford has no interest in F1. Even their foray into WEC is done in partnership with Chip Ganassi Racing.