Danica Patrick was mentioned during the USF1 press event as a potential American driver that the team would be interested in talking with but as time has washed away the media frenzy, she admits that it might not be that good of a move.
Say what you will about Danica but her recent comments tell me that she understand her appeal, market and potential (and even lack of) in the grand scheme of things and most importantly in the grand scheme of her brand and revenue stream. This is not a knock on Danica because I think she understand the requirements of F1. Travel, testing, long hours away from home, globe-trotting, and fierce competition. She understands that she would be facing the most talented racers in the world in a team with an experimental business model and anemic budget by comparison.
One simple question comes to mind; if she entered in F1 and got blown into the weeds, what would be the effect on her career and market potential? Right now there is a comfort level in Tony George’s IRL system. She is a/the star and no matter if she wins or loses people are still considering her a pioneer and capable of beating the boys (even if that is ceasing to be true now). She’s been placed in a top-shelf position and has raced well enough to warrant a long career and with her sex appeal, she can capitalize on that as well within the IRL system. F1 is different. The novelty of a female driver would be good for a while but in F1, results have to be there and marketing, merchandising and American-style fan attachment, similar to NASCAR, only goes so far.
She would have cast away her IRL revenue stream and comfort level for a fiercely competitive world where being female may not be as novel for as long as it has in IRL and where the calendars and swimsuit photos only expose just how outrageously attractive the grid girls are. Sex appeal, money, pioneering efforts, media, politics and marketing are already well worn paths and welcome elements of F1. Danica’s package may not add as much as Americans are used to based on IRL. There is one remaining concern to me; Danica’s ability to be competitive on a road course. I have not seen the flashes of speed and control on road courses like I have on ovals. My humble opinion is that Danica has a great thing going and will see revenue for a long time to come. If there is pressure on her from within the IRL to start winning and she doesn’t think that might happen or the IRL marketing well is running dry, then she could take the F1 option and ride that marketing opportunity for all it’s worth until the series had chewed her up and spat her out on the eastern shores of America.
“I don’t believe that it’s very productive to lead people on if it’s not something that I’m interested in because you’re really opening yourself up then,” she said.
“What if you go and do it and it doesn’t go ideally or perfect and you don’t set the world on fire? Then all of a sudden all you did was just open yourself up to criticism.
“So I would think about it and I would check the schedule, and we’ll cross that bridge if it ever comes.”