Does F1 need an American driver to insure USGP success?

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What happens if you unleash USA Today’s Paul Logothetis on Istanbul? You get a fine story about the return of F1 to America. What do you get from Sauber driver Pedro de la Rosa when asked about Turkish attendance at F1’s lowest attended races?

“The Turkish GP needs Turkish drivers. The nationality is important to have a GP you have to have at least one local driver on the grid,” Spanish driver Pedro de la Rosa said. “I don’t think the area is so important, but you need an American driver. More important is where are you going to find an American driver? The spectators will care.”

So the idea is that a local or national hero will put backsides in seats? That seems to be the simple answer from the drivers. Even 7-time champion Michael Schumacher–optimistic about the U.S. grand prix being held in Austin Texas–says perhaps an American driver might be handy in the cauldron of F1 success in a country of oval racing fanatics:

“It has not fully arrived, but quite honestly you cannot expect those things to happen overnight,” seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher said Thursday from the Turkish Grand Prix. “You have to give it continuation, and this continuation hasn’t happened for a long enough time. Plus, maybe we haven’t yet got a known or successful American driver in our group that would be quite helpful for this.”

Perhaps. I am not actually convinced that’s the secret to F1’s success in Turkey or the United States of America. It would be great if that were the case because F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone could certainly find another Karun Chandhok, but of Turkish persuasion, couldn’t he? Actually we tried that with Scott Speed here in the states and that didn’t exactly bring the fans screaming for F1. Not even the hallowed halls of the capital of speed, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, could keep fans glued to the F1 circus.

I’ve said it before, good racing doesn’t need hype, pomp, gimmicks or cheap parlor tricks. Good racing like this (thanks Dex) can keep people glued to a sport. Watkins Glen in the 70’s anyone? The success of the USGP will not be born from an American driver(although I admit this would certainly help things). The success of the USGP will be born by the racing itself and let us not forget that the track will play a huge role in that endeavor.

There is one person, however, that felt F1 should never have left the States:

“We should never have stopped racing there,” Williams driver Rubens Barrichello said. “Even though the fans don’t know Formula One, it’s a great opportunity to show them.”

Speaking of south of the border, even Schumacher has been reading the immigration news here in the States:

“If you think of how many countries like Brazil, Argentina–all those countries in South America–how many we had of those (fans) in Indy, then we should have even more, because logistically it’s easier to go to Texas than all the way up to Indy,” Schumacher said. “Certainly, it’s one of the beautiful places around the world to go to and enjoy some good times, lots of great opportunities.”

So there you have it. All we need to be successful is a lot of visitors from Central and South America and a driver from the USA. Heck, if I knew it was that easy I would have started a F1 race at Indy and hired Scott Speed at Toro Rosso…oh.

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