Formula 1 has always had an eye on the United States due to it being the largest consumer market in the world and no secret that many of F1’s brands would like to capitalize on this fact by making Formula 1 a much bigger deal in the States than it is.
On the back of encouraging viewership numbers this year from NBC Sports, one would think that F1 would be feeling good about gaining some footing in a market already saturated with sports entertainment options. As it is, F1 seems destined to stub its toe in America with today’s announcement that two of the eleven teams will not be coming to the Grand Prix in Austin.
It seems that Marrusia, still reeling from the crash and life-threatening injuries to its driver Jules Bianchi in Japan and Caterham, completely adrift and in the hands of administrators over ownership and debt liabilities will both miss the USGP.
Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters:
“Neither of those two teams are going to go to America,”
Caterham administrators are desperately seeking a buyer for the team and missing the USGP will most likely mean they will miss the Brazilian Grand Prix as well as the two races are back-to-back. One would presume the same is true for Marussia.
Marussia’s absence is equally disappointing as their reserve driver is American Alexander Rossi and it would have been a real boost to the sport to have Rossi driving in Austin. The team also has a championship standing of 9th place to defend from Sauber that is at risk should they miss two grands prix.
It’s a bit difficult to be excited about the smallest grid since Monaco back in 2005 due to a ban of BAR Honda that weekend and harkens back to F1’s ability to be frustrating when it comes to the USGP with 2005 at Indy still lingering in the minds of American fans.
An argument can be made that these are backmarker teams and not germane to the championship at the sharp end of the grid but a full grid is something that fans enjoy. The battle between Marussia, Caterham and Sauber was fun to watch. It’s a tad ironic that the Circuit of the Americas had chosen a Caterham to be prominent in their marketing material for the race.
The small teams have been warning F1 for months now that the costs of participating were too high and the rumors of teams leaving F1 were very real. Many reports discussing the thought of losing three teams for 2015 have been written and a three-car scenario has been discussed as a solution should the sport lose three teams.
Once again, F1 is faced with the challenge of letting the American market down and while that may sound overstated, it is a perception thing regardless of the teams being backmarkers and not important to the championship.
The fact that America seems to get a truncated race, such as Indy 2005 and now Austin 2015, is just another way of missing the plot. Having Rossi in a Marussia would have gone a long way in helping American F1 fans get excited about the series and especially in a year in which F1 could use some positive publicity.
Hat Tip: Reuters