F1 mulls launch of American junior series
Formula One's management is considering creating an American version of GP2 or GP3 in order to drive popularity of the sport in the United States which this weekend hosts its first Grand Prix for five years.
Company documents show that it has the working title of the 'Americas Series' and, if given the green light, will feature races in the United States, Canada and Brazil. The aim is to stimulate the development of grass roots motorsports in these countries and generate publicity for F1 so that it eventually attracts more local drivers.
This year only three of the 20 F1 races are in the Americas. In addition to this weekend's race, which takes place in Texas, there are well-established Grands Prix in Canada and Brazil. However, F1 has struggled to gain popularity in the United States. There are no American drivers currently competing in the sport and the last was Scott Speed who raced briefly for Toro Rosso in 2006 and 2007 without scoring a point.
According to the company documents, F1's management believes that it will eventually be able to develop its business in North and South America to a level comparable with that in its traditional European base.
A regional variant of GP2 has been attempted before with little success. A GP2 Asia winter series was launched in 2008 but its last season was in 2011 when it only held four races with two of them taking place at Imola in Italy. Although teams were encouraged to run local drivers, many still chose Europeans or South Americans instead despite restrictions on the number of points they could score.
Since GP2 launched in 2005 it has been a major success story in producing F1 talent, with former champions including Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean. The series was acquired by F1's parent company, the F1 Group, in 2007 and three years later it launched GP3 to provide upcoming drivers with another clear step on the ladder to F1.
GP2 and GP3 generated $44.8m in revenues last year. This represents around 2.9% of the F1 Group's total revenue and it was made up from the sale of cars and parts to the participating teams, plus promotion and advertising fees and maintenance services.
It isn't only the F1 Group that would benefit from an expansion of GP2 or GP3. Publicity generated by an American junior series could be very useful to the organisers of the proposed Grand Prix in New Jersey, who recently shelved plans to host a race in 2013 amid budget concerns. It would also be beneficial to the F1 teams because as the sport's profile grows in the US it is likely to increase interest in sponsorship from American companies. However, the teams would not receive any additional revenues directly from the series itself as turnover from GP2 and GP3 is excluded from the F1 prize money fund.
Although there have been a number of plans to improve the profile of F1 in the US in recent years, the race in Texas is so far the only one to come to fruition. Despite being granted an entry slot for 2010, new team USF1 collapsed under the weight of financial troubles before it even made it to the grid. Earlier this year Red Bull was rumoured to be looking at creating a 'Stars and Stripes' F1 team piloted by American drivers, but so far nothing has materialised.