FORMULA ONE DRIVERS DISCUSS THIRD YEAR OF U.S. GRAND PRIX AT CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS
During the opening-day press conference held today, prior to the running of the 2014 United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas, six of the sport’s top drivers commented on several issues affecting this year’s Formula One race, just three races prior to the season’s end.
The most prominent issue was Caterham and Marussia missing the grand prix because of financial problems, and the possible consequences for 2015 if both teams withdraw from the series and the remaining ones add a third driver to help fill out the grid.
Other topics discussed included the growing popularity of Formula One racing in the United States, as well as the return of the Mexican Grand Prix to the 2105 racing calendar.
As a result of two fewer teams, and four fewer cars competing this weekend, the Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) decided to make some change to the qualifying for this weekend’s race. Instead of the slowest six cars being eliminated from Q1 with six more following in Q2, the stewards have decided that the slowest four cars will exit in Q1, followed by another four in Q2. The format regarding the Q3 shootout, with the top 10 slots determined during that qualifying stint, will remain the same.
Several drivers commented on the possible addition of a third car to their teams for next year.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo provided a positive response. “If we are offered a chance to have a third car next year, I think we would definitely look into it and try to make it happen. From my side, let’s say, having another team-mate, I wouldn’t see any negatives. I remember back in 2008 when I think I had six team-mates in Formula Renault. It was like being in a school classroom. I wouldn’t see any downside from a driver’s point of view.
Lewis Hamilton also weighed, admitting “I haven’t really thought about it to be honest but I think we would have to expand the team to make sure the efforts aren’t diluted. But yeah, if you wind up opening a position for a younger driver, it could be quite good. Especially bringing then on and giving them the best experience and especially putting them alongside top drivers who have that experience. Perhaps they will come along a lot quicker than they ever have in the past, since they’d be joining two experienced team mates.
“However, when I think about the two teams that have dropped out, my biggest concern really is just for all the employees in those teams that have to provide for their families … and perhaps they won’t have a job now. If we do this (add a third car) perhaps they still have a chance to grab a spot with some other teams.
Esteban Gutierrez also saw the potential positives. “Yeah, it could bring more opportunities for some of the younger drivers and also I think it would be good for the level of competition overall, so … yeah, all in all, it could be a positive.”
Next, Lewis Hamilton, who spent time in New York on various network TV shows touting the upcoming race, commented on the response to his appearance and the growing popularity of Formula One in the American market.
“I think the Unites States represents is a huge market for potential growth in the popularity of Formula One. I think if you watch all the different sports here that people in this country are so passionate about … whether it be basketball, baseball or NFL or even NASCAR and IndyCar racing, the public here enjoys sports of all kinds. They also tend to be extremely enthusiastic about competition of any kind, but I think they really appreciate good wheel-to-wheel racing of any kind. Although we only have one race here, there’s lots of opportunity here for it to grow. I’ve definitely seen a tremendous growth in popularity since I first came here in 2007, even though we missed out quite a few years, there’s still quite a lot of growth here. When I was in New York yesterday people had been waiting outside this building for three hours, just to be up front with signs supporting Formula One. There were all kinds of fans rooting our sport’s team tops on, which was huge.
“And I have to say, it was really great being in New York City. I just remember growing up watching all those movies you see that are filmed there. There were fans there with team tops and it’s just something I just wouldn’t have perhaps expected over here. It really was a great buzz these guys had. There’s more and more excitement growing here in the States and as I said, they are massive sports fans over here. I really hope that it continues to grow, and obviously with this race, they did such an amazing job from 2012 until now and I hope that it continues to grow. Over here, they have a solid recipe for good shows. When you go and watch an NBA game you know there’s going to be some excitment the whole way through. It’s the same with NFL and the same with baseball … so they have a good recipe for entertaining fans and we can perhaps take a bit of that and add it into this race and maybe others and make it even more attractive.”
Finally, Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez was asked how he felt about two races being held in North America next year.
“I think it’s very positive development in many ways to have more and more races in North America. So I think instead of detracting from each other, the two races will actually complement each other. Certainly with the addition of the Mexican Grand Prix there will be a lot of passion and energy since it’s been so long since our country has hosted a race. But I think North American Formula One fans will want to see both races, so we’ll have support from both Mexican and American fans next year – it will be a nice combination I think, and very positive for us all.