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Ecclestone insists F1 doesn't need America

NEWS STORY
14/06/2007

With this weekend's Grand Prix at Indianapolis bringing the current contract to a close, Bernie Ecclestone is preparing for an important game of 'Poker', not merely with Tony George and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but with prospective F1 promoters in America.

Though he says otherwise, at least publicly, the fact is that Formula One needs America, for it will never truly be a World Championship until the sport gets a serious foothold in the United States.

Speaking ahead of this weekend's race however, Ecclestone is insistent that F1 can survive without the USA.

"There are bigger markets for us to be in other parts of the world," he told the Daily Express. "We could be in India soon instead of the US. We don't have a lot of sponsors from the US, no American teams and only one driver.

"I get along well with Tony George and I hope we can strike a deal," he admitted, "but we have offers from other places in the US, too."

It's thought that Ecclestone is referring to Las Vegas, which hosted two races in the early 80s. However, other than the poor choice of tracks in the USA over the years - and Las Vegas is a prime example - F1's failure to break the market has been due to a number of factors, some of which are under Ecclestone's control even if others are not.

The Americans will not be particularly impressed by a series in which they are barely represented. At present the only American on the grid is Scott speed, and his future is uncertain. Furthermore, the fact is that F1, unlike American series is not fan-friendly, F1 fans are not allowed, far less encouraged, to get close to their heroes, unlike Champ Car and NASCAR.

While one could point out the lack of real racing, certainly compared to NASCAR and Champ Car, one should not forget the debacle of 2005 and even the 'stage-managed' 2002 event. Then there's some of the comments Ecclestone has himself made over the years, comments that have not endeared him or F1 to the American public ... most notably his comments concerning Danica Patrick.

However, despite Ecclestone's posturing, the manufacturers do want to be in the USA, it's where they sell a lot of their products.

Therefore, in the days, weeks and months ahead we can expect comments from all sides; but the bottom line is that F1 needs America more than America needs F1.

However, though the sport is unwilling and unable to be more fan friendly, it could certainly help the situation by giving Americans their own heroes to cheer. Though the fans would be delighted to see Marco Andretti racing for a top F1 team, even Sebastian Bourdais - a Frenchman but a name they recognize - would be a start.

Finally, though, there is the fact that American promoters, unlike numerous governments in the east will not be willing to meet Ecclestone's financial demands, and as ever it is the financial aspect that decides who gets an F1 race and who doesn't.

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