A proven winner in both open-wheel and sports car racing, Jonathan Summerton is among a small but dedicated group of young American hopefuls working their way toward Formula 1. Following successes in Champ Car Atlantics, Indy Lights and the now-defunct A1 Grand Prix series (LEFT) Summerton raced this year with the Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW team in the American Le Mans Series, but his F1 ambitions remain undimmed despite disappointments like the collapse in 2010 of the planned USF1 team, which had signed him as one of its drivers.
To begin a new series exploring the prospects and ambitions of the USA's top F1 hopefuls, we asked Jonathan to offer his impressions from his visit to the United States Grand Prix in Austin last weekend. -Ed.
Formula 1 had an amazing welcoming back weekend in Austin at the Circuit of The Americas. More than 60,000 people on Fri, over 80k Saturday, and over 115k on Sunday. The part that was much more impressive, though, was the excitement and positive words coming from the fans. Everyone was united there and the American fans were so pumped and proud.
The track is amazing. Lets just say the elevation changes are so much more than you see on TV – you could be in a northern state with all the hills. The facilities were impeccable, and technology was all around the paddock. I believe there are more than 30 giant-screen TVs around the track so there isn't a bad seat in the house.
The staff did a great job in directing and organizing the crowds. The city of Austin put on spectacular performances every night and hosted great activities for families during the day. This was a great start by Austin.
For me, after being involved and signed as the lead driver for USF1 and another American F1 team just a few years ago, it was so welcoming to be back in the paddock. It was great to see fellow American F1 hopefuls Michael Lewis, Alex Rossi, and Conor Daly there, too. I never expected to meet some of the key players in F1, but I did and, well, they are were very welcoming and supportive of my return to the F1 community. Mr. Ecclestone and his wife Fabiana were very kind and supportive and it was such an honor to meet them and chat.
It was also pretty awesome seeing buddies I've competed against, like Nico Hulkenberg, Paul di Resta, Roman Grosjean, Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez, Jean-Eric Vergne,my old teammate Sebastien Buemi, and of course Sebastian Vettel. It was great to spend time and catch up with each one of them and hear their stories – and to hear them say, "You deserve to be – and should be – here, too!" To race with these guys and have won, and to see them doing so well, is comforting to know that I could still be fighting for a title in F1.
Austin and COTA, thank you for an amazing weekend. And to the fans, you guys were amazing. Also big thank you to everyone who has supported my career. I won't disappoint ;)