Ahead of this weekend's first United States Grand Prix in five years, ESPNF1.com reports that an American version of GP2 (LEFT) or GP3 is being considered in order to help channel American talent toward F1. Regional F1 ladder series have been tried before with limited success, but the new series would be part of F1's concerted push to raise its profile in the Americas and the U.S. in particular.
Citing “company documents,” the report claims the working title of the new championship would be “Americas Series,” and that it would feature races in the United States, Canada and Brazil. The name would mesh with that of F1's new home in the U.S., the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, whose management has made clear that it hopes to draw audience from Mexico and elsewhere in the Americas.
The lack of American involvement in F1 has regularly been cited as the key failing that has prevented the sport from gaining commercial traction in the U.S. However, F1 management is pushing to relaunch in the U.S. with the revived USGP, a new television and internet streaming association with NBC set to begin in 2013, and a second race along the New Jersey shoreline – GP America at Port Imperial – scheduled to debut in 2014 (having been postponed from its originally announced June 2013 date).
Yet all those elements figure to be pushing uphill commercially given the continuing lack of American drivers and teams in F1, which the mooted GP2 or GP3 Americas series would aim to address. The point was further driven home with the announcement that American F1 hopeful Alexander Rossi would not get to drive a third Caterham entry in practice at Austin, as had been previously scheduled, because the team opted to ive its regular drivers additional time on the new track.
Mario Andretti, who serves as a “circuit ambassador” for the Circuit of The Americas, said the limitations on driver participation was holding back outreach to new fans, and suggested a return to the days of teams fielding three cars could help address that.
“I would love F1 to go back to the rule where you could add a third car and have a guest driver come in – that's how I broke in,” Andretti told the UK Globe and Mail newspaper. “If you can have your own guys flying their own flag in their country, it brings a lot more attention. It always plays well and the more buzz you can create, the better.”
Still, the 1978 F1 World Champion said that he believes that the lack of Americans in the field is less an impediment to the success of the USGP than a suitable track to host an F1 race, which is why he feels the new, purpose-built nature Circuit of The Americas is sure to succeed.
"It's a long time coming to have a facility such as that which is able to host proper road racing,” Andretti added. “We have lots of classic road racing courses in the U.S. and in Canada but, outside of Montreal, many of them just really haven't kept up with the times as far as standards for safety and infrastructure. And a road course part of an oval facility does not work, it does not draw and it does not have the ambience road racing fans look for. Now we have a place where we can showcase the top level of the sport – I think every F1 fan in North America should rejoice.”