Bobby Epstein, chairman of the Circuit of the Americas, has claimed that Formula 1's growth in the US is being limited by the lack of a genuine American challenger.
US viewership dipped by nearly 10% in 2023 compared to the previous year - although still a long way above pre-Drive to Survive numbers - and Epstein has admitted that there's one thing above all else which would help juice the numbers.
The only American driver currently racing in the series is Logan Sargeant, who finished 21st in the drivers' standings. The Florida native picked up his only point of the season at COTA after Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc were disqualified for technical irregularities.
Sargeant was outqualified by team-mate Alex Albon at every single one of the season's 22 races, as the wait for an American race winner continues to stretch on - now standing at over 45 years since Mario Andretti took the flag at the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix.
Speaking to the Athletic, Epstein said: “We’re already at a good point, so a plateau would be great. A rise above (each) year would be even better. But I don’t think you’re going to see the meteoric growth continue until you have a couple more ingredients. I think one would be, certainly, a track battle with an American driver vying for first.
“Americans - and maybe it’s like that anywhere, but more so in this sport - you’re going to root for your guy to win,” he continued. “You don’t build the same excitement and passion around not being competitive, simply because he’s from this country.”
Tom Garfinkel managing partner of the Miami Grand Prix and Miami Dolphins CEO, pushed back on that narrative a little - insisting that plenty of growth has been made without a competitive American driver thus far.
“It would certainly be a great thing, (but) I don’t know that it’s paramount to the success or the fandom,” he said. “The fandom has grown substantially without that, and there’s a lot of compelling stories.”
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