Friday August 17th, 2001
The U.S. public will not be won over by Formula One until they have a home-grown driver or team to support, Jaguar boss Bobby Rahal said on Friday.
"I think for Formula One to achieve any kind of general interest in the United States - it's very much a kind of a niche sport in the United States, unlike anywhere else - it will take an American to be driving in Formula One," he said.
Rahal, an American who tried Formula One briefly in the 1970s and then won the CART title three times before turning his attention to running his own CART team, said more American drivers needed to come over to Europe.
"There's about three or four in England currently and ultimately I think that's what it's going to take," he said at the Hungarian Grand Prix. "Formula One was at its height in popularity in the United States when Mario Andretti was racing," he added.
"But ever since it left Watkins Glen and when it left Long Beach to go to a series of less than ideal circuits it really dropped off the radar screen, so it's going to take some time. Indianapolis will certainly speed up that gain in popularity but ultimately I think its going to take either an American team or an American driver."
The United States returned to the Grand Prix calendar last season with a long-term deal to race at Indianapolis. Before that, the last race in the United States was in Phoenix in 1991. Other venues in the 1980s included Las Vegas - in a casino car park - and Dallas.
Winning American teams of the past include Eagle, who took the 1967 Belgian Grand Prix with American driver Dan Gurney. Andretti was the last American World Champion, with Lotus in 1978. Before him, Phil Hill - whose son Derek is currently competing in Formula 3000 - was Ferrari's World Champion in 1961.
Published at 18:37:20 GMT