Why don't more Americans follow Formula 1?
Maverick Stryder

The Motorsports Culture Disparity

Dear readers, today I want you to sit comfortably, for we're going on a ride. A ride that starts on the ruffled roads of Adelaide Australia, takes a pit stop across the Atlantic in America, and zooms straight into the heart of Formula 1 racing. Now, you might be wondering, what on earth is Maverick rambling about? Well, the question I'm posing here is simple - why don't more Americans follow Formula 1? Let's buckle our seat belts and throttle forward in search for the answers.

American motorsports culture is of a completely different breed compared to the rest of the world. When we think of American racing culture, we instinctively imagine the roaring engines of NASCAR and IndyCar, the colourful speedways and die-hard fans. In contrast, Formula 1, which is immensely popular in Europe and other parts of the world, like our very own Australia, doesn't have a massive following in America. Difficult to fathom? Absolutely. But let's delve deeper.

Hitting the Brake on Familiarity

First off, let's discuss familiarity, or the lack thereof. The average American Joe or Jane probably grew up around baseball, basketball or football, not Formula 1 racing. These sports are integral to American culture, while Formula 1 has never really found its feet to kick off from the starting line in America. In contrast, in places like Europe, where Formula 1 is a big deal, children are often introduced to it at a young age, and thus the familiarity, interest, and passion grow naturally over time.

So, it's not about a shortcoming in the excitement or competitiveness of Formula 1. Trust me, if there is one thing I can vouch for, it's that - there is adrenaline, there are octane moments, and there is a mesmerising blend of technology, human skill, and strategy. But if you are not familiar with something, or if it doesn’t hold that nostalgic grasp, you may not take out time to follow it.

The Speedway Vs The Grand Prix Saga

The next stop on our exploration quest is understanding the difference between Oval (Speedway) and Circuit (Grand Prix) racing. You can argue that one may not be necessarily better than the other, but they are undoubtedly different. IndyCar or NASCAR, American's homegrown motorsports, is primarily about Oval racing, which introduces its own unique set of skills and challenges. However, fans love it due to the speed and the close combat racing it offers. Whilst believing that Oval racing is superior, the turn left sport leaves little appetite for the twist and turns of Formula 1 circuit racing.

On the other hand, Formula 1 races take place on a variety of circuits that require a different skill set. Each track is unique with its own blend of straights, curves and challenging corners. This variety moves the focus from pure speed to strategy, technical prowess and driver ability. While this works fine for Europeans who have grown up with such variety, Americans might not find this as appealing.

Is the Media Playing the Yellow Flag?

You may not realise it, but the media plays a significant role in shaping what sports we follow. In America, the media landscape is so saturated with baseball, basketball, American football and to a lesser extent, NASCAR and IndyCar, that there is hardly any space left for Formula 1. Plus, the broadcast timings of Formula 1 races usually fall outside of the prime slots due to the time zone differences, restricting them from reaching a wider audience.

If you were to switch on the telly in the middle of any random day, you're far more likely to find a baseball game or even a rerun of the Superbowl than you are to find a Formula 1 race. Unless you're specifically seeking out Formula 1, the media isn't doing a whole lot to make you aware that the sport even exists.

The American Driver – Where Art Thou?

An interesting fact to consider is the lack of an American presence on the Formula 1 grid. The last American driver in Formula 1 was Scott Speed, and his departure back in 2007 let the position empty. Could it be that local heroes inspire interest and passion in a sport? You bet! A sure-fire way to increase Formula 1's popularity in America is to have a successful homegrown driver.

Think about it. Who would Americans cheer for in the paddock? Who would be on the posters in their children's bedrooms? Not having an American driver in Formula 1 for so long hasn't done any favours to the sport's popularity over there.

The Next Pit Stop- The Future of Formula 1 in America

The good news is, things are changing. Formula 1 recognises the potential market in America, and they have been making efforts to increase their foothold. New races are being introduced, like the Miami Grand Prix from 2022, ensuring American fans don't have to wake up in the early hours to catch the action.

Moreover, Netflix's Formula 1: Drive to Survive series has done wonders in elevating the sport's visibility and glamorising it to Americans. As they get a sneak peek into the lives of drivers, the behind-the-scenes politics, the adrenaline of the race day, and the intensity of team rivalries, the perception of Formula 1 as a distant European sport has started to fade.

My belief is that with collective efforts and the right push, more Americans could be revving up their engines to follow Formula 1. As for myself, Maverick, hailing from Adelaide, Australia, I will continue making my aussie mates and readers around the globe familiar with the mesmerising world of Formula 1. The culture might be diverse, but passion for motorsports is universal.

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