Formula 1 is preparing for the United States Grand Prix. The sport quickly became more popular there. Formula 1 itself is increasingly moving closer to America as the promised land. The Americans themselves embrace the fast cars and Max Verstappen, who starts today from second place in search of his third successive victory on American soil.
From the front row of the grid, behind Ferrari's Carlos Sainz, Max Verstappen will be looking for another win in the United States tonight. And here, in the heart of Texas, he scored a decisive and unexpected victory at the Circuit of the Americas last year. Here, in Austin, the world of Formula 1 has also seen in recent years the racing series rapidly become more popular in the United States. Max Verstappen himself is incredibly popular there.
Because in Texas you also see people walking around in Red Bull gear in cities. There's a big poster of Verstappen with the Dutch flag in Austin. Jos den Hartog, a Dutchman who has lived in Austin for thirty years, confirms how Texans feel about Verstappen. He watches every race with a few American-born friends.
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“They're for Max,” he confirms. “It's very popular here.” Another Dutch citizen in Austin, Bart van Cromvoort, has an orange license plate with the word “VERSTAP” on it (in Texas, you are allowed to drive with your own select license plates). That plate was on the car he bought from an American. It's just a small example of the world champion Texan's popularity.
Verstappen himself also feels very comfortable in Austin. “I love the city and the racetrack,” he says. “It was great to win here last year, and I'm looking forward to seeing what we can do this weekend.”
This mutual enthusiasm is rather remarkable. For many years, Formula 1 was not entirely successful in gaining the interest of Americans. Robert Doornbos can confirm this. He knows American racing culture well. The former Formula 1 driver was active in the Champcar World Series and IndyCar, two popular racing series in the United States.
“They didn't like Formula 1 in the past,” Doorenbos says of Americans' opinion. “They didn't like that you could only win with the fastest car.” In the United States, they love stories like the one he wrote when he ended up there. Ended by Dorenbos K Inexperienced, in his first race with the relatively small Minardi Team USA team, immediately finished second during the Champcar World Series in Las Vegas. ,,a Inexperienced “Whoever beats big teams with a small team, they love that in America.”
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Doornbos also knows why Verstappen is so popular. “They are embracing him because he has shown great things so quickly as a young talent. Plus, Red Bull was already a big brand in America. Americans think that a champion athlete who gets wings in a Red Bull car is gold. Can he grow even bigger there? Actually I don't think so. Because he keeps his private life private. Americans also like to be taken into a hero's private life. That's part of it and that's why I don't think Max will become a bigger hero there.
But Formula 1 itself has not yet grown in the United States. This year, the Grand Prix will be held in Austin for the 10th time, while there was also a race in Miami. Next season, the circus will visit America three times, while there will also be a Grand Prix in Las Vegas. Formula 1 clearly sees the United States as the promised land for the sport's global popularity.
“It's simple,” Doornbos says. “Bernie Ecclestone (the British businessman who owned Formula 1 for over forty years and led the commercial rise of the sport, ed.) sold Formula 1 to Liberty Media, a large American company. They put an American sauce on the sport. Louder, faster and more exciting. They are born artists and know how to convey something. The sport belongs here and I think Formula 1 is now an integral part of America. That's why the American driver must come next year at any cost. This provides more exposure.
That American will likely come in the person of Logan Sargeant. Williams team principal Jost Capito announced on Saturday morning that the 21-year-old from Boca Raton, Florida, will in principle have a seat next year. To achieve this, Sargent just needs to obtain his super licence, something Williams is trying hard to achieve. Then Americans will have a citizen to embrace.
But today they will do it again with Verstappen, who can achieve his thirteenth win this season in front of a large number of visitors. If he manages to overtake Sainz and stay ahead of the rest, he will equal the record for victories in one season held by Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel. In any case, the recent findings in the United States offer good hope for achieving this goal.
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