Stefano Domenicali has said he would like to see an American driver racing in Formula 1, but maintains that they cannot just be there for show.
F1 has in the last few years been trying to diversify itself amid huge interest from all-new demographics.
The biggest of those is the sport’s ever-growing American audience, and over a million viewers in the States tuned in to ESPN’s coverage of the season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix this year.
The presence of Netflix in the paddock in recent seasons has been the catalyst for this new-found wealth of viewers from the US.
The pinnacle of motorsport will travel to Miami this season before returning to Vegas in 2023, meaning that – including the already-established race in Texas – there will be three American races on the calendar next season.
American drivers of the past include champions Phill Hill and Mario Andretti, but interest from that part of the world has wavered since Andretti departed after his sole championship with Lotus in 1978.
Scott Speed was never able to fulfil the anticipation around him, and Alex Rossi made two appearances with Manor Marussia in 2015, but headed back to IndyCar amid the sheer difficulties of breaking into F1 full-time.
As a result, Domenicali stresses that an American racer cannot just be dropped into F1 as a courtesy; they have to be there on merit.
“It is important because of course people make the difference. They are the protagonists with whom everyone feels connected and their faces are always a reference. But it has to be real,” said Domenicali.
“They have to be fast, otherwise it comes back like a boomerang. That’s why we are also working with the American Federation to invest in that. It is definitely something that is not easy to achieve.
“It will take time, but we are putting focus on it. It would definitely have a big effect. That’s why we work together and we respect the roles, but for an organiser or promoter who wants to develop their business in the United States, an American man or woman can be very important from a commercial point of view.”
Gene Haas entered a team into Formula 1 in 2016 having taken title glory in NASCAR two years prior with Kevin Harvick.
The Haas team have since become an established team on the grid, and their adeptness in the new technical regulations will only be helping F1’s light shine over the United States.
As a result, Greg Maffei, president and CEO of F1 owners Liberty Media, believes that it is only a matter of time until we see an American driver back in the sport.
“I want to say we have an American team, we have Haas. With an event like Las Vegas and all the other things we are doing in the US, it is becoming more and more likely we will have an American driver soon,” he said.
The race in Vegas will be the third held in the city after the two Casers Palace Grand Prix in 1981 and 1982.