Sir Lewis Hamilton went into detail during the Miami Grand Prix weekend around the issues with trying to get Americans more invested in Formula 1.
There have been 57 American drivers on the grid throughout F1’s 72-year history, and two of them – Mario Andretti and Phil Hill – have won the championship.
Hill’s 1961 championship success with Ferrari remains the only title won by an American-born racer, and there have been two Americans in the last 15 years to start an F1 race.
IndyCar driver Alex Rossi featured five times for Marussia in 2015, scoring no points in a massively underperforming car, but he has won eight races in the American series, ending the 2018 championship second after losing out to Scott Dixon in the final round.
Before him, Scott Speed competed in 28 races for Toro Rosso in 2006 and 2007, but he retired from 11 of them, and frustration at his performances led the team to drop him midway through 2007 in favour of Sebastian Vettel, who went on to win four titles.
Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali previously said he would love to see an American driver in the sport, but warned that they would “have to be fast.”
Hamilton notes that, with so many other sports taking precedence in the States, it is only in the last few seasons that F1 has managed to tap into the market.
“It doesn’t really surprise me: I think it’s perhaps more a cultural thing, you know, here in the States, it’s the NFL, it’s NBA. It’s NASCAR, IndyCar,” he said.
“And I mean, in my 16 years of coming over here, it’s been such a slow build, trying to bring awareness of the sport.
“Unfortunately, the Americans have to wake up at odd times in order to watch a grand prix.
“But I think this new step that’s been taken, into bringing awareness, the Netflix show has really just brought in that amazing fan base, a sports fan base that we have, that there is here in the US.
“Maybe now’s the time to start focusing on how we can include more people here because it’s such a diverse country.”
Colton Herta has expressed his interest in one day driving for McLaren, and the 22-year-old has showcased his astounding talent in IndyCar and Indy Lights by winning 14 races, so the seven-time champion is certain there is American talent to be found.
“I’m sure there are some amazing drivers here somewhere, as they’ve got so many great sporting talents. So, it’d be a good mission for us to find the next one,” he added.
Pierre Gasly’s first trip to the USA came in 2018 after he had to miss the US Grand Prix in 2017 due to Super Formula commitments, and he observes that F1 culture has certainly grown there in recent seasons.
“Coming here four or five years ago, I remember all the fans knew about NASCAR, not many knew about Formula 1,” said the Frenchman.
“I think to see the evolution, the exposure we got as a sport over the last two, three years, it’s been very impressive and now the fan base is just growing massively.
“And we can feel it, as drivers, when we see Austin last year: 450,000 people coming over the weekend was a very, very special and unique atmosphere. So now very excited to come back here more often with Miami, with Vegas.
“I’m sure with that exposure we’re getting now, more and more people are going to get into the sport and yeah, hopefully we will see more of them in the future.”
Andretti’s success in 1978 with Lotus constitutes the last American championship victory, and only Eddie Cheever has stood on the podium since.