Formula 1 racing is one of the most popular sports in the world. However, it has never been a major sport in America. The first Formula One race held on U.S soil was not until 1959 at Sebring International Raceway in Florida. This article will be exploring how Formula 1 racing became more popular and what led to its recent downfall in America.
Formula One Racing in the U.S began with a pilot named Alec Ulmann who created an event called “Grand Prix of Endurance” at Sebring International Raceway, Florida
The first Formula One race was held on American soil from 1959 to 1960, and beginning in 1962 through 1965 it was run as part of the FIA’s series world championship under the title United States Grand Prix. It had its own trophy: The Vanderbilt Cup.
Towards the end of 1969, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) president Jean-Marie Balestre announced that he would no longer support any races, not part of Formula A or JGP due to unfairness problems over safety standards between Formula A and Formula B.
This caused the cancellation of the 1969 United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach, California in April 1969 because it was not part of either series. Later that year, after pressure from race promoters who were trying to save their races; USAC announced they would make a standard called “Formula 5000” for racing cars with stock blocks (F5000) which meant only F5000 could be run by 1972 unless new rules allowed other engines like UOP/IndyCar type engine or an equivalency formula could be agreed upon between competing manufacturers. The FIA decided instead on adding additional regulations for F-5000’s calling them “Grand Touring Prototypes”, these GTPs were mainly used as support races to Formula One Grands Prix.
In 1971, the US Formula changed to a closed wheel design with F5000 cars being adapted as well. In 1983 after several near misses of safety problems at Indianapolis and elsewhere in North America, FIA president Balestre announced he would no longer sanction any international races not part of Formula A or JGP world championships which meant that the United States Grand Prix West held from 1976-1983 was canceled for 1984 season leaving only one race on American soil per year. This caused so much tension between CART manufacturers who wanted more freedom in the designs they formed an alternate series called “CART” (later known as Champ Car) where most teams continued to use Cosworth/Ford engines until 1987 when it switched over to turbocharged engines. This split the North American open-wheel racing market with Formula One drivers leaving CART for FISA’s new world championship series called “Indycar” (which became IndyCar in 2003) which included road courses, street circuits, and ovals.
Since 2007, Formula One has returned to the United States with a race at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. However, this is considered to be more of an exhibition event rather than a true Grand Prix.