Martin Whitmarsh welcomes return to America as a 'golden opportunity' for F1
Weekend is "an invaluable commerical opportunity" says McLaren boss
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 12/11/12 1:01pm
McLaren chief Martin Whitmarsh hopes that the Circuit of the Americas will prove to be a permanent home for the United States GP as F1 gears up for a renewed attempt to crack America this weekend.
After an uncomfortable five-year absence from the States, F1 will finally once again cross the Atlantic this week for the inaugural race at the purpose-built facility on the outskirts of Austin, Texas.
While F1 has endured a fractious relationship with America, particularly after the farcical 2005 U.S. GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when sixteen cars withdrew from the race due to safety fears, the importance of F1 making a successful return cannot be overstated.
America represents the second-largest car sales market in the world and Whitmarsh says that this weekend marks an "invaluable commercial opportunity for the sport."
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"This should be a great race for Formula 1," commented the McLaren boss. "I've always maintained that Formula 1's presence in the United States is crucial, so I'm personally pleased and satisfied that we're finally returning to America after spending far too long away from its shores.
"On a wider level, the arrival of a state-of-the-art, purpose-built grand prix track is perfect for Formula 1, and this is a golden opportunity for the sport to finally put down roots and find a long-term home."
Previews of the circuit, which runs anti-clockwise and is expected to have a lap time of around one minute and forty seconds, have revealed a hybrid track similar in style to Silverstone with a number of sweeping undulations and a dramatic steep uphill climb to the first corner. The ultimate proof will be in the pudding but having familiarised himself with the circuit on McLaren's simulator Jenson Button has already given the 3.4-mile lay-out an enthusiastic endorsement.
A lap around Austin
"Austin is epic!" Button tweeted to his followers, before adding: "On paper, the circuit looks to have a little bit of everything - the plan-view certainly looks familiar; you can see elements of the Maggotts/Becketts complex from Silverstone; there's a reverse of Istanbul Park's Turn Eight, too; and I can even see a bit of the Hockenheim infield, too.
"Whether those elements will blend together to make a satisfying whole remains to be seen, but there are a couple of long straights into tight corners, too, which should at least open up the possibility of overtaking. I think we're in for a fantastic weekend."
F1 certainly hopes so.