Mario Andretti says American F1 fans should 'rejoice' new Circuit of the Americas
1978 Champion admits first purpose-built facility in the U.S. overdue
Last Updated: 14/11/12 9:26am
Racing legend Mario Andretti believes Formula 1 fans in America should "rejoice" the opening of the new Circuit of the Americas ahead of the venue's inaugural grand prix this weekend.
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For the first time in the sport's history, a U.S. Grand Prix will be staged at a purpose-built facility for F1 on Sunday with the layout of the new Austin circuit already having received rave reviews from drivers in wake of simulator runs.
And Andretti, who became one of the first men to drive the undulating circuit in an opening ceremony last month, admits such a facility is long overdue for local F1 fans.
"It's a long time coming to have a facility such as that which is able to host proper road racing," the 1978 World Champion told Canada's Globe and Mail newspaper.
"We have lots of classic road racing courses in the U.S. and in Canada but, outside of Montreal, many of them just really haven't kept up with the times as far as standards for safety and infrastructure.
"And a road course part of an oval facility does not work, it does not draw and it does not have the ambience road racing fans look for. Now we have a place where we can showcase the top level of the sport - I think every F1 fan in North America should rejoice."
But although F1 is returning to the United States for the first time in five years, the sport remains without an American driver.
Andretti, who got his F1 break driving a third Lotus car in the late 1960s, reckons a return to three-car line-ups would make it more attractive for teams to run local drivers for one-off races.
"I would love F1 go back to the rule where you could add a third car and have guest driver come in - that's how I broke in," he said.
"If you can have your own guys flying their own flag in their country, it brings a lot more attention. It always plays well and the more buzz you can create, the better."