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Windsor: Shame on F1 for overlooking American talent

12 August 2009

2010 F1 newcomer USF1 has ramped up its efforts to secure an all-American driver line-up for its debut at the highest level next year, with team co-founder Peter Windsor arguing that the so-called 'pinnacle' of international motor racing should be ashamed of itself for having rarely paid sufficient attention to talent from across the Pond.

Having already eschewed the admittedly 'tempting' prospect of signing well-heeled pay drivers from other countries to boost the coffers in its inaugural season of competition, and having suggested that IndyCar's leading lady Danica Patrick is 'too big' for F1 [see separate story – click here], Windsor has revealed that USF1's determination to stay true to its ethos and nurture and promote up-and-coming young Stateside racers remains as strong as ever.

The last American driver to attempt to crack F1 was Scott Speed two years ago, but the California native – much like compatriot Michael Andretti 14 years earlier – returned across the Atlantic again with his tail between his legs after failing to make the grade. In another parallel, both drivers were unceremoniously dropped mid-season, Andretti in favour of future double F1 World Champion Mika Hakkinen at McLaren, and Speed for Sebastian Vettel at Scuderia Toro Rosso, after he found himself occupying what has now become widely regarded as the Red Bull 'junior' concern's revolving ejector seat.

American drivers have, however, enjoyed a considerable degree of success in the top flight over its official 60-year history, with a brace of world champions in the shape of Phil Hill and Mario Andretti. Moreover, no fewer than 15 Americans have stood atop the rostrum in F1, sharing between them a total of 33 grand prix victories.

“There are very good American drivers out there,” former Williams and Ferrari team manager-turned-broadcaster Windsor told Sports Illustrated. “To be honest, shame on Formula 1 and shame on American motorsport that some of these great young Americans with single-seater talent have not been nurtured more and given more opportunity.

“We're looking at that scenario right now. We need to make the effort to get Americans in our car. That was always our goal and it still [is] our goal.”

Amongst those understood to be in the running for a USF1 berth in 2010 are Indy Lights ace and F3 Euroseries and A1GP race-winner Jonathan Summerton, as well as IndyCar Series front-runners Graham Rahal – son of former F1 pilot and Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby – and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Teenage Atlantic Championship prodigy John Edwards and runaway Indy Lights pace-setter J.R. Hildebrand are also reckoned to be under consideration for a role.

Even if a more experienced, non-American could yet be selected to fill one of the cockpits to help to get the North Carolina-based outfit off the mark – respected former Williams, McLaren and Benetton star Alex Wurz has been mooted – it remains likely that the second seat and reserve role will both be filled by home-grown heroes.

Another name that has been mentioned is that of NASCAR favourite Kyle Busch, though the man from Nevada, much like Patrick – whose repeated shunning by F1 Windsor finds 'unbelievable' – has sought to distance himself from the speculation linking him to USF1, which will run in 2010 under the patriotic slogan 'Made in America'. Like Patrick with Honda (now Brawn GP), Busch was slated to test a Toyota F1 car in Japan in late 2008, but the outing was ultimately called off.


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