McLaren-Mercedes managing director Jonathan Neale has welcomed the sport's forthcoming return to America with the recently-announced revival of the US Grand Prix from 2012 – but he cautioned that if the event is to be a long-term success, it must be handled properly this time.
After New York, Monticello Motor Club and Indianapolis were all linked with staging the race, the announcement earlier this week that the Texan capital of Austin had been given the nod came as a bolt-out-of-the-blue to most, with a ten-year deal having been struck with Formula One Management (FOM) chief executive Bernie Ecclestone to re-instate on the calendar an event that has fallen repeatedly in-and-out-of-favour in recent decades.
The last US Grand Prix to be held was at Indy in 2007, following which a failure to agree financial terms saw the race disappear from the schedule, and the infamous tyre débâcle
and non-event of 2005 – allied to no fewer than five different venues in the 1980s as the race jumped around from state-to-state – give some indication of F1's struggles across the other side of the Pond. This time around, Neale insists, a better job must be made of the endeavour by all parties.
“I think most of us in F1 would relish the opportunity to go back to America,” the Englishman confessed in a special pre-Turkish Grand Prix Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes Phone-In Session. “I would say it's fantastic news if it turns out to be true and if we can make it happen. It's a really important place for us to be – our sponsors all want to operate there – and I think F1 has to do something about the package and the way in which we present it to make it acceptable to one of the world's largest markets.
“I think we should ask the Americans, we should look at what the TV networks want, we should look at the way in which sport is consumed in America and say 'do we have an offering that's going to work over a weekend when the American culture provides for family life and sport in a slightly different way?' I think we may have to look at the whole formula for working in America just to serve that market.
“There's a FOTA (Formula One Teams' Association) commercial committee as well as CVC and FOM who I'm sure want the same thing, so they're now looking at how to make that happen. If we are going back to the States then that's a breakthrough, and I think we should make a really good attempt at doing it well.”