With the sport having sealed its return to America from 2012, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has now turned his attentions to securing the next coup of an American driver on the grand prix grid – and it seems the British billionaire still has his sights set on Danica Patrick.
Having last been held at Indianapolis in 2007, the US Grand Prix will be resurrected in two years' time at a new, $200 million purpose-built facility close to Austin, after a decade-long deal was inked with Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM) company to take the top flight back across the Pond once again – and promoter Tavo Hellmund has expressed his optimism that so perfect is the match, 'we could race here for the next 40 years' [see separate story – click here
However, rumours continue to abound that there could eventually be two
races in the US for the first time since 1984 – with New York thought to be the most viable option to join the Texan capital on the calendar – and whilst Ecclestone admits he is open to that idea, for now, he insists, the focus is all on Austin.
“Let's make one thing clear – Austin will be the US Grand Prix,” the 79-year-old stressed in an interview with the official F1 website, “but that does not mean that we cannot have another race in the US with another label. I would be insane if there were the option to race in New York and I said 'no thanks' – but for now that's nothing more than a pipe dream. The reality is we have a contract with Austin, and it is there where the US Grand Prix will be staged.”
Moreover, Ecclestone opined that the success of the venture would only be facilitated were an American driver to join the fray for the first time since Scott Speed's acrimonious mid-season departure from Scuderia Toro Rosso three years ago, to help to put right the damage done by the embarrassing USF1 débâcle
and the withdrawal of the Cypher Group's bid for 2011 entry.
“Regarding an American driver, we have tried that lately but obviously what's missing is the right attitude,” stated the sport's influential commercial rights-holder. “You can race successfully in the US without the huge effort you need to succeed in F1, but to have someone like Danica Patrick in F1 would be a perfect advert.”
“Of course, it would be fantastic to have an American driver and a team would be great, sure, but it's no real necessity,” concurred Hellmund, who nonetheless went on to voice an alternative possibility. “There is a young Mexican driver [Sergio] Perez who is doing a great job in GP2 right now. For him, the 2012 US Grand Prix could be a sort of home race – the distance from Austin to Mexico is a mere 150 miles.”