Eddie Cheever says that F1 needs an American driver if the sport is to be successful when it returns to his home country next season.
The Circuit of the Americas
is due to host its first F1 race in 2012 while the streets of New Jersey will also join the schedule in 2013, although there are currently no American drivers on the grid for fans to cheers on.
Speaking to Sports Illustrated
, Cheever said he felt it would be difficult for the sport to be a success without American representation in the field especially given the fall out from the 2005 race at Indianapolis where just six cars started after the Michelin-shod teams withdrew on safety grounds.
"I don't think Formula 1 can be successful in America without an American driver, but there are a lot of Ferrari
fans who follow the sport everywhere and there are American Formula 1 fans," he said. "There would be a lot more success with American drivers. We were doing well at Indianapolis until they dropped the ball with the tyre fiasco in 2005. The fans are very fickle and they didn't come back."
Cheever added that it would take time to encourage young American drivers to look at F1, with drivers currently more focused on either NASCAR or IndyCar instead.
"Almost all of the young drivers in America want to be in NASCAR and we need more to want to get to F1,” he said. “Just having one driver won't do it. Maybe having one in F1 would galvanize F1 in America so more young drivers wanted to get involved.
"It is a process that is going to take a long time, a five-year plan supported by a corporation or a car manufacturer to develop talent."