Jenson Button has admitted that he is looking forward to returning to America for the first United States Grand Prix after seeing the progress being made in Austin.
The Texan state capital is gearing up to host the F1 circus on an all-new purpose-built facility which, despite suffering teething troubles at the start of its construction, is steadily beginning to take shape.
The first race the organisers face is to get the circuit and its facilities completed in time for the event's scheduled November debut, after financial wrangling and failing relations with the workforce saw progress halted after much of the initial earthworks were completed. Recent media reports now claim that, with all hands back on deck, the site could be ready as early as August. Italiaracing.net revealed last week that 'workers are working six days a week to complete the paddock buildings and grandstands', while the local Austin American Statesman newspaper confirmed that 'tonnes of equipment and hundreds of workers' had arrived on site since the new accord between chief financier Bobby Epstein and Bernie Ecclestone had been agreed.
Although the actual track surface will be among the last things to appear, Button told journalists at McLaren's official 2012 launch that he was looking forward to tackling what, on paper, looks to be an intriguing layout.
“I'm really excited about heading back to the States,” the 2009 world champion said, “I've never been to Austin, but I've heard great things about the city itself, and I've also heard great things about the circuit and the layout.
“I remember racing in the States before in Indianapolis, which was a good circuit, but, with the steps that Austin has taken to make sure this is a proper F1 circuit, I think we're going to love it. It's going to be a lot of fun. Hopefully we have the support of the American fans, and hopefully we can put on a great show when we get there.”
Such is the rise in confidence that the Circuit of the Americas will be completed in time for the F1 event, organisers have opened the ticketing process by launching a 'select seating wait list', the first of two ticketing stages designed to help fans purchase seats for the USGP and other series slated for the venue.
Button's team boss, Martin Whitmarsh, explained that it was important for the sport to return to America, and put on a good show.
"I think all the teams believe it's very important and we've got to make a success of it this time," he stressed, "As we all know, our time in America has been spasmodic and unsuccessful, so we have to treat it almost as a new market. But, you know, there's a huge interest in F1 that is untapped in the States. We've just got to work harder. America doesn't need F1; we need it more than it needs us, so I think the onus has got to be on the teams, the promoter, all of us, to work -- and the commercial rights holder -- to work very hard to make sure that we educate, we promote, we develop the interest, we reach out in America.
"We've got a real challenge, but it's important to our commercial partners. The States is still a rather big market for any multinational company and, again, I think the teams need to work together. We won't create interest in McLaren F1 team or Vodafone McLaren Mercedes without there being an inherent interest in our sport. We started a range of fan forums, which were very popular, in the last 18 months, through what was originally a photo initiative. It is our intention to continue those, reaching out to fans. They take a lot of time and a lot of organisation, but a lot of people turn up and the quality of the audience has been fantastic.
"F1 doesn't reach out enough to the fan base and I think we've got to work harder at that and make sure that we're seen as accessible, as interested in their views. You know, the teams have worked hard with fan surveys. The DRS, which I think was a significant development, the overtaking capability of the DRS, came as a consequence of feedback from the fans and an effort on the part of the teams to make the sport more attractive and meet their needs. So I think there's a whole range of things that we've got to do, working together as teams and commercial rights holder and promoter to make sure that we are successful in America this time."