Hollywood director Ron Howard, the man behind the forthcoming movie Rush
, reckons that F1 can be a success in the United States if it gives the Americans more than a fleeting interest in the sport.
Admitting that US sporting mentality is different to other parts of the globe, Howard – who confesses to have become a firm F1 fan after years of taking only a passing interest in it – suggests that adding to the current world championship round at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas would help boost the sport's following.
“There haven't been a lot of races in the US,” the former Happy Days
star told the official F1 website, “Sports - and the idea of a home team - are very important to America. With all sports, there is the actual activity - the game that's being played - but then there is also 'your' team. It's a bit like the way Europeans feel about their football teams. F1 is this kind of roaming circus - it's that kind of wild event. I think the time zone difference also has a huge impact - it was somehow never convenient to watch the races.
“I used to watch the start, then got occupied with something else, then checked back once in a while to see who is leading, and watched the finish. Otherwise, my mind would wander somewhere else. Now, when I watch a race, I can't even get up to go to the toilet - I stay glued to the action because now I understand it well enough.”
The race in Austin – which gets its second outing in November – and the annual Canadian and Brazilian grands prix are currently the only rounds taking place in time zones convenient for an American audience but, with rumours of possible calendar additions in New Jersey and Mexico, Howard reckons that interest on the 'other' side of the Atlantic could swell.
“If you have Canada, then a couple of races in the US and Mexico - when you come to the continent and stay some time on the continent and in similar time zones - that would make a huge difference in how Americans would see F1,” he explained, denying suggestions that the sport was also 'too complicated - technically and strategically' for the US audience.
“They would catch up very quickly as it is actually very modern and fascinating - and soon they would understand it,” he continued, “But, instead of coming for one big event and then going away, I think more races are the answer to all these questions.
“Austin will continue, it would be great if there is New Jersey, there is already Montreal, then find something on the West Coast, and then maybe Mexico - that would be a proper introduction of F1 to the US.”
With his dramatised version of events from the 1976 world championship due to hit the big screen in the next few weeks, Howard admits that he has much admiration for the men who put themselves behind the wheel, even though conditions have changed since the days of James Hunt and Niki Lauda.
“I think it still takes a lot of courage to test yourself in that way,” he concluded, “It is not only the risk of death or serious injury - although that still exists in their minds - but it is also the fear of failure that is sometimes more important to men than anything else. They are testing themselves constantly and they are willing to subject themselves in the most public way.
“You can say that about a lot of athletes, but it is a bit like golf and tennis: they are out there alone - even if they have a team behind them. So you could argue that they are half heroes and half madmen – but, for sure, [they are] 100 per cent world-class athletes.”