Circuit of the Americas founder and chairman Bobby Epstein says Lewis Hamilton is playing a significant role in pushing Formula 1 in the United States ahead of a weekend that could see him wrap up the 2015 title there.
The Englishman's ninth win of the season last time out in Russia has seen him move into 'match point' position coming to Texas having opened up his advantage over Sebastian Vettel to 66 points, knowing a 75 point margin by the end of the weekend will see him defend his crown.
It comes as the Austin venue prepares to host its fourth edition of the United States Grand Prix, a round that is increasingly beginning to find its place in the notoriously tricky American motorsport market.
Indeed, though there were concerns the introduction of Mexico to the calendar in a back-to-back couplet of races would harm ticket sales, Epstein says the attraction and success of Hamilton – and his ability to resonate with American audiences beyond F1 – has been a big draw this year.
“I think Lewis is the one to focus on, and his accomplishments,” Epstein told Crash.net
. “I think people are excited to see Hamilton and some of the other drivers who have become famous.
“Lewis is popular in the US. Even seeing Lewis, the boxing match in Vegas for the big fight this year, the Pacquaio-Mayweather one, or some of the other things he participates in, I think he's becoming well known now. I assume it happens globally, but certainly his brand and brand equity in the US has increased a lot over the past year.”
With the American Haas outfit debuting in 2016, this year's race will also see an American competing on home soil for the first time since Scott Speed raced at the 2007 Indianapolis race, with Alex Rossi lining up for Manor. It is an addition that Epstein describes as 'extra special'.
“Alexander was the first one ever to try the track when I reopened it. He came to town to do a fashion week event where he was a featured guest and so he came out to try part of the track. So it's extra special that he's the one that is driving this weekend.”