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F1 looking to stage American support series?

13 November 2012

Media reports over the weekend suggest that Formula One Management is looking at setting up a GP2-style feeder and support series for Grand Prix events held in the US, Canada and Brazil. (See main story in the F1 channel.)

According to ESPN, company documents show that FOM is actively discussing the formation of a new regional championship to support the current three Grand Prix events in Austin, Texas, Montreal in Canada and Sao Paulo in Brazil, as well as the street race planned for New Jersey from 2014.

The plans are the result of the success of the existing GP2 and GP3 Series in helping boost grassroots interest and support for F1 as a whole in Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Using similar-style cars and regulations to F1, GP2 has been widely credited for bringing on a whole new talent of driving talent into F1 since its inception in 2005. Past series champions and runners-up including Lewis Hamilton, Nico Hulkenberg, Nico Rosberg, Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov, Timo Glock and Heikki Kovalainen.

An Americas championship could also help develop a new generation of American F1 drivers. The US currently has no representation on the Grand Prix grid since the exit of former Toro Rosso driver Scott Speed in 2007. Speed himself competed in GP2 in its inaugural year before moving to F1.

GP2 has come under some fire for its driving standards in 2012, after two of its graduates - Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado - repeatedly found themselves mired in on-track incidents and controversies in Grand Prix races this year. Grosjean was even banned for a race after his driving error caused a dangerous accident at the start of this year's Belgian Grand Prix.

FOM will also need to be wary of overreaching, given the fate of the short-lived winter GP2 Asia Series, which finally came to an unfortunate end in 2011 after a season truncated to just four weekends because of political unrest in Bahrain that forced organisers to hold the final race at the distinctly non-Asian Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, Italy. For 2012, the Asian events have been folded into an expanded main GP2 Series.

GP2 and GP3 are still very well regarded by the sport and by fans. The two series contribute $44.8m in revenues, or 2.9% of the total, to FOM - although the income is expressly separate from the F1 prize money fund.

The plans are yet to be green-lit, and it's not known when such a series might get underway if they were to be given the go-ahead. The series is likely to be limited to the four Grand Prix weekends initially, although it could add stand-along events across the continent in future.


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