Why Are There No American Drivers In Formula 1?

If you have looked closely, you may have wondered why the American drivers are absent from Formula 1 .

Mario Andretti and the Grand Prix route

The last American driver to make a major achievement in Formula 1 was Mario Andretti, who was runner-up in 1977 and champion in 1978 with Team Lotus. Photo: Flickr-United Autosports

LatinAmerican Post | Luis Ángel Hernández Liborio

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Leer en español: ¿Por qué no hay pilotos estadounidenses en la Formula 1?

Since 1950, the United Kingdom, Germany and Brazil have topped the list of Formula 1 drivers' titles. As a fan, you have surely wondered where the United States and its drivers are. Being a country with a great automotive tradition, economic and technological capacity, it is striking that its drivers are not protagonists and that it is not a competitive country like those mentioned above. What is the reason for this curious situation?

The United States in Formula 1

The last 13 Formula 1 champion titles have been held by drivers from two countries: the United Kingdom and Germany. Even if you look closely, those 13 titles have fallen to only 4 drivers: Lewis Hamilton (7), Sebastian Vettel (4), Jenson Button (1), and Nico Rosberg (1). The last American driver to make a major achievement in Formula 1 was Mario Andretti, who was runner-up in 1977 and champion in 1978 with Team Lotus. Before Andretti, there were also two notable antecedents: Richie Ginther's third-place finish in 1963 with BRM and Phil Hill's first United States title in the 1961 season with Ferrari.

So, to the question of why the United States has not had, nor does it have many drivers in Formula 1. The short answer would be because they are mostly unprepared. This is confusing because it seems incongruous that a country with a legendary automotive tradition does not have drivers at the level of F1. This brings us to the main reason, the United States has top-notch automotive competitions that absorb top talent from home and abroad, examples of these competitions are the IndyCar series, the 24 Hours of Daytona, the Indy 500, and of course NASCAR.

Therefore, the type of cars, the type of competitions, and the technical and physical requirements are different from Formula 1. It is not impossible for a driver emanating from American competitions to jump to Formula 1. However, it has nuances that can make it difficult for pilots to adapt. A recent case is that of Sébastien Bourdais, who is not American, but French, but serves as an example because he is an award-winning driver in American competitions, including the Champ Car and the 24 Hours of Daytona. Bourdais made the leap to Formula 1 in 2008 with Scuderia Toro Rosso, who left the team after poor results, according to The Guardian. For this reason, making the leap from the United States to Formula 1 is not an easy decision for either the drivers or the teams concerned.

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The United States has a team that has represented them in Formula 1 since 2016: Haas. The team belongs to Gene Haas who also owns a NASCAR team. However, when it comes to drivers there is a clear division between the two teams. Currently, in Formula 1 they compete with the Russian Nikita Mazepin and the German Mick Schumacher, neither American. In 2018, the team was still young, Guenther Steiner commented that they were interested in having an American driver at some point, however, he considered that there was no one in the picture who could do it, according to information from Motor Sport.

America's future in F1

Formula 1 is not the most popular sport in the United States, it is far surpassed by its local racing competitions. A few years ago the same question that is asked about Formula 1 was asked about soccer, why did such an important country have such a low level in soccer? Against the MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL, and motorsports, soccer was not important to fans. It was until the fans and business people became interested that MLS was born, which has raised the level of American soccer. "Producing" American drivers for Formula 1 would require popularity in the country so that more children and young people are interested in becoming drivers in this competition, and not just for NASCAR or the IndyCar series.

For now, Americans who want to compete in F1 have to scour the European teams and compete with drivers from around the world for a place. The last Americans to compete were Scott Speed with Toro Rosso, who ended his relationship with the team after discussions with managers and without accumulating points, in addition to Alexander Rossi who had brief appearances between 2012 and 2015 but did not achieve a permanent seat. The new bet of F1 is to promote the sport in the United States, first with a Grand Prix in Miami, in addition to the already existing United States Grand Prix, the next objective would be to have an American driver, for which F1 has already urged to the teams to take them into account.