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Video: First drive of New Jersey F1 track by Sebastian Vettel
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Posted By: James Allen  |  13 Jun 2012   |  11:19 am GMT  |  68 comments

World Champion Sebastian Vettel became the first F1 driver to sample the new Port Imperial circuit this week, which will host the Grand Prix of America next June.

Vettel stopped off after Montreal in New York both to drive the street circuit, which is still under construction and to make an appearance on the popular David Letterman show.

Vettel drove the track in a road car as part of a promotion for Red Bull partner Infiniti and described the circuit as like a street circuit version of Spa Francorchamps, due to the elevation changes.

“It’s a pretty steep uphill and there are some nice corners up there, which makes it really fun to drive,” Vettel said. “It’s truly unique. Certainly the up and down aspect, with the elevation, that’s something the drivers always enjoy. And you still have bumps built in even if you resurface, and that gives a little bit of soul to the course.”

Vettel described the spectacle of the circuit set against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline as “unreal.”

Meanwhile the FIA’s Charlie Whiting made an initial inspection of the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, which will host the US Grand Prix in Austin in November this year. He gave it the thumbs up, but his final sign off will come in September, 60 days before the race date.

* On the subject of videos, I’ve had a little preview of a very cool video today, which Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton are cooking up with Santander UK for release later this month. It’s linked to the idea of a fantasy race around London.

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68 Comments
  1. TopDog says:

    Would that ‘secret’ be the Grand Prix of London they’ve been promo-ing a lot on the ‘other’ F1 broadcaster in the UK???? Competition been running for around 3 GPs now….

  2. Jack says:

    James, I think Jenson spoke quite a lot about that London Grand Prix thing, if that’s what you’re referring to? They described the track on SKY and ran a competition to see if we could guess where the start-line goes from their description. I guessed the Embankment!

  3. Tom in adelaide says:

    I’m going to get blasted for saying this but….. How is doing donuts promoting safe driving?

    1. Bring Back Murray says:

      He’s putting more rubber down, so there is more grip availalbe when the road is re-opened again to regular drivers :-)

      1. Lawrence says:

        Haha. Murray is still awesome btw.

    2. Hooning is safe, when done under the right conditions… Parked cars on the street with bystanders looking on doesn’t seem super safe though. From what I heard of the event, they didn’t do much to cordon off the circuit, they just gave them a police escort, but hey, it’s Jersey…

    3. Hendo says:

      My thoughts too! Lewis got caned for hoon driving in Melbourne.

  4. Stuart says:

    London Grand Prix! There is a competition with sky advertising it..

  5. Matt says:

    How realistic is it that this will happen?

    Can’t say I’m overly confident given the recent history of F1 racing in the US. And the fact the government can’t simply pay off Bernie like it could in some of the more recent additions to the calendar.

  6. alex hofstetter says:

    Hi James. From the US. First met you in Montreal in 1993 when you spoke to a tour group at my first F1 race.

    I am a skeptic. I don’t think this race will ever happen, although I will go if it does.

    What’s your take?

    1. James Allen says:

      Thanks for the comment.

      I’ve no idea. I never speculate on whether races will happen or not until I have the plan ticket in my hand at the airport.

      Look at Korea in 2010. I’d never have believed that was going to happen..

      What insights can you offer us on why it won’t happen?

      1. alex hofstetter says:

        Doing anything like this in or around New York/New Jersey is incredibly difficult. Has to do with the politicians, unions, organized crime, and the rest of the usual suspects. But the biggest reason is that New York and New Jersey are broke. If any substantial money needs to come from government funding, I don’t see how it can happen.

        Sending huge sums of money to Bernie will be terribly politically incorrect in light of the larger issues for the are: crumbling infrastructure, unfunded pension benefits in the hundreds of billions, high unemployment and a rotten economy.

      2. Capsu78 says:

        I son’t disagree, Alex, but I predict a good outcome based on the fact that there is money to be made in developing that area- both shady and legit! The sponsors can be suckled for more revenue, the guys in the top floors of those buildings can do some company hospitality on their yachts, house guests in the Hamptons can be coppered over to the race.
        Yes, the states are broke, but opportunities to be “getting a taste” are waht makes for the city that never sleeps.
        I am not sure how well it will work out for Montreal however…

      3. Kay says:

        How about N.Korea LOL Now THAT would be fun :D :D :D :D :D

  7. Seán Craddock says:

    They drive around London right? I saw something on their Facebook page about a “London GP”

  8. Bring Back Murray says:

    If that was Lewis he’d have had a ticket!

  9. carl says:

    James
    Would that be the fantasy London GP that Sky have been promoting?

  10. Glynn Harrold says:

    From what I’ve seen, it looks like it’s going to be a good track. I don’t mind that fact that it’s a street circuit as it does look quite wide and gives a completely different feel to modern purpose built sites. I’m always excited when a new circuit is raced for the first time. I hope this one does not disappoint (or get cancelled before it’s raced)!

  11. Andrew Carter says:

    I’m not sure about a street circuit version of Spa, but it certainly reminds me of Montreal with elevation change thrown in. If it ends up being half as good as it looks in that video then I think we’re in for an excellent addition to the calander.

  12. Quercus says:

    Not so sure that it was a good idea for SV to execute all those doughnuts in a road car — even if the road was closed.

    That’s not what F1 is about and it gives the wrong message to hooligans.

    1. James Allen says:

      Funnily enough, that’s the first thought I had too.

      Times have changed, eh?

      1. Jodum5 says:

        People are such killjoys these days. What I’m really wondering is why Red Bull and Infiniti bothered with such an underwhelming PR effort? They really should’ve planned this further and arranged for a full F1 demo in Manhattan. This Jersey thing seemed so half a*sed. Another question, with the significant Infiniti sponsorship you’d think they’d put some more effort linking the brand and the race team in North America, but even as a big F1 fan here in the U.S. there’s been nothing.

        Ah well.

      2. James Allen says:

        Well because NJ is where the F1 track is….

      3. Daniel MA says:

        They couldn’t go to Manhattan because Sauber was with Pérez in Times Square promoting the other circuit (the proper one in Austin) haha but it would’ve been cool to see both F1 cars around there.

      4. Dave Aston says:

        Times have changed, and so has the road toll. In Australia last year, it was the lowest figure in 45 years, despite the population doubling in that time. The two biggest one year drops were the introduction of compulsory seatbelts in the early 70′s, and random breath testing in the early 80′s.

        But, I would think if he’s on closed roads, he should be able to do what he wants. If he was doing burnouts in the race car in a demo, noone would think it was a big deal.

      5. My first thought was “Would have been much cooler in a GTR”

      6. Sterling Mindenhall says:

        You know the old saying, James: You can take the boy out of the nanny state, but you can’t take the nanny state out of the boy.

      7. BobbyT says:

        The things is, F1 drivers aren’t allowed to perform donuts after an F1 race even if they win… The closest we’ve some to anything like that that I can recall is Kimi’s win after Spa when they perform a u turn and enter the pits the wrong way after the race – he did an awesome turn with lot’s of tyre smoke, Webber dd a donut after the First Adbu Dhabi GP at the hairpin after the race, and Massa after Brazil last year (or the year before). Surely if we are going to let them do it anywhere we should let them do it on the track, not on public streets.

    2. Sterling Mindenhall says:

      Agreed. The purpose of Formula 1 is definitely to give the right message to hooligans, who will undoubtedly find its great demonstrations of restraint and responsibility inspiring, and will, after much thoughtful reflection, consider the error of their ways and live model lives.

      I’d like to write more, but I must go: I’ve been watching Euro 2012, and now must go slide tackle people in public.

  13. Robbiehooper says:

    I think Sky let us into what you mention about Jenson and Lewis- some kind of competition to work out where the pit straight would be in a fantasy F1 race around London.

  14. Phil Waddell says:

    Those doughnuts looked like great fun, and I’m sure that nearly all four of the fans who turned up to watch would agree.

    Seriously, if there was going to a be a new Grand Prix in pretty much ANY other country in the world and the F1 World Champion turned up to promote it then the streets would be packed.

    Are we in for Turkey-levels of attendance here?

    1. michael grievson says:

      Thats what I noticed. The only thing I can think of is that it wasn’t publicised. It was a mistake to have it in a road car. The roads were closed so they should have been in an F1 car and hooned it around the streets. Made an event of it.

      1. From what I heard the roads weren’t closed, they just had a police escort. There are parked cars on the street…

      2. Kay says:

        Maybe that’s how US think F1 races should be held LOL!!!!!!

        Now imagine that, it’d feel like 1950s Monaco again without barriers and stuff.

    2. 6 Wheeled Tyrrell says:

      I think it says a lot about the work the F1 promoters are doing (or better yet, aren’t doing). It begs the question, why didn’t Bernie promote the hell out of that appearance so what there was a crowd to watch Vettel? …for all the money he takes from the sport one would imagine actually promoting the sport is not too much to ask.

    3. Dave Aston says:

      I wonder… I reckon if tickets are affordable, it’ll be huge.

    4. Sterling Mindenhall says:

      Whatever they’re doing to publicize it isn’t working. Red Bull had a demonstration day just minutes away from where I happened to be, and I found out about it on an F1 ‘blog the next day.

      Who’s failure it is, I’m not sure, but this is near four (4!) Ferrari dealers, countless Mercedes dealers (including one of the largest in the world), to say nothing of Infiniti, etc., all of whom apparently did nothing to publicize it.

      I’m guessing it’s a case of everyone expecting everyone *else* to do the publicizing: Austin and NJ probably think the teams should, the teams–apart from Red Bull–think FOM should cover it, FOM thinks the tracks should…

      They’re setting themselves up for failure, yet again. Bernie, for all his brilliance, has never understood the American market, and, for all I know, thinks that it’s somehow America’s fault he still isn’t making a fortune off this country.

      It’s not, and I could write twenty pages on why that’s so.

    5. Msta says:

      A few years ago Mark Webber did a promotional drive on the Sydney Harbour Bridge in a Williams F1 car. With the bridge being elevated there were very few vantage points for the common fan and we were largely kept away by the police. We never saw it but it sounded great!

  15. James says:

    If this track didnt have the Manahatten skyline in the (very) far distance, I find it hard to imagine why we would be racing here? Track layout and elevation changes look impressive and seems wide enough for the most part. However, this feels to me like another Valencia. Dull, processional with not a lot going on.

    New Jersey, please prove me wrong…!

  16. Lawrence says:

    Haha SV looked like a child with that helmet on when in that Infinti. The track looks good. The backdrop looks awesome. Hopefully it actually goes past people’s homes, it looks like it will. I think David Letterman was an idiot towards SV btw. I know he has to try to be funny but SV out-funnied him [mod] Americans could like F1, the organisers and promoters etc just needs to make it sexy and exciting. Get Tom Cruise and Michael Fassbender (and sports and music stars) to turn up at the events like the one SV was at, that’d whet their appetites.

  17. Wade Parmino says:

    I don’t like street circuits. There is way too many as it is.

  18. jeffrey says:

    I have to agree with Phil Waddell, why is there no one watching, have they not tried to get some fans to see an F1 Champion over there? What is the use? I remember Perez doing a demo in Mexico for something like 200.000 people? If the only interesting thing is the location, but no one comes, whats the use. I’d rather have races where people care about them, even if the track could be good. But I guess money talks in F1, so if there is money, it will happen, if not, forget it….

    1. RA109 says:

      They didn’t promote it one bit. I live 3 hours away and didn’t hear one thing about it. Glad I didn’t bother going anyhow, since he was only driving a road car. And it doesn’t look like you could see anything anyhow, unless you happened to be in that one spot where he was driving circles.

      Contrast that to seeing Hamilton drive an F1 car at Watkins Glen last year, which was highly promoted and well worth attending.

      1. RA109 says:

        I should add, cool as the drivers are (it was great to see Hamilton), it’s the cars that will win fans. Watkins Glen was my first opportunity to hear an F1 engine, and I got choked up both upon hearing the engine start and the first time it flew by on the front straight at full throttle. Simply seeing a driver can’t compare to that thrill.

  19. ArJay says:

    Sebastian V. is too mature a driver to perform doughnuts…
    The Pirellis were only designed to last one lap and simply ‘dropped off the cliff’ as he was attempting a careful parking manoeuvre.

  20. AndyFov says:

    Wow, what a backdrop. All it needs is The Sopranos theme tune.

    Its certainty to deliver a great race is something I’m uncertain if, but we’re going to pick a new street circuit from somewhere there can be few locations more iconic than that.

  21. Elie says:

    I drive a gt350 Skyline -basically an older version of what Sebbwas driving and yes I would have to do that in NY- so shame on Seb for inspiring me to mischief.

    Maybe with London Olympics is the perfect time to lure fans to F1. Question is are we having too many F1 circuits now ? Great to have options to alternate between.

  22. James Leaver says:

    Well, it looks like the roads could be wide enough and some of the corners curvy enough to provide some genuinely exciting racing. Valencia and Singapore are very narrow with 90 deg corners for the main aren’t they.

  23. Jim Dee says:

    After the event Vettel was featured on David Letterman’s late Show. The full interview clip can easily be found online. I don’t think Vettel was allowed to finish a sentence.

    What was Vettel thinking going on this show? Why would Letterman help advertise an event that competes with his team’s race series? Instead Vettel got ridiculed, interupted and embarrassed.

    1. Jen says:

      Agree!

      I saw this on YouTube and Seb might as well have sent a cardboard cut out! I see why it’s called the David Letterman show and why our Jonathan Ross always cites him as a role model. It’s all about David/Jonathan.

      Poor Seb, deserved better.

    2. Sterling Mindenhall says:

      Vettel’s advance team failed him. He should have been sent on Leno first, who would certainly be a friendly audience. Wrong coast, but a good interview on a second-best show would be far better than a bad one with the highest possible profile.

      Leno’s had no shortage of good vehicular skits, too, which would have been both appropriate and useful, because the value of Seb is that he’s a robot with a personality–whereas most F1 drivers have tended to be mere robots–and that would have been a better forum in which to show that off. If he could have acted with Letterman as he did at the Autosport show, the next day’s media would have been filled with Letterman getting his bell rung by this great unknown German kid who races cars for a living.

      Guests who appear on Letterman have Ts&Cs that cover the interview, and they would have done well to understand that Letterman, when motivated, can be among either the best or worst hosts, depending on said motivations.

      The in-car footage of him raising his finger was about as pedestrian as it got: what about showing some passes, some crashes, a podium ceremony, him walking among the applauding post-race grid girls, maybe a quick rundown of the American celebrities seen at races in the past couple of years (ideally chatting with Seb by the car), etc.

      And, the days of Letterman vs. Leno are long since gone: there are probably dozens of other vehicles that would have been better than that one.

      The good news is, to most non-F1 Letterman viewers I asked about the appearance, the consensus was that he was a likable, funny guy, and Letterman was a jerk.

      To be clear: none of this is to fault Red Bull. Again, I get the feeling they’re the only ones trying in this market, which is funny. The manufacturers complain they’re not in America, once they’re there complain they don’t get enough of the right type of fans, and when the economy turns south, pull out ostensibly to save money, while one non-manufacturer team seems to be doing the lion’s share of the PR.

      I don’t know if it’s an issue of geography, culture, or a generational gap, but the current leadership seems unable to comprehend how to sell a product to fans. They can sell it to teams, to tracks, and to sponsors, but they aren’t the final customers.

      Revolutionaries seldom make great dictators. Just because Bernie was the best thing that happened to the sport when he brought it out of obscurity, doesn’t mean that he’s the best thing for it now.

      1. Baktru says:


        the consensus was that he was a likable, funny guy

        I’m not surprised. I got that distinct same impression when SebVet was on Top Gear a while back as well. I agree Leno might have been the better choice, at least Leno is also known to be a car nut.

      2. Baktru says:

        And funnier than Letterman to boot.

      3. Randy Torres says:

        Funnier how? In a goofy, Gomer Pyle sort of way? Letterman is a NY guy Leno an LA guy. ’nuff said!

    3. Mark says:

      Don’t be fooled by Dave’s obviously dumbing it down for his audience. He is a HUGE F1 fan and knows what’s up. In the days before the internet and SPEED TV was on the air to broadcast races live, he would drive to the Studio in New York from his home in Connecticut to watch every F1 race on a satellite feed early Sunday mornings.

      He knows most American viewers don’t care about F1′s technical details, so he made the interview light and allowed Vettel’s personality to sell the show. He also grew up in Indianapolis and would have been there to see Jim Clark and Graham Hill race the 500 in the 60′s, hence talking a bit about that race.

      As for whether Seb should have been on Leno instead, Jay certainly likes cars but compared to Letterman he is not much of a race fan (not to mention not nearly as good of a late night host either, seeing as Jay ripped off most of Dave’s best bits once he took over Carson’s spot ;).

  24. Justme says:

    The track layout looks nice with some nice turns and elevations and the skyline in the background. I know it’s far from finished but it doesn’t look like it will meet the safety standards that F1 cars need. But hey, money talks and I guess we’ll just have to wait until another driver dies on such a street circuit. We have Monaco which is on the edge on safety and that should be it. All these new F1 street circuits are ruin the sport.

    At the same time it makes me wonder how much longer people will look up at these skylines and start to see them as a symbol of our industrially screwed up system.

    1. Daniel MA says:

      I think it will be safe, the problem is how much money will they have to spend for that? they have to remove all the traffic lights, speed bumps, signals, put the fencing and barriers, make run off areas etc, makes me wonder if they have underestimated the cost.

  25. I love this! I cannot wait for F1 to make it back to the States! We need it over here and I’m excited for the hopeful increase in fans. Thanks for sharing, James! Can’t wait for the Button/Hamilton video!

  26. Doug says:

    Can’t wait for the race in New Jersey. I must say that I am having a good laugh about the money. Bernie, our top negotiator, is going to be up against it trying to get his hands on the actual cheque.

    You know the old saying; “If you can make it there you can make it anywhere”. This is a true statement. I do a lot of business in this region and you must have a perfect product and very good collection skills to be successful.

    Quote from Bernie: “I don’t know if it is going to happen. I hope everything will be OK. They are sorting things out internally with some of their funds. If they are ready for 2013 we will have them.” But the chief executive of the New Jersey race, Leo Hindery, said that there were no doubts about the Grand Prix taking place next year. I don’t know where these rumours are coming from, but this race is going forward,” he said.

    This is a common response in the region: “You’ll get your money when I am good and ready, by the way, when are you shipping my product”? It will be interesting to see how Bernie will handle this. We definitely have two bulls in the china shop.

  27. PRCandME says:

    I didn’t care too much for the video. I was hoping for the video that showed more of a non-stop full lap from a camera mounted to the front of the car so we could really get a feeling for the track and its layout.

    1. daphne says:

      There are some on YouTube, made by real F1 fans, not RB producers. (Except there are working traffic lights)

  28. Michael S says:

    I will say Seb is one of the best spokesman F1 could hope for.. extremely genuine… Many others give you the feeling they are “above it all”

  29. William Wilgus says:

    Once again, despite F-1 wanting to be ‘green’ we have plenty of useless burning rubber doing ‘donuts’. Do none of them realize that rubber particles are one of the most unhealthy polutants?

  30. Stone the crows says:

    Seb might have gotten more out of the Infiniti if he hadn’t had the sound and video guys sitting in the backseat.

  31. Kay says:

    I don’t think Americans understand F1 very well yet. It’d be better if they done that in a F1 car than a road car. Putting large INFINITI text and logo to the RBR car would be good enough and certainly better than using a road car, and it’d be better for promo of F1.

    Plus why wasn’t there a crowd? They certainly didn’t put enough effort into advertising and promoting F1, something that BE criticised Indianapolis very much back then. Don’t think New Jersey F1 organisers want to repeat that mistake.

    Overall, I’m looking forward to see this New Jersey race pull off and happen in a few years time!

  32. someone says:

    Too bad that this is video is so edited. A full lap onboard with natural sound would have been way more interesting. I’m pretty disappointed by the video. The environment looks like it’s going to be an exciting circuit with spectators getting very close, high speeds and hardly any margin for error. I’m really looking forward to it.

  33. Randy Torres says:

    Not for nothing but as a PR event for a new grand prix in what is pretty much NASCAR/Deliverance country this “event” left a LOT to be desired. I know Infiniti is the sponsor and they want their car in there, but this event screamed for an F1 car and in Times Square not the Jersey Palisades. Frankly, this race should happen in downtown Manhattan as originally envisioned during the Dinkins administration. I mean did you see the “architecture” along the so called track? That skyline might as well as be a million miles away. Having said that if it happens I’m so there! Crossing the river into Jersey once a year won’t kill me, right?

  34. Formule 1 says:

    Vettel is going to win the championship.

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