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F1 against a Manhattan skyline – a local reader’s thoughts
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Oct 2011   |  9:46 am GMT  |  126 comments

The confirmation on Tuesday of the news that there will be a second F1 race in America from 2013 onwards is positive for the sport. Rather than write about this from a purely F1 insiders perspective, I asked a long time JA on F1 reader and poster, Rudy Pyatt, who lives in the area, to give us a local perspective on the news and I have intercut his thoughts with mine.

Rudy Pyatt writes: There are three key parts of the potential audience. F1 must win them over, or this event will be Phoenix all over again.

The easiest audience to get, of course, is the “Monaco demographic” – attracted by the opportunity to conduct business while impressing clients, or simply to see and be seen by others making the scene. The setting alone should carry that element. Note that there are three yacht basins nearby, at least one of which regularly has maxi yachts (complete with their own helicopters) berthed there. Bernie and the teams will certainly like that!

JA writes: From a business point of view this race is going to be very important, much as Singapore is in Asia. This is a race that CEOs of companies investing in F1 will come to, staying in New York City and entertaining existing and potential clients. F1 works for global companies, allowing the local markets to entertain and for the CEO and board to visit and make connections. Whether it’s banks like UBS and Santander or manufacturers like Mercedes, the high end hospitality suits known as the Paddock Club will be sold out for this event, as they are at Singapore and Abu Dhabi. That is unlikely to change as the years go on. You really have to see that side of F1 in action to appreciate its power as a rallying point for companies. It also opens the door for more American based global companies to come into the sport. Whereas the fans number maybe 100,000 paying $200 each, the Paddock Club is 5,000 people on tickets costing $1500 each. The difference is that the ticket sales go to the promoter, his only way of recouping the costs. The Paddock Club money goes to FOM, who pass on 50% to the teams.

Rudy Pyatt writes: Then there’s the huge gearhead (translation: “petrolhead”) population in New York and New Jersey. One of the most famous drag strips in the world, Englishtown, is in New Jersey. Anyone who has listened to any of Bruce Springsteen’s old records (yes, he is from New Jersey) has heard his tributes to the drag racing car culture in The Garden State. Existing F1 fans coming from Europe and elsewhere aside, the local gearheads will naturally be attracted to this event… Unless F1 simply takes their presence for granted and treats them as unsophisticated yokels who can’t appreciate or understand F1, and who should be impressed JUST because it’s F1. There was way too much of that during the Indianapolis years, and it can’t happen this time. F1 must reach out to this audience. Take an F1 car to Englishtown and lay down some quarter mile times, with the main drivers, not the reserves. And, just like Lewis’ switch with Tony Stewart, put one of the top F1 guys into a Top Fuel or Funny Car, all 6,000 horsepower, 0-300 mph in 4 seconds of it: Have Michael Schumacher trade seats with Tony “The Sarge” Schumacher, multi-time Top Fuel champion and perennial championship contender. Drag racing is probably the most common form of motor racing here, the one that most people actually participate in nationally – and it’s probably the most the fan friendly, for that reason. F1 has to meet or exceed that standard.

JA writes: There are a lot of car enthusiasts up and down the Eastern seaboard of the USA, plus many ethnic groups with F1 sympathies, particularly Italians of course. It’s a bit like Melbourne in that respect. I don’t foresee a problem getting the F1 hardcore to this race, the people who watch the races on SPEED TV in the US. The only issue is, it’s close to Montreal in both distance and scheduling, so which race will suffer from that? Montreal will have to raise its game.

Rudy Pyatt writes: Finally, there are people who are at best curious. But this is the New York area, and there’s lots to get interested about at any time. F1 can’t take it for granted that its international stature will automatically make it THE thing to be curious about, but does need to play on that curiosity. Friends that I spoke to about this event mentioned taking a car, crew and driver (again, the starters, not the bench players) to local elementary schools and talking to students (note: The Liberty Science Center, which holds all manner of educational and kid-friendly programs, is near the area where the race will be); another friend mentioned putting an F1 car on flatbed truck and driving it around Brooklyn, or elsewhere in NYC. I’d add that you might put a car “on the hook,” pulled behind a tow truck, through various neighborhoods. Maybe have F1 racers drive a cab for a few hours. Take pictures of drivers riding on subway trains and use them in ads – something like Vettel riding the A-Train at rush hour with the caption, “He knows he can go faster…” Or, again, same kind of picture of Lewis riding in a cab with the same caption; or Schumi and his MB on the car deck of the Staten Island Ferry. And put those ads on the subways, ferries and other transit ad outlets, like cabs and commuter trains. Drive an F1 car across the Brooklyn Bridge, even.

Memo to Bernie and FOTA: If you use any of these ideas, let ’em know I sent ya…

JA writes All good ideas, Rudy. I think F1 has to really go to work on this race, putting on a package of engagements at all levels, including driver appearances on the big TV chat shows, car demonstrations in Manhattan, a FOTA Fan Forum to engage with the fans, autograph sessions at Macy’s and then business forums where US companies can come and meet team bosses and existing sponsors to get a feel for what F1 can do for them

Rudy Pyatt writes: Sure these are gimmicks, probably undignified, and ordinarily beneath F1’s image. But you can never, ever, dismiss or underestimate the possibilities for what may sink the hook into someone’s curiosity and snag them into actual interest. You’ve got to show people that you WANT to entertain and amaze them. Bernie, CVC, and FOTA and their sponsors, all of them, must make a sustained effort to draw people in – and starting RIGHT NOW. Not next year, not 2013. The necessary marketing push can’t wait until a couple of months before the race, or even six months before. Right now, F1 needs to start the marketing. I mean newspapers, online publications, radio, TV commercials, billboards, in-person, what have you. To make it here, time starts now for F1, and the clock is ticking.

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Mrs. Steve A. Baker

Very excited to get a race here in NJ! Passed by a few months ago, and it appeared as if the pits were being constructed. Mr. Allen, if while in NY, you would like a place to relax (and catch up with an old LMH friend), you are always welcome.


As in the bass player Steve Baker?

Adrian Newey Jnr

Its great that NJ is getting a race. However, whilst all of Rudy’s ideas are good, I don’t see them happening. Why would Bernie consider this race any different to the others? Do you see anything like those ideas being used at other races? Its the job of the promoter. Unfortunately with countries/cities throwing themselves at F1, there is no need for Bernie et al to bother. They’ll just collect the rent for a few years then move on.


I am not sure how this will go. The F1 event in Austin will have the advantage of being a very big event for the city and the region. It will get plenty of media attention and could become, if it is stage well, the “thing to do”. In New York, it is very hard to get the attention of that City, because so many things compete for attention there. New York won’t stop for an F1 race; the question is whether it will even notice. For visitors, it is also an unusually difficult area in which to get around. Visitors will find the logistics of lodging, parking, etc not very user friendly. Anyone who has been to Montreal and just jumped on the subway to get to the track appreciates the terrific advantage of that kind of convenience.


I don’t understand how anyone can say the NYC metro area isn’t into racing. The largest regions of the Porsche, BMW, Audi and Ferrari clubs are all in the Metro NYC area. And all those clubs do track days at the nearby road circuits of Monticello, Pocono Raceway, NJ Motorsports Park, Lime Rock and Watkins Glen.

Metro NYC residents are into cars and motorsports.


Pardon me for re-posting here, but after reading the comments, I have to establish a certain amount of credentials to back up my original comments on this thread (now way at the bottom of the thread) First, I spent nearly 20 years as an F1 journalist, and second, I was an American trying to re-introduce F1 into the nation after several flops. I agreed that Rudy’s take on the situation was correct, and secondly, I have personally spoken with/ argued with Bernie about this subject over the years, starting in 1983 – he won’t budge.

To him -and those of you that think the U.S. is just another race, like Abu Babi – think again, the U.S. is a GIANT market which F1 has UTTERLY failed to penetrate, and allowed NASCAR to dominate. This is down to a rather dumb arrogance on the part of F1’s leadership and NOT on any American deficiency to grasp F1’s attractions. F1 has simply failed to do a decent job of promoting itself and the blame lies on them, not us.


I’ll certainly back that up – George is a legend, the F1 paddock isn’t the same without him and his photographer partner Pam.


James, Im an Austinite and I 100% agree with the opinion that they should take an F1 car to a drag strip and let the bravest of the brave of the locals square off against it, just to show us how fast they really are. The numbers are staggering on paper but there will always be some local who believes he can beat any comers with his old trans am, it would win F1 some huge cred over here if they would put on a show like that. You could at least guarranty that everyone in the stadium that day would buy a ticket.

Austin being a boom city, I also agree that F1 in Texas will have plenty of monaco types coming in.

Outside of gear heads and corporate hotshots I think the 3rd group in Austin will be much harder to win over as they are probably more the type who would rather seethe race fail just to say “I told you so” as opposed to hoping for success now that the project is beyond a point of no return in terms of progress and investment.


Thanks all, and thanks James for giving me the opportunity to vent!

Here’s hoping that the F1 establishment puts on the full court press (basketball reference, leading to a random thought: Is football – soccer – less popular here than basketball is in the UK? Discuss. Extra credit if you can name more than three NBA or Premiership teams, or three players other than Wayne Rooney and LeBron James) and markets this thing the way it needs to be. It would an irony of epic proportions if Madison Avenue, New York, the traditional epicenter of advertising – rather like Wall Street and The City, in London, are for finance – goes untapped for this purpose.

I agree that of all the teams, Red Bull, which sponsored an air race (!) over the Hudson River within the past year, is most likely to take some chances on marketing. Given that the New York Red Bulls soccer team (current team of Thierry Henry) and the Red Bull stadium aren’t far from the race site, they’ve got a built-in lead on the other teams in that respect.

I can see something like a photo of Vettel and Henry standing either side of an RB7 on the middle of that field, with the caption, “Champions All…” Of course, Ferrari might as easily photo an F150 Italia (in profile) in center field at Yankee Stadium (near Monument Park, which commemorates various New York Yankees greats), over the caption, “Legends All…”

I mentioned the NBA, and there’s another possible cross-marketing opportunity. Blake Griffin, of the LA Clippers, won the slam dunk contest at the NBA All-Star game last season by leaping over a Kia sedan (and his team mate, Baron Davis, who passed the ball to him by leaning through the sunroof) en route to the rim. You can see it on YouTube, including the ad that Kia made using it:

A McLaren sits MUCH lower. Park one on the hardwood at Madison Square Garden – with Lewis, sans helmet, sitting at the wheel and looking toward the rim – and let New York Knicks stars Carmello Anthony or Ama’re Stodamire fly: “A Giant Leap For Racing Fans” would make a nice caption. Derivative? Yes, maybe (probably) too much so, but hey, you never know. And isn’t Lewis friends with a few NBA guys?

Regardless, I think that FOM/FOTA/CVC etc. need to keep the lyrics of the Moody Blues’ first big hit in mind if they want things to go well:

“If you’re gonna go, you better go now.”


One of the marketing gaps here in the US is the auto dealership network. I have recently been in 2 Mercedes and 2 Infiniti dealerships.

Only one of the four (Infiniti) had any promotional material tying their brands into F1, their cars or their drivers! No Nico or MSM cut outs in 2 different Mercedes dealerships??? The United States has a strong “Car Show” industry with major conventions in Detroit, NY, Chicago etc. True they are dominated by the US brands, but I think a couple hundred thousand “automobile enthusists” walking past a Mercedes booth which included last years F1 car or Infiniti showing a little Red Bull leg would not be a bad place to position upcoming races in Austin and NYC.


I live in NYC too,and I think is going to be sold out BUT I doubt,no matter how much advertising you do,that non F1 fans from the area will attend the GP,ppl here do not care about car racing,just go over the local papers and look at the sports section to realize how much ink it gets:ALMOST NONE!

On top of that tickets will be expensive,and no New Yorkers will pay that money to go see a car racing that is also not american.

There is a good american F1 fan crowd here,plus a huge amount of foreigners living in the city that follow F1 and there will be visitors coming here having another excuse to visit this amazing city.

These are the only 3 segments that the organizers has to care about.


Two words – Public Transportation. Have you ever tried to get to the Nurburgring from Frankfurt? Three trains and a cab ride. Most people in NY don’t even own a car. This is going to be the most accessible race ever!


Tom Cruise recently drove an F1 car.

Maybe he could be the “ham in the sandwich” between the US and F1.


“Montreal will have to raise its game.”

Ha haaaaa haha. To compete with Newark? HA!


when motogp announced it’s first visit to indy, i contacted the speedway and was connected directly to the gal who was in charge of marketing the race. she sent me dozens of posters, pamphlets, keychains,etc. which i distributed to all my local (n.w. florida) dealers and performance shops. through this humble campaign, i got 16 people to attend the inaugural race with me. 16’s not many, but if repeated enough times, that’s a ticket count worthy of notice.

so james, is there anyone involved with the promotion of the jersey race that i could contact with a similar proposition?


No idea, but if you find out let me know


p.s. had a blast. hurricane and all…


The F1 in New York, what a strange idea when there is also so beautiful circuit for motor sport. Monza example is more suited to the F1 that the city of the United States :


Hi James,

I could not agree more wholeheartedly with Rudy’s observations and suggestions. After seeing F1 do one faceplant after another in the US since 1976, I figured there would be virtually no hope of the sport catching on unless there was a regime change at the very top. Having a seller’s market everywhere else on the planet, Bernie has, over the years, entrenched himself in a ‘Not my job” attitude and left the promoters to fend for themselves as far as hawking their wares. The results have been pathetic.

In lieu of a u-turn on Bernie’s part (file that under ‘bloody unlkely’) the teams and sponsors must do the job and – to echo Rudy’s idea – they had better get started now. Otherwise the sport flops – AGAIN! Take it from someone who has seen this all before.


Let’s not forget North Carolina and NASCAR/IndyCars events. Besides getting an F1 car to run a quarter mile as mentioned to get fans to go ‘whoah’, F1 needs to organize an event to demonstrate what the cars are capable of compared to NASCAR and IndyCars. Not just a seat swap, but actually all three cars on track.. Similar to the demos McLaren has put in the past showing the F1 cars vs DTM, vs normal vehicle. I remember one with Hakkinen, and with Alonso when he joined the team. And this must be done on a NASCAR/IndyCar track. F1 will really need to reach out and educate/wow the fans in order to bring them in.

Arrange to have a Ferrari F1 car fired up at the Ferrari dealer in Manhattan and have him drive across town (through the Brooklyn bridge and Brooklyn) to the NJ location for a street show and see how much buzz this generates. It’ll be on all local channels, and probably even CNN and the likes. The noise of the car bouncing off the building will be insane as well.

Get drivers/teams to do promos with Mario Andretti, and other top figures in the various racing figures; get drivers and car on the Jay Leno/David Letterman shows and see if this doesn’t kindle interest.

Also, we have GP2, and GP2 asia, but F1 needs to establish a GP2 america series to feed american drivers to the main GP2 series and eventually F1. This will almost assure F1 long term in the U.S.

Basically, instead of leaving promotion only to the race promoters, F1 needs to step up and take the reins if they want this to be successful. I remember when Alonso joined McLaren, McLaren and Santander really used him to do promotional events. In his 1 year with them, I saw more promo stuff from them than during his years with Renault. F1 needs to launch a campaign across the country that will promote F1 and ultimately promote both events. Americans don’t follow something only because it’s popular in the rest of the world, they need to be shown the qualities and be drawn in. But they’re easily drawn if they see quality.


all 3 cars on one of the indy/nascar track would be great viewing, best way of comparing the series to other series


I would be very surprised if Red Bull have not already started their own brainstorming sessions for promotions and advert. ideas leading up to this race. “Welcome to my world… the world of Red Bull”.

The biggest opportunity for F1 is it has a big chance of ingratiating itself with the American sports media. The NewYork area is arguably the hub of all the major sports outlets. The major sports writers in this “hub” do not take car racing as seriously as other sports. Their view of race car drivers is that of dare-devils or adrenaline junkies rather than athletes. They have no clue about the fitness required for road racing, much less F1.

If F1 can bring one of those tandem F1 demonstration cars and spend the day driving around sports columnists, I think that it would go along way in changing misconceptions of auto racing.

Sports writers out of New York spend more time debating about the Yankees and Redsox than just about anything else. One reason is that because of time zones, any thing happening in the west coast that doesn’t involve the Lakers doesn’t get much attention. Another reason is that the Yankee / Redsox rivalry has high stakes given the amount of money that those two teams spend. If these writers got a whiff of the sums of money spent in F1, they would find the high stakes appealing.

It’s easy for Mark Webber to go on the Regis & Kelly morning show, or even take one of these chat show hosts around in a tandem F1 car. However, it would also do a world of good for F1 if they can get on ESPN and take some of these sports writers out onto the track.

Sports are big in the states, and having said that, we consume what the media feeds us. This is an opportunity to get the media to feed us some F1.


Just my thoughts.

PS: It is my hope that Skip Bayless (American sports pundit) is driven around in a tandem race car at speed. 🙂


Another USA fan here. Agree with many of Rudy’s comments. NYC area can be fickle about what they do and who they follow. Drawing fans from the entire tri state area (NY/NJ and Pennsylvania) and you can pull in a racing demographic possible to convert. (Truth be told, I am a lifelong IndyCar fan who now watches nearly every F1 event Speed covers, but only watches the Indy 500 and maybe parts of other indy races anymore… I have been converted to F1 and others could be to).

Certainly the Andretti name is very well known, but his history in F1 much less so by many Americans not of a certain age. If Mario has conflict of interest with his presense in the other series, still educate and market up the historical aspect of his name as a F1 World Champion.

Having a Nicole and Lewis presense would also bring some good name recognition among the 20 somethings- if they are even still together (My 25 year old says the relationship is over, and that is why Lewis’s head is not screwed on tightly these days!)


Dunno if I’d let the drivers out on a chat show: sportsmen usually come across as quite dull on those things.

Robert in San Diego

I am an Englishman living in the US and I think this is a wonderful idea. I think F1 should take a close look at how US Football is promoted over here with degrees of fan interaction that makes it an event that you just have to watch. I was involved in racing in England back in the Hesketh days and I was involved in more than one of their celebrations (not necessarily for wins, which they had one I think)and they involved everyone around them. They became a compelling team to root for. I think Rudy has it right on when he says that F1 needs to be selling itself today, not next year. People need to want to anticipate the excitement.


On Tuesday, I was like a kid at Christmas. I’m so excited!

My only disappointment is that I lived at the entry to turn 17 for three years, and moved a couple of miles down the road last year. To have experienced the sound of a passing F1 car while sitting on the sofa would have been just incredible. Hopefully friends will still live there in June 2013…

With no travel and accomodation costs, I may stretch to a Paddock Club ticket for this one!


F1 needs NY much more than NY needs F1.


The drivers appearing on talk shows sounds like a great idea. In particular, I think the reigning world champion at that time (whomever it may be) should be a guest on The Late Show with David Letterman. Dave is a huge racing fan and has owned teams in Indy racing for years. He would certainly be interested I’m sure. They could even incorporate a quick street demo outside the Ed Sullivan theater on Brodway, maybe running down to Times Square and back.


I noticed that Leo Hindery was questioning whether the USGP at Austin was going to happen, let alone be sustainable. If I were Mr. Hindery, I’d be more concerned in making sure his event happens than worrying about what’s going on in Texas. The reason I bring it up is because videos have been popping up on YouTube of people driving the track layout. What really stands out is the fact that at the top of the hill, the back stretch as it were, is a residential area. Driver’s left is completely lined with houses! Now, if there’s one thing about Americans is that we ca be the biggest bunch of NIMBY’ers (Not In My Backyard) around. The group behind this had better already gotten sign off and assurances from the affected residents, otherwise, it will end up in court and the race will never happen.

Kudos to Tavo Hellmund and the rest of the Austin group for taking the high road and offering a hand of friendship and congratulations to New Jersey. They recognized that having two Grands Prix is an acknowledgement of how important the U.S. is to F1. Hindery came off as churlish.


Great read, and great points by both James and Rudy.

Best point of the article is the need to push marketing now. NASCAR has been on a slide, and IRL has never really grabbed hold of American interests. Because Americans generally love the best of anything, and aspire to achieve or obtain it, they should be drawn into F1. With 2 GP’s in the country, it can make a nice getaway.

For marketing, you need to target the younger generation and grab their attention. Soccer and the MLS realised this, and they have been able to capitalise well on their approach.

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