Formula 1 has never really been successful in America. Even in the beginning of the sport the American round was always the Indianapolis 500 which required a completely different car and therefore hardly any of the European participants ever took part.
There is a rule about American sport and it is that it is different. Different than the rest of the world. And although football might now be making inroads in the states it’s still different there too (if only because it’s called Soccer) and it also still hasn’t become hugely popular.
But Bernie is determined for F1 to break America, he really is. The problem is that it’s very difficult to change the national viewing habits. It’s difficult anywhere but it’s especially difficult in America. There is one sport that has recently broken there though. And that is cycling. In fact the part of cycling that has specifically broken in America is the Tour de France. And why has it broken? Because of Lance Armstrong. Just look at Formula 1 in Spain to see if this holds for Formula 1. Since Alonso joined the sport it, viewing there has gone through the roof. The real testament to how important the World Championship now is that they are even talking about moving the European Grand Prix (which is Germany’s second grand prix) being moved to Spain. Apparently the Schumacher luster is already waning.
Bernie is very smart and he knows that the prize for breaking America is huge. It means the final piece of the jigsaw for teams being able to be the only place where you can buy an annual global sponsorship deal (the Olympics and the world cup are the only sporting events watched by more people than F1 and they only run once every four years).
And so Bernie got talking to Dietrich Mateschitz (owner of Red Bull) and convinced him to start the Red Bull Driver search which was designed to do one thing and one thing only which was to get an American driver back into F1.
And this year it’s come to fruition in the amazingly named Scott Speed. Scott has the name, the nationality and the boyish good looks which make him the ideal kind of person to make advertisers take out their cheque books.
The only problem with Scott is that he’s apparently about as friendly as an orange. James and Ted have been dancing around the issue all season, and Martin was pretty bold about it during the race. He said something along the lines of “not that he’s a terribly easy person to get on with as far as I can tell”. Which coming from the usually affable Martin was a bit of a surprise.
After the race just gone Red Bull challenged Torro Rosso (their own junior team) about the way that Scott had passed David Couthard under yellow flags. And the challenge was upheld stripping Speed of his points (and passing them to Couthard). After this apparently there was a bit of a confrontation between Couthard and Speed at the weigh in and Speed swore at Couthard in front of a martial and has been personally fined.
So while this may throw Martin’s comments into relief – it’s possible that Speed and Couthard have just had a personality clash and Martin as Couthard’s manager has just been hearing one side of the story.
But even so the fact that the martial fined Speed says it must have been a bit of a vindictive attack and that doesn’t sound like the kind of thing that a major sponsor would want. A foul mouthed uncouth face of their brand?
Also the story puts paid to the idea that the Red Bulls and Torro Rossa would effectively work like a four car block. Not only do team orders stop that from happening within one team – it would really be frowned on between two different teams. And as this situation proves there is too much at stake for the individual teams they both have too much to prove on their own to start helping each other.