Despite starting in the nineteen fifties Formula one has never really captured the hearts of the North American public in the same way it has in Europe and Asia. There have been several attempts to have a regular fixture on the calendar in North America. The first was at Watkins Glen but the track became unsafe and underfunded so that it was not viable and races at Phoenix, Detroit and even Las Vegas failed to take off. The North American public were more enamoured with the close racing on the Ovals for NASCAR and IndyCar to be taken with the intricacies of Formula one. However, this has changed with the introduction of the USA Grand Prix at the circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas. It’s an exciting and challenging circuit and being part of the US F1 Paddock Club is a great way to see it and the best way to book a place is to go to edgeglobalevents.com/f1-paddock-club/f1-paddock-club-united-states. Despite the lack of interest there has been several North American racing drivers who have enjoyed varying degrees of success. Let’s have a look at some of them.
- Phil Hill. No relation to Graham or Damon, Phil Hill was the world champion in 1961 despite not having a very high win ratio. Hill drove a Ferrari and his victory at Monza was the first for a North American driver since Jimmy Murphy in 1929. He was also won of the last drivers to win in a front engine Ferrari. His world championship was marred by his teammate and closest Wolfgang Von Trips death and Hill retired a year later unwilling to risk his life anymore.
- Mario Andretti. Although not strictly North American, he only emigrated to the country for Italy when he was 15, Mario Andretti is still considered to be the best and most successful Formula one driver who is American. He began in 1968 with Lotus and raced continuously through to 1979. He came from IndyCar and soon began to out in some great performance and several wins. He spent time at Ferrari too for a while but was never able to challenge until 1978 when he won the world championship. As with Phil Hill his title was marred by an accident and subsequent death of Ronnie Petersen his teammate and friend.
- Dan Gurney. One of the pioneers of the sport as he was able to secure three wins for three inaugural constructors Porsche, Brabham and Eagle, building the last one himself. He is also thought to be the first driver to start the tradition of spraying champagne when he won. He was only to do that four times, but it was his contribution to aerodynamics and the still used Gurney flap on the front wing that has left the biggest impression.
There are others like Eddie Cheever, Mario’s son Michael Andretti and the aptly named Scott Speed (who wasn’t particularly) that also graced the stage.