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History of Formula 1 in the United States of America

Hamilton Andretti formula 1 unted states

Hamilton Andretti formula 1 unted states

From the fabled Brickyard at Indianapolis to a Las Vegas parking lot and a great deal in between. From the California sunshine to the falling leaves at the Glen, the FIA-run Formula 1 World Championship embraced the United States before there was a championship race in the land of the sport’s greats Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.

The inaugural 1950 season featured seven races. Round 3 was at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The famous Indianapolis 500 was part of the first decade of Formula 1 World Championship.

The 1950 Indy 500 was the only championship round not won by Alfa Romeo as they decided to skip the across-the-pond left-turn only event season.

Winning the Indy 500 made California driver Johnnie Parsons the first American to win a Formula 1 World Championship event.

The inclusion of the Indy 500 in the Formula 1 World Championship from 1950 to 1960 – each with a field of 33 drivers per race – has helped propel the United States to the top as the nation with the most drivers, 153, to start a Formula 1 race. UK is close second on 146.

The final iteration of the Indy 500 to be included in the Formula 1 World Championship in 1960 was won by another California driver, Jim Rathmann. Two years earlier he had won the Race of Two Worlds at Monza.

Back to the Future

Watch: 1959 United States Grand Prix highlights | Motor Sport MagazineWatch: 1959 United States Grand Prix highlights | Motor Sport Magazine

The first Formula 1 Grand Prix in the United States took place on December 12, 1959, as the season finale. Like Silverstone, the event took place on an Air Force base in Sebring, Florida. The race is best remembered as the maiden win for a young Bruce McLaren.

His record as the youngest Grand Prix winner at the age of 22 years old was only broken in 2003 when Fernando Alonso on the expanding Michelin tyres lapped Michael Schumacher on way to his maiden victory at the Hungaroring.

The 1959 Sebring race saw Jack Brabham clinch the first of his three titles by pushing his Cooper-Climax across the finish line to fourth place in the race.

The traveling circus which has become the SOP for Formula 1 in USA, began with the second United States Grand Prix in 1960. From the right coast to the left coast, Riverside, California, east of LA. Stirling Moss was the winner in his Lotus-Climax.

In 1961, it was back to the east coast, this time upstate New York in the beautiful Finger Lakes region at the Watkins Glen circuit.

In the sixties Watkins Glen was the go-to of F1 track in the USA

Dan-Gurney-11-United-States-Grand-Prix-1967-Watkins-Glen-1967Dan-Gurney-11-United-States-Grand-Prix-1967-Watkins-Glen-1967

Man from Scotland, Innes Ireland, became one hit wonder in his Lotus, giving Colin Chapman’s team their first success only to be fired within a few weeks at Earls Court Motor Show.

Chapman had another, younger Scottish driver in mind, Jim Clark. He did not disappoint and gave the Lotus team their second successive victory at the Glen in 1962.

Graham Hill scored three consecutive victories in the USGP from 1963-’65.

In 1966, Jim Clark gave the 16-cylinder BRM its only victory in Formula 1. He won again the following year powered by Ford-Cosworth engine.

In 1968, Mario Andretti made his Formula 1 debut in style at Watkins Glen by grabbing pole position in his Lotus. Victory went to Jackie Stewart in Ken Tyrrell’s French-made Matra with Ford-Cosworth engine.

The 1969 Grand Prix at Watkins Glen started a run of three successive maiden Formula 1 wins. The first was King of Formula 2, Austrian Jochen Rindt. Graham Hill suffered serious leg injuries when he was ejected from the cockpit of his Lotus.

In 1970, Emerson Fittipaldi, who had moved from Brazil to England in 1969 without speaking a word of English, took his first victory in only his fourth Formula 1 start for Chapman.

Death marred too many a GP weekends at Watkins Glen

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The dashing Frenchman Francois Cevert took his first and only victory in the 1971 race in his Tyrrell. In 1972, Jackie Stewart won again.

The following year Super Swede Lotus driver Ronnie Peterson won what was at the time biggest purse in Grand Prix racing, $50,000.

The weekend was marred by the death on Saturday of Stewart’s teammate Cevert. The race was going to be 100th and final start for JYS. He did not start as Tyrrell team withdrew from the race.

Argentine Carlos Reutemann won in 1974 for Bernie Ecclestone-owned Brabham team.

Tragedy struck again at the Glen when young Austrian Helmut Koinigg, driving for John Surtees, suffered a fatal crash.

Niki Lauda celebrated his first championship title by winning the 1975 season finale at Watkins Glen for Ferrari. This was Scuderia’s first Formula 1 success in the United States.

James Hunt was on the top step of the podium in 1976 and ‘77 for McLaren at the Glen.

Reutemann took his second Glen victory in 1978 driving a Ferrari. Gilles Villeneuve was the winner for the Scuderia in 1979.

The 1980 US Grand Prix was the final Formula 1 race at Watkins Glen. Italian Bruno Giacomelli took a memorable pole position for the fledgling Alfa Romeo team. The newly crowned world champion, Australian Alan Jones, was the winner for Williams.

California Calling

The start of the race and pole sitter Nelson Piquet (BRA) Brabham BT49, takes the lead that he was never to lose. This was his first F1 victory. United States Grand Prix (West), Long Beach, California, USA. 30 March 1980. BEST IMAGE USGP Formula 1The start of the race and pole sitter Nelson Piquet (BRA) Brabham BT49, takes the lead that he was never to lose. This was his first F1 victory. United States Grand Prix (West), Long Beach, California, USA. 30 March 1980. BEST IMAGE USGP Formula 1

English travel agent Chris Pook booked the return of Formula 1 to the Golden State in the streets of Long Beach as Round 3 of the 1976 Formula 1 World Championship, the United States Grand Prix “West.”

Italian-speaking Swiss driver Clay Regazzoni put in a precision-crafted performance from pole position to lead a Ferrari one-two over Lauda.

In 1977, driving for Lotus Mario Andretti became the first, and remains to this day the only American to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix on home soil.

Ferrari drivers did the American Double Shuffle in 1978 and ‘79. Reutemann won both the “East” and “West” Grands Prix in 1978 and Gilles did the same in 1979.

The 1980 USGP “West” was won by Nelson Piquet for Brabham, this was the first of his 23 Grand Prix wins.

The winner of the inaugural race Regazzoni was seriously injured and paralyzed from the waist down after a brake failure on his Ensign led to him crashing into the parked Brabham of Argentine driver Ricardo Zunino. Alan Jones was the winner in 1981 for Williams.

Andrea de Cesaris took a shock pole position in his Alfa Romeo for the 1982 race. Lauda won the race after Ron Dennis convinced him to return from retirement.

The final Formula 1 race in the streets of Long Beach, a major port city just south of Los Angeles, took place in 1983.

McLaren drivers, John Watson and Lauda, made a remarkable recovery after a disappointing performance in qualifying to finish first and second.

Music & Motor City & Formula 1

ayrton senna 1986 detroitayrton senna 1986 detroit

In 1982, there were three Grands Prix races in the US. In the inaugural Detroit Grand Prix John Watson, on the advice of Michelin Competitions Director Pierre Dupasquier, made it look elementary, and changed tyre compound during a red flag period and went on take victory from 17th on the grid.

Local driver Eddie Cheever was second in a Ligier and Didier Pironi was third for Ferrari.

In the 1983 Deroit Grand Prix, Italian Tyrrell driver Michele Alboreto gave Ford-Cosworth DFV its final victory. The first victory for the engine was scored by Jim Clark in the 1967 Dutch Grand Prix on its debut.

Nelson Piquet won the 1984 running powered by a BMW turbo in his Brabham. His teammate Teo Fabi was also on the podium in third. Elio de Angelis was second for Lotus-Renault.

In 1985, Keke Rosberg was the winner in his Williams-Honda.

Ayrton Senna won three years in a row. In 1986, with Renault powered Lotus. The following year his Lotus had Honda power.

His third victory was the final race in the streets of Detroit. Honda was again the engine but this time in the back of the all-conquering McLaren MP4-4.

Phoenix. The heat is on and Nigel sweats

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The Grand Prix in Phoenix, in the burning “but it’s dry heat” of Arizona is best remembered for attracting less spectators than the Ostrich races in the city around the same time.

The Phoenix F1 festival failed to rise to Bernie’s and local promoter’s expectations and lasted only three editions. McLaren-Honda team won all.

Professor Prost triumphed in Phoenix in 1989. Riccardo Patrese was second for Williams. Eddie Cheever, who was born in Phoenix and raised in Rome, was third for Arrows.

Senna took back-to-back wins in 1990 & ‘91.

The 1990 edition was the season opener and is best remembered for tremendous dice between Senna and new kid on the block Jean Alesi, who briefly led the race in his Tyrrell before settling for second.

Las Vegas: First edition, Veni, vidi, no vici

Las Vegas GP F1Las Vegas GP F1

Formula 1 races through the decades have been staged around horse track (Aintree), airfields, (Silverstone, Sebring and Zeltweg), street circuits in public parks (Monsanto and Montjuich), but a Grand Prix race in the parking lot of a casino was one of a kind gamble which did not payout.

The 1981 Caesar’s Palace Grand Prix was the season finale. Piquet was the lucky soul. His championship leading title rival Reutemann started from pole position. He faded away in the race and Brabham’s Piquet finished fifth to take the title from the Williams driver by one point.

Reutemann’s Australian teammate Alan Jones, no love lost between the two, was the winner. The parking lot played host to the season finale in 1982 also. Marking victory number one for Alboreto in his Tyrrell. And crowning Keke Rosberg as the first Finnish World Champion after winning only one race all season long.

The race was the final Formula 1 event in the magnificent career of Mario Andretti. The Sin City would not see the return of Formula 1 till 2023, thanks to media powerhouse Liberty Media flexing its muscles to organize and promote the Las Vegas Grand Prix itself. $1,200 hotel room anyone?

Dallas: Do that to me no more

A one hit blunder. Heat, track breaking up, and cars on track at 7am led Jacques Laffite to show up in his pajamas. That was before the race. The end of the race saw Nigel Mansell pushing and collapsing near the finish line. Winner was Keke Rosberg, who had the looks more of a Texas gun sling.

Back home again in Indiana

Indianapolis Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes races as cars crash behind him on the first lap of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at the IndianapolisIndianapolis Lewis Hamilton of McLaren Mercedes races as cars crash behind him on the first lap of the F1 Grand Prix of USA at the Indianapolis

Tony George, the man who single-handedly destroyed American open wheel racing in the mid-1990s, had one good in him. He brought back Formula One not only to the United States but also to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

After many years of negotiations with Bernie, the 2000 United States Grand Prix took place in Indianapolis. An infield road section was built and the F1 cars also raced on the front straight and part of the section between Turn 1 and Turn 2 as per the Indy 500 configuration.

German software company SAP was the title sponsor. The race on September 24 was well attended with about 250,000 spectators on Sunday. The scream of F1 machines echoing from the grandstand was something special.

It was a Ferrari festival. David Coulthard led the first six laps in his McLaren, then it was Schumi all the way to lap 73 followed by his teammate, Rubens Barrichello. DC finished fifth and set the fastest lap of the race.

Formula 1’s greatest have celebrated on the Indianapolis podium

OTD 20YA, Mika Häkkinen won his 20th and last F1 victory : r/formula1OTD 20YA, Mika Häkkinen won his 20th and last F1 victory : r/formula1

The 2001 race was held on September 30, only a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Schumacher took pole position but had to settle for second place behind Mika Hakkinen. The second McLaren of David Coulthard was third. Juan Pablo Montoya set the fastest lap of the race in his BMW-powered Williams.

An all-Ferrari front row for the 2002 event. Schumacher dominated the race from pole position, while the fastest lap went to his teammate Barrichello. On the 73rd and final lap, Schumacher tried to do a Ford at Le Mans 1966 style formation finish and paid the price. The timing and scoring beacon recorded Barrichello winning the race by .01s. Coulthard was third for McLaren.

In the 2003 US Grand Prix Kimi Raikkonen started from pole position in his McLaren. Schumacher was seventh on the grid and set the fastest lap on his way to victory. Kimi had to settle for second while Heinz-Harald Frentzen stepped on the podium in third place for the last time in his career.

Starting with the 2004 season, the US Grand Prix was moved up the calendar and took place in June, following the merry month of May for the American classic called the  Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend. Barrichello took pole position and set the fastest lap, but the Red Baron still flew by on lap 50 to take victory. Takuma Sato was third man on the podium for BAR Honda.

The day Bibendum went bust

US Grand Prix 2005. Only 6 cars participated : r/formula1US Grand Prix 2005. Only 6 cars participated : r/formula1

The 2005 United States Grand Prix. A race that will live in infamy. The day Bibendum went bust. Formula One and politics travel side by side at high speed on and off the racetracks all over the world. No drag reduction system required here.

Following two tire failures on Toyota cars leading up to race day, Michelin pleaded to add a chicane before the very fast final corner. The French manufacturer was even willing to charter a Boeing 747 to bring a different compound.

Max Mosley, the brilliant barrister he was, laid down the law and refused to budge. Resulting in a six car US Grand Prix as all the Michelin shod cars pulled into the pits after the formation lap. This included pole sitter Jarno Trulli for Toyota. Schumacher and Barrichello galloped to an easy one-two for the prancing horse.

Man of the moment was Portuguese Tiago Monteiro. Driving the Jordan – Toyota he could not believe his luck as he became the first and so far, the only Portuguese driver to stand on a Formula One podium. He is still smiling to this day.

In 2006, there was mayhem on the opening lap as cars snaked through turns one and two. Kimi Raikkonen was put into a spin by his McLaren teammate, the ever-percolated Juan Pablo Montoya. Team Boss Ron Dennis wasted no time in grinding Monte out of the team.

Fair share of F1 bent metal at Indianapolis over the years

Dennis defends Montoya - EurosportDennis defends Montoya - Eurosport

Pole position. Fastest lap. Race win. Schumacher. His new Brazilian teammate Felipe Massa was second. Giancarlo Fisichella took third place for Renault. Another Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi gave Toro Rosso their first championship point in Formula One by finishing eighth.

The final Formula 1 race in Indianapolis Motor Speedway took place in 2007. It was a master class performance from the newcomer, Lewis Hamilton. The intense rivalry with his teammate, double world champion Fernando Alonso was on full display lap after lap.

Alonso, angered by Ron’s refusal to slow down the rookie, showed his frustration by driving close to the McLaren pit wall.

The amazing thing was despite the upheaval in the McLaren team, hard-fought races between Lewis and Alonso, the two drivers never pulled a Rosberg Hamilton 2016 Barcelona or Senna Prost Suzuka special. Giancarlo Fisichella was third for Renault.

The Current Formula 1 Era

*** BESTPIX *** MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 04: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 leads the field into turn one at the start during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 04, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)*** BESTPIX *** MIAMI, FLORIDA - MAY 04: Max Verstappen of the Netherlands driving the (1) Oracle Red Bull Racing RB20 leads the field into turn one at the start during the Sprint ahead of the F1 Grand Prix of Miami at Miami International Autodrome on May 04, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Today the USA again has three Grands Prix, with Circuit of the Americas hosting the Grand Prix in Austin, Texas since 2012, replacing Watkins Glen (with 20 GPs hosted) as the mainstay on the F1 calendar, hosting its 12 edition of the race this year.

The Miami Grand Prix was added to the Formula 1 calendar in 2022, the ‘circus’ in action around the Miami Dolphins Hard Rock Stadium for a third time this coming weekend. Last year Las Vegas was added to the F1 roster, to make it a trio of GP weekends in the States.