India shows the way for US track

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 November, 2011, 12:00am

Pity poor old Abu Dhabi. Given all the Middle Eastern oil dollars and the amount of reflected glory it is supposed to give the ruling family, the Yas Marina track is a rather unloved thing.

Certainly by the drivers. Millions of dollars may have been spent on the track that sprung from the desert in 2009, but that doesn't make it interesting to drive. Kers and DRS may make overtaking easier this year but it won't fire the teams' imaginations.

It doesn't help that the F1 circuit has just decamped from India. The first race at the Budh International Circuit may not have been a classic, with Sebastian Vettel disappearing into the distance once more, but the track was a delight. As David Coulthard commented, 'don't give me hairpins - give me fourth and fifth gear corners'.

That's exactly what was on offer in the middle section of the track in India and the drivers were salivating at the thought of throwing the cars from one direction to the other at high speed and with down-force. The track was also blessed with some big elevations, meaning drivers were heading into the odd corner unsighted.

There were other aspects to this race that made it a hit. Oddly, the chaos added to the charm and atmosphere, although I doubt that calmed the tempers of people caught in the traffic jams on race day.

A parade of Indian superstars added to the spicy flavour, from Bollywood actors to cricket maestro Sachin Tendulkar. For once, the drivers weren't the most famous people in town. Tendulkar even got to wave the chequered flag, showing a different type of elegant wrist work to that on show with bat in hand.

Normally, the F1 circus imposes its nature on the town it happens to be in. You could be forgiven for not knowing which country you are in at some circuits. The Indian experience certainly seemed to be a different affair, and that can only be a good thing.

It is important that the sport's popularity grows there and not just among the prosperous. Given the number of people in the country you would have imagined that they should be able to manage it.

The organisers of the new United States Grand Prix will, no doubt, be cheered by what happened in India, too. There is a year until Austin in Texas hosts a return to the US for F1. At the moment it is little more than a rolled dirt track outline. This week, though, the organisers got permission to start construction work on the buildings.

It should be a track worth waiting for if the enthusiasm of the man behind it, Tavo Hellmund, is anything to go by. 'This track is not conceived and designed by consortiums or sovereign-wealth nations,' he said recently. 'It is designed by guys who have raced their hearts out and know what a good track should be'.

Hellmund coos over the track design, describing the 'really cool corners' and salivates over the 40-metre elevation of part of the course. His mantra is that the race has to take place in a purpose-built arena, but one that isn't sterile for the drivers and the crowds.

The teams will be delighted to be heading to the US. F1 has always struggled there but it has always held a strong lure for those involved in the sport. They will be hoping that this track is a stand-filling, attention-grabbing success.

Part of that is financial, of course, but the F1 fraternity are used to being top dog and they are used to effortless world expansion. The US remains a stubborn, insular last outpost to colonise, and it remains unfinished business.

Their cause will be aided by the addition in 2013 of a race in New Jersey, with the street circuit along the banks of the Hudson River.

Bernie Ecclestone has been dreaming of a race in New York for ages. It's not quite there, but the Big Apple's skyline will be visible in the backdrop. Sometimes it is best to be in the shabby house looking across the road on the posh mansion than the other way around.


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India shows the way for US track

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