In a brief Q&A session today at the Red Bull hospitality booth, Mark Webber told fans and media that Formula 1 doesn’t need the United States to survive.
"Formula 1 has lived a long time without the United States and its survival is not based on whether or not we continue to race here.”
While it may not be important to Formula 1, it is important to the race teams and its sponsors. The United States is the largest market for both Red Bull energy drinks and the Infiniti luxury car brand which sponsors the race team.
Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner is of the mindset that the United States is important for Formula 1, if only for sponsor exposure.
“It is important to our partners that Formula is a true World Championship and that means racing in the United States,” Horner said.
Webber also asked that American fans unfamiliar with Formula 1 display patience as they continue to learn the sport. He also urged that fans keep watching the sport beyond this weekend at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
“We hope that everyone continues to watch the races and listen to the commentary,” Webber said. “There are a lot of things to learn about but try to be patient and take the time to learn the sport. I think that once fans do, they’ll find it to be quite exciting.”
Webber asked for patience because he doesn’t think today’s United States Grand Prix will deliver on the excitement that the most recent Formula 1 race in Abu Dhabi produced two weeks ago. The most exciting moment of the race is likely to be at the start as drivers will have to navigate a very wide frontstretch into an uphill and narrow turn 1.
But even then, Webber is still convinced that the start will be clean and the drivers will be on their best behavior.
“I don’t know how exciting the race will be,” Webber said. “I don’t think the track will provide a lot of overtaking but there has been a lot of mystery involved in this weekend. The track is still very new and there is still room for additional speed and grip.”
When asked if he followed United States NASCAR or IndyCar racing, Webber was more familiar with the latter. He called Will Power a personal friend, not remarkable given their shared Australian and New Zealand heritage. But the more surprising answer was that he was a fan of 2004 IndyCar Champion Tony Kanaan.
“I’ve watched him race and he’s a lot of fun,” Webber admitted.
Sunday will mark Webber’s sixth start in a United States Grand Prix. All of his previous starts came at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he holds a best finish of seventh in the 2007 United States Grand Prix. His previous five starts all resulted in retirements.