Road America is one of the most popular and historically significant circuits in the United States. Road America hosts several different racing series throughout the year, and it has become a popular attraction for many different branches of motorsport, but it’s not somewhere that F1 races.
F1 could race at Road America if the circuit invested heavily in becoming an FIA Grade 1 circuit, with the most important criteria involving safety and facilities. However, this is unlikely, and various logistical difficulties could also prevent the track from ever appearing on the F1 calendar.
The Road America racetrack is extremely fast with some very long straights. IndyCar races at Road America, but the track doesn’t host any F1 races, even though the cars can hit similar speeds. Below, we’ll take a closer look at the reasons F1 doesn’t race at Road America.
Has F1 Ever Raced At Road America?
Formula 1 has never raced at Road America. Despite the circuit’s long history, Formula 1 has always been to other racetracks around the United States. While the circuit isn’t up to the modern standards F1 cars require, it has simply lost out to other more popular circuits in the past.
Formula 1 needs to transport all of their equipment and cars over international borders and still get to the racetrack in time. Having a fairly remote racetrack such as Road America (the nearest airport is nearly 70 miles away) could pose some issues from the logistical side. It’s easier for IndyCar since they don’t travel outside of the US, but as F1 holds races globally, logistics are key.
Formula 1 has raced at other US racetracks before, including Indianapolis, Detroit, Watkins Glen and currently in Austin at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA). Formula 1 has a rich history with US races, but it’s difficult to visit all of the legendary US racetracks when there has usually only been one US Grand Prix each season.
The cost of running an F1 Grand Prix is huge, which explains the high ticket prices. However, the circuit itself has to pay to host the event too, and they usually do so by paying for multi-year contracts. This usually means only one circuit per country features on the calendar, with few exceptions. However, the 10-year deal for the Miami circuit means the US may regularly host two GPs.
Could F1 Race At Road America In The Future?
It remains to be seen whether Formula 1 would ever race at Road America in the future. The circuit will need a major upgrade to begin with. Currently, Road America is rated an FIA Grade 2 racetrack. In order to host Formula 1 a circuit needs to be Grade 1.
There are several factors that the FIA consider when grading a racetrack. The main factor is safety. When it comes to safety, they look at the quality and condition of the tarmac, the runoff space and the safety barriers, among various other things. Road America doesn’t have enough runoff space for F1 cars, and meeting all the other criteria requires substantial investment.
Lack Of Facilities
The FIA also take a close look at the facilities and space. Formula 1 needs a high standard of facilities to use in terms of the pitlane, grandstands and paddock club. These are all factors that influence the quality of the track, and Road America’s pit and garage facilities are just not up to the standard F1 requires.
The fact that Road America is so remote could also influence Formula 1’s decision to race there in the future. It would be much easier to race at one of the existing venues that is easier to access when coming in from abroad (and for locals). Logistics is a crucial part of Formula 1, and there is a huge amount of work that goes into transporting the cars and crew members to each race.
How Fast Would An F1 Car Lap Road America?
F1 cars would probably lap Road America in about 1 minute 30 seconds. Since F1 cars have never raced around the Road America track before it’s hard to say exactly what their lap times would be. However, by looking at IndyCar data and simulators we can only estimate what their lap times would be.
If we compare Formula 1 and IndyCar on the same circuit, we can see that Formula 1 cars are faster. Formula 1 cars lap COTA in Texas in around 1 minute and 36 seconds during the race. IndyCar drivers complete the same lap in around 1 minute and 48 seconds. This makes the Formula 1 car around 12 seconds faster than IndyCar at COTA.
Simulations show that Formula 1 cars would lap Road America in around 1 minute and 30 seconds. IndyCar lap times around Road America are around 1 minute and 43 seconds. This is more or less the same gap as we see at COTA, so it’s probably a good estimation.
Simulator vs Real Life
However, this is simply a simulation, and we won’t know for sure how the two cars compare to one another until a Formula 1 car is sent around the circuit as there are other factors that influence the overall lap times, like track conditions and car setup.
Where Else Could F1 Race In America?
The United States has plenty of incredible racetracks that Formula 1 could race at in the future. The question is whether they will be up to the high standards that Formula 1 asks of modern day racetracks.
With that said, the US is a crucial market for Formula 1, and they will always consider hosting a race in the US. There have been years where F1 has gone without having a US Grand Prix. However, with F1 becoming more and more popular in the US, and with the emergence of Netflix’s Drive to Survive, the United States have become an essential country that Formula 1 must visit each year.
The Current Tracks
Formula 1 is currently racing at COTA, which it has been doing since 2012. COTA is a FIA Grade 1 circuit and was designed to host Formula 1 races. The circuit was built to cater to the high speed cornering ability of the cars as well as to test their top speeds and heavy braking. Miami is on the 2022 F1 calendar for the first time, and that is another purpose built FIA Grade 1 racetrack.
There are also a number of classic tracks that Formula 1 could return to in the United States. However, it will depend on how much these racetracks have developed and upgraded since Formula 1 last visited, or how much they are willing to spend to meet the Grade 1 criteria.
The first of these racetracks is Watkins Glen. The Watkins Glen racetrack offers great memories for many Formula 1 fans, with races being hosted there from 1961 to 1980. It’s a twisty and flowing track that modern F1 drivers would undoubtedly love in their current cars.
Another classic event that Formula 1 could bring back is the Detroit Grand Prix. Although the old circuit that F1 used to race on would no longer be suited to host races, the Belle Isle track has been fantastic for IndyCar and could potentially suit Formula 1 cars as well.
Long Beach in Los Angeles also used to host Formula 1 races in the late 1970s and 80s. This could be a potential venue for an F1 return as it has been a popular location in the past. Rumors about a new Long Beach Grand Prix surface every so often, however we are still waiting for it to actually happen.
Potential New Circuits
Modern Formula 1 is not all about tradition and living in the past. That is very much clear with the return to the US coming from a brand new racetrack rather than making a return to Indianapolis or Watkins Glen.
As such, we have to consider some new options, like Miami, as venues that could potentially host a Formula 1 race. There are a few famous US racetracks that have not hosted an F1 race yet, just like Road America, that could end up on the calendar eventually.
Arguably the most famous American circuit not to have hosted an F1 race is Laguna Seca. Formula 1 cars have been driven around Laguna Seca in the past in private test sessions, but the circuit has never hosted a race before. The track itself might not be the best suited circuit for F1 cars, but seeing a modern Formula 1 car going through the Corkscrew would be incredible.
New York is among some of the most desirable locations to host a Formula 1 race. There have been rumors of a street race happening in New York in the past, but nothing has come from these rumors. A street race in the Big Apple would no doubt be a big attraction and would be Monaco-esque. The views would be stunning, and it would surely bring in a massive crowd.
Another famous American city that could be considered for an F1 race is Las Vegas. The most glamorous city hosting the most glamorous sport somehow just makes sense to many fans. A Formula 1 street race at night in Las Vegas sounds like the perfect combination for a highlight on the F1 calendar! However, whether this will ever happen or not remains to be seen.
It’s highly unlikely that Formula 1 could ever race at Road America. The circuit itself is not suited to Formula 1 cars in terms of the layout. In addition, the circuit is not currently up to the safety standards required to host an F1 race, so it would need a major overhaul to host a race.
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