Across the Pond: An Ode to Formula One

Joe GSenior Writer IJanuary 21, 2009

For the first article in this series, click here.

Formula One is a sport that I dearly wish received more mainstream coverage in the States.

Sure, you can find it buried deep in the pages of It's available for viewing on the SPEED Channel, often in the early hours of the morning on a weekend. With the pervasive nature of the Internet, news and analysis is never far away.

But it's not enough.

Formula One offers plenty of things that Americans love; speed, technology, and beautiful women. Yet the sport has a long way to go in America before it comes close to achieving equal billing to NASCAR, or even Indy Car Racing.

Many of us are needlessly missing out on this wonderful form of auto racing. The sublime technical skill of the drivers, piloting their machines around the twists and turns of road courses with impressive precision and speed.

The triumph of engineering that allows the cars to achieve their remarkable speed. The passion of the fans who eagerly devour any news relating to their favorite driver or team.

I firmly believe that Formula One is a sport for those who love the feeling of a great drive through the countryside.

It's a sport for those of us who, when we stumble upon a pristine stretch of open, winding road, will put the gas pedal to the floor and work the shifter as we fly through the corners.

This is a sport whose history has been romanticized. We listen in reverent awe as stories of legendary drivers are recounted. We imagine taking exotic cars around tracks in equally exotic and beautiful locales.

Alfa Romeo, Lotus, Maserati.

Monaco, Monza, the Nürburgring.

The greatest names in the sport will live on forever. One of the finest cars in modern times takes its name from one of the greatest Formula One drivers ever, Alberto Ascari. Gilles Villeneuve has his name honored by the circuit in Montreal. Michael Schumacher's name adorns a couple of turns on the Nürburgring.

Clearly, this is a sport that understands and embraces its rich history.

America also has a long-standing tradition of great road racing. In fact, it was an American series that sparked my interest in road racing and inspired me to begin taking a deeper look into Formula One.

My father has a small piece of Trans-Am history in his garage. Several years ago, he purchased a 1970 AMC Mark Donohue Javelin, and has allowed me to drive it on several occasions.

The car was loads of fun to drive, thanks in no small part to the AMC 390 V8 under the hood. It inspired me to do some research into the career of Mark Donohue, and what did I find?

Formula One connections.

After dominating the American Trans-Am Series, he tried his hand in F1, albeit briefly. He never finished better than third, which speaks to the high level of driving in F1.

One of the finest drivers in American auto racing history couldn't find success in F1.  Indeed, many talented drivers are made to look quite average when competing at that level.

This brings me back to my original point, the lesser billing that Formula One receives in America.

We love to see athletes competing at the highest level. It's why the NBA, NFL and Major League Baseball are doing so well. But it doesn't explain why NASCAR is thriving while the United States Grand Prix is currently without a home.

We're missing out on the best of the best, and it's a shame.