• Sir Stirling Moss

'F1 needs a complete revision to work in the USA'

Sir Stirling Moss May 31, 2010
The colour and drama of NASCAR © Sutton Images
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I think it's essential to have the US Grand Prix back on the calendar in 2012, I just hope to God it's successful. Sadly, however, I'm not sure it will be.

I watch a grand prix because it's an important thing to me, it is my bag, But if I was a motorsport fan in America I don't see why I would particularly care about Formula One when I have so many more exciting series right on my doorstep. NASCAR is something quite different and, in my mind, more exciting.

It's amazing to see those cars lapping Daytona at around 200mph and the whole crowd gets very animated, creating a fantastic atmosphere. We're talking about heavy cars going at very high speed and bumping each other, you can see why it's so popular - it really has tremendous colour and energy.

Maybe the drivers aren't as talented as in F1, and in many respects it's more amateur, but that means it has more charm. To put it in perspective, for Formula One races, I've got a pass where I can go just about anywhere in the circuit but I never see any of the drivers, because they're cocooned in their motor homes or their garages. They come out for one signing session a weekend but in NASCAR you see them selling merchandise and engaging with the fans, it builds a much stronger rapport and a much stronger product.

Put it this way, I feel that it's my obligation to try and sign as many bits and pieces as possible when I go and meet the fans, that's an important thing to me. As a celebrity, you have to realise that you are in the position you are in because of people's support and that means you are public property to some extent.

Watkins Glen was a popular venue in the past © Sutton Images
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When I told my father that I wanted to be an F1 driver, he said "There's no way, we just can't afford it." And now I hope Dad knows that when some PR company invites me to go to an event, I charge them for it. That's how I make my living - by selling my time. The hope is that you build up a relationship with the fans and that ultimately gives you something saleable. I think F1 is at last waking up and realise just how marketable it is, especially in the USA.

I mean you have to ask yourself, why would one go to an F1 race when one can sit at home and watch it? You certainly get a better idea of what is going on with a TV set and Martin Brundle to explain. For F1 to work in the USA the whole system needs a complete revision, but in F1 more than anywhere, it is very difficult to roll back the years and make things more interesting.

The culture at the moment is to build more and more expensive PR homes that people can't see into and that'll be very difficult to turn around. I find that rather depressing, but the truth is that any change would mean a completely new way of life for many of the teams and they aren't prepared to do that.

The other issue for Austin is the track. They more or less have a blank canvas but I'm not confident they will get it right. When I raced in the USA we were competing on real road circuits like Watkins Glen and I think that was popular because it was fast and dangerous. But even if F1 wanted to, I'm not sure it could go back there now because of the emphasis on safety. That has its obvious advantages, but as I've said before in this column, I think wrapping everything in cotton wool has ruined what was a very good sport. From my point of view motor racing simply has to be dangerous by definition.

My favourite circuits in F1 were always the Nurburgring and Monaco, because they put such an emphasis on driver skill. 14 laps of the old Nurburgring or 100 laps of Monaco really needed your attention. Fortunately we still have Monaco but if it were proposed now, it wouldn't pass the first FIA safety requirements. Fortunately, by the same measure, F1 will probably never get rid of it because it is so well respected - it's like users' rights. So we're in this balanced state where we want exciting circuits - and thank God we can hold onto the ones that still exist - but safety measures stop the creation of new ones.

Spa Francorchamps has retained the character of its past © Sutton Images
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Aside from Monaco the other track that is still a real driver's circuit is Spa Francorchamps. It has changed dramatically from the original layout that I raced on, but they have got it right nonetheless. You don't think of it as having massive run-off areas and the drivers still have an awful lot of respect for it. They've retained some of the character that it had back in my day, and Eau Rouge is still a pretty daunting corner whichever way you look at it. But you can't build that kind of character into a brand new circuit; it has to evolve over time.

I'll wait until 2012 to pass my final judgment on Austin but frankly I'm not very optimistic.

www.stirlingmoss.com

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Sir Stirling Moss OBE - a British motor racing legend, recognised as one of the world's greatest racing drivers. He won an astonishing 212 of the 529 races he entered during his 15-year career, competing in just about every class of motor racing, including 16 Formula One races. His victory in the 1961 Monaco Grand Prix is one of the most famous races in F1 history. Stirling's vast experience comes from being a racer and from knowing those who compete in and run the sport now. He never shies away from commenting on all aspects of the sport he loves. Gallery of his career