So the United States Grand Prix is returning to the F1 calendar in 2012 on a brand new track at Austin, Texas. This is the latest twist and turn in the sport’s on-off love affair with Uncle Sam which began 50 years ago when Jack Brabham pushed his Cooper-Climax home to take fourth place in the inaugural race on the bumpy Sebring airfield circuit in Florida, thereby clinching the first of his three world championships.
Twelve months later Stirling Moss won the 1960 race at Riverside, California, after which the world championship began a love affair with Watkins Glen, that classic circuit in upstate New York, which hosted the race until 1980.
In 1976 a race through the streets of Long Beach, California – titled the US GP West – was inaugurated by British-born entrepreneur Chris Pook and lasted through to 1983 since when it became an Indycar event.
A street race in Detroit followed for 1982 and this lasted through to 1988, supplemented by a blisteringly hot race in Dallas in the summer of ’84, won by Keke Rosberg with more than a little help from a $2000 water-cooled skull cap to take the edge off the heat in what was widely regarded as the most physically demanding event in recent times.
In 1989 and '90 there were two street races in Phoenix, Arizona, attended by a crowd claimed as around 30,000 which raised the comment from one observer ‘they must have all come disguised as empty seats.’
Although Canada remained a stalwart on the F1 calendar it was not until 2000 that the great romance with Indianapolis kicked off, although the blend of reverse banked circuit and tight infield was not everybody’s cup of tea. Commercially the race never survived the embarrassment of the 2005 event when only a handful of Bridgestone-shod cars took to the grid after the Michelin runners withdrew.
The introduction of the Austin race thwarts any prospect of returning to Indy – and it will be fascinating to how long the US fans’ traditionally capricious interest in F1 endures this time around.