Logistically, it’s hard to be a Formula One fan in America. Most of the races take place in Europe, so watching live events often means waking up at the crack of dawn. The U.S. also has its own motor sports to watch like IndyCar and NASCAR, which has been around since the 1940s.
Peter Habicht is the founder of Formula One's largest fan group in America, located in San Francisco. The group has about 2,500 members.
“We have a difficult time following a lot of the European races because they go on at about five in the morning, so it’s a challenging proposition to get a group together, usually at a sports bar, to watch a live start of a race,” said Habicht.
Unlike basketball or football, Formula One racing provides very few American drivers to cheer on: The last American to win a race was Mario Andretti, and that was at the Dutch Grand Prix in 1978.
“The sport, under prior stewardship, began to move wherever the money was the highest," said Leo Hindery, InterMedia Partners managing partner and a former race car driver.
"And that left Formula One in places like Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Bahrain, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Shanghai, none of which is bad for the sport except for in the process of doing that, they neglected to maintain a footprint here in the United States,” said Hindery, a Formula One promoter.
In 2005, the U.S. Grand Prix didn't turn out as Formula One might have hoped. Media reports at the time called it a disaster. At the very last minute, fourteen cars were forced to withdraw due to safety concerns. Most fans left the event feeling disappointed and cheated of their money. The race they’d come to see didn’t deliver.