First US GP in nine years revs up

[Thanks to www.formula1.com for this item] London, 19 September: On 24 September 2000, the first United States Grand Prix in nine years will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana. The race will be the 15th of 17 in the 2000...

[Thanks to www.formula1.com for this item]

London, 19 September: On 24 September 2000, the first United States Grand Prix in nine years will take place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indiana. The race will be the 15th of 17 in the 2000 FIA Formula 1 World Championship and comes at a very crucial time, with several drivers battling 'head to head' for the World title.

This year the return of the US Grand Prix will give American sports fans the opportunity to share the glamour and excitement of a sport enjoyed by millions of race fans across the globe.

Formula1 Explained

One of the appealing qualities of this sport is its international flavor. The seventeen races - or Grands Prix - are staged across the world. The season started on 12 March 2000 in Melbourne Australia, and the last race will be staged in Malaysia on 22 October 2000. In between, the Grand Prix roadshow will have travelled to such locations as Brazil, Japan and Canada as well as eleven circuits in Europe. The FIA Formula 1 World Championship comprises two separate elements - the Drivers' Championship and the Constructors' Championship. There are eleven Constructor teams, each having two drivers competing on their behalf. Drivers earn points for themselves and for their team, according to their finishing position in each race. These are as follows:

1st Place - 10 points, 2nd Place - 6 points, 3rd Place - 4 points,
4th Place - 3 points, 5th Place - 2 points, 6th place - 1 point

Success in this motor racing series demands faultless preparation and execution from both constructors and drivers. Prior to each race, engineers, mechanics and strategists must ensure the car is tuned and equipped to perfection, whilst working closely with the driver to plan race tactics. Once the race starts, the skill and agility of the driver comes to the fore, although he will be in continual radio contact with his team.

The 2000 Season

The season so far has been full of controversy. Michael Schumacher established a prominent lead at the beginning of the season, winning the first three races. However, as the season has progressed his luck has turned for the worst. He failed to finish in three races before the Hungarian Grand Prix and, by only securing second place in Hungary and Belgium, has enabled Mika Hakkinen to claim and extend his lead. This lead, however, is slim after his Italian GP win, and builds the season to a very exciting climax. At the time of this release, after the Italian Grand Prix, both the Driver's Championship and Constructors' Championship were very close. Hakkinen, from Finland, has won the Drivers' Championship for the last two seasons and has just overtaken Germany's Michael Schumacher at the top of the leader board. David Coulthard, a Scot, is also in close contention as is Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.

The rivalry between Hakkinen and Schumacher is two fold - not only are they battling it out for the individual Drivers' Title, they are also competing for rival teams in the Constructors' Title - McLaren and Ferrari respectively. The Finn's victory in Belgium extended the lead that he and his team, McLaren, hold in the Drivers' and Constructors' title races - a lead they took for the first time at the previous round in Hungary. The McLaren / Ferrari rivalry has always been a fiercely contested one - last year's team title was won by Ferrari, by a margin of just four points, while Hakkinen pipped Eddie Irvine (when driving for Ferrari) to the Drivers' Title. 1998 saw a double victory for McLaren who took the team title and also the won the individual championship with Hakkinen. Ferrari have not won the drivers title since 1979 and will be determined to turn the tables this year but, after the Belgium Grand Prix, have only four races left in which to regain the lead.

<pre> Below are the standings after the Italian Grand Prix (Round 14 - 12 September 2000)

Constructors' Championship Drivers' Championship

McLaren         131 points              Hakkinen (McLaren)              80 points
Ferrari         127 points              Schumacher M (Ferrari)          78 points
Williams        34 points               Coulthard (McLaren)             61 points
Benetton        20 points               Barrichello (Ferrari)           49 points
BAR             13 points               Schumacher R (Williams)         24 points
Jordan          13 points               Fisichella (Benetton)           18 points

More about the Drivers

Schumacher and Hakkinen continue to dominate the 2000 season. Although similar in skill, the two men are, however, quite different in character and approach. Schumacher is reputed to be fiercely determined and confident. His mental strength is unwavering and he is widely viewed as the 'best' driver of his time. Hakkinen, on the other hand, is a more subdued figure whose inward determination is not outwardly displayed. He is somewhat of a 'loner' on the circuit and shows none of the flamboyance of some of his fellow drivers. His team-mate, David Coulthard, shares the Finn's courteous nature and calm disposition. He has shown increased determination and focus in the 2000 season, winning the British, Monaco and French Grands Prix, and is still a contender for the Drivers' Championship.

Other names which have stood out this year include Schumacher's Brazilian team-mate, Rubens Barrichello. His emotional outburst following his first Formula1 victory in the German Grand Prix endeared him to fans worldwide. He has also admitted to shedding a few tears upon seeing his name on a red Ferrari for the first time! Jaguar's Eddie Irvine is also a popular man on and off the race circuit, especially with the ladies! His outspoken manner and love for all things 'fast' make sure that, even when he doesn't finish in the points, he is never overlooked in the media.

Also often in the news is 1997 World Champion, Jacques Villeneuve, who is viewed by all in the industry as an exceptionally talented driver. He is renowned for his 'cool' exterior and has had some epic battles with Michael Schumacher on the track. The future also looks bright for the young Englishman, Jenson Button. Still only 20 years old, Button has adapted to the pressures of his first year in Formula1 racing extremely well, handling both his car and the media with maturity beyond his years.

More about the Teams

With eleven teams fighting for the coveted Constructors' Title, there is something for everyone in Formula One. However, two teams in particular stand out from the rest in terms of the all important points accumulation.

Ferrari continue to battle it out this year with McLaren and, with only eight points between them, there is still all to play for. Formula1 is a serious business and, with Ferrari behind on points, you can be assured they will be pulling out all the stops in the US Grand Prix in September in order to retain the title.

Currently in third place in the Constructors' Championship are the Williams team. Meticulous in nature and fiercely determined, Williams always push their drivers to achieve optimum performance and are tipped to hold onto the third spot. Behind Williams on eighteen points are the Anglo-Italian team, Benetton. Benetton boss, Flavio Briatore, who has been brought into to oversee their change to Renault in 2002, is an outspoken character and can always be relied upon to provide interesting soundbites. Benetton have recently signed Jenson Button for the next two seasons.

Other teams to watch include the Jordan team, who have turned in steady performances this season and were the talk of 1999 when they secured third place in the constructors' title. Boss Eddie Jordan is a well-known Formula1 figure, and the Irish 'party' team can always be relied upon to keep the fun in Formula1. Sixth placed team, British American Racing (BAR) are one of the youngest teams in the title chase but, with new drivers and strong financial backing, are expected to perform well in the future.

Minardi, Arrows, Prost, Sauber and the world famous Jaguar team should certainly be monitored in terms of team performance in the future. New to the 2002 season will be the Japanese team, Toyota. Speculation is rife but racecar specifications remain firmly under wraps, with testing beginning next year.

The History of the US Grand Prix

The US Grand Prix at Indianapolis will take place on a new course constructed within the confines of the Speedway oval, and will end a nine-year Formula1 absence in America. The race will run over 73 laps and cover a distance of 190.294 miles. The first US Grand Prix took place on December 12th 1959 at Sebring in Florida and was won by New Zealander, Bruce McLaren. It then switched to Riverside California in 1960 and was won by Stirling Moss. Still in search of a permanent home it moved to Watkins Glen in upstate New York for 1961, and remained there until 1980. It has been won by only two Americans in its time, Phil Hill and Mario Andretti, and its return to the Formula1 calendar is extremely welcome.

Marketing and Sponsorship

The sport is a hugely lucrative business. It is estimated that, on average, a team will have an approximate budget of $60 million each year although it has been said that the figure associated with Italian giants, Ferrari, is around $200 million. An average driver can expect to earn between around $5 and $10 million per year, plus performance related bonuses. The sport's top earner is undoubtedly Ferrari's Michael Schumacher who allegedly pockets around $25 million per year in salary alone. Second is reported to be Jacques Villeneuve who has recently signed a 3 year contract with BAR for an estimated $48 million. BAR have also reportedly pledged a $5 million bonus should Villeneuve win the Drivers' championship.

Figures such as these inevitably lead to the question of how teams can raise such funds - with the main answer being sponsorship. The World Championship has developed into a high-profile marketing tool for those who have entered into partnership with a team. An estimation of yearly contributions by sponsors would work out at over $1 billion.

Sponsors will work out different deals with teams depending on their budget and what exposure is available on the car. As an example, a rear wing advertisement on a high-profile team car can cost over $7 million, while a side-pod on the car could cost up to $15 million. Teams also receive income through the FOA (Formula One Administration), which handles the sale of television rights. This has generated around $340 million this season alone. This money is divided between the teams, once the FOA and FIA (see appendix) have taken their share.

This racing series has had a significant economic impact in Europe where eleven of the seventeen Grands Prix take place. A study by the FIA in 1997 revealed that over 2 million fans attended the 11 Grands Prix creating over $500 million in spectator spending. Momentum increased throughout the 1990s and shows no sign of relenting. Research has also shown that the scheduling of races in repeat venues at repeat times with repeat sponsors creates bigger crowds with increased spending in the local economy.

The Glamour

Formula One is associated with speed, glamour, money and celebrities. The big races are attended by royalty, sports stars, movie stars and models. Some well-known faces who have been spotted at circuits around the world include Prince Albert of Monaco, Naomi Campbell (who is romantically linked Flavio Briatore, principal of the Benetton team), Simon and Yasmin Le Bon, Sylvester Stallone, the Duchess of York, Elizabeth Hurley, Val Kilmer, Kate Moss, Paul Newman and Boris Becker.

David Letterman is also known to be an ardent motor racing fan and is sure to be in attendance at the US Grand Prix. He had McLaren driver, David Coulthard, appear as a guest on his show in June.

Many of the drivers have also become celebrities in their own right - their millionaire lifestyles and beautiful partners have made this sport the most glamorous across the globe today.

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About this article
Series Formula 1
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , David Coulthard , Mika Hakkinen , Jacques Villeneuve , Eddie Jordan , Phil Hill , Mario Andretti , Paul Newman , Flavio Briatore , Stirling Moss
Teams Ferrari , Sauber , McLaren , Williams , Benetton , British American Racing , Minardi , Jordan