With excitement starting to build towards the new F1 season, we take a look at American involvement in Formula 1.
Traditionally, Formula 1 was a European based activity, dominated at first by Italian teams. The so called “World Championship” started in 1950, although in the 1930s Grand Prix were fought over the “European Championship”, which sometimes included races in Tripoli in what was then Italian Libya.
Mercedes returned to Formula 1 in 1954 for two years domination, before the British came onto the scene towards the end of the decade with Vanwall, and then started to dominate with what the Italians dismissively called “Garagistes” – the likes of Cooper, Lotus and BRM.
The first United States Grand Prix that was a round of the World Championship was held at Sebring in 1959, won by a very young New Zealander called Bruce McLaren, driving a Cooper. The US Grand Prix has continued as a round of the championship, with races at a wide variety of circuits, including Riverside, Long Beach, Detroit, Watkins Glen, Phoenix, Dallas, Indianapolis and even in a car park in Las Vegas. Some years there have been two races on different tracks. It seems that the US Grand Prix has finally found a regular home in Austin, Texas at the Circuit of the Americas, and this year a second race is planned on a street circuit in Miami. (8th May).
In 1974 and 1976 Mario Andretti raced a Vels Parnelli Cosworth, got a few points finishes, and Penske built a Cosworth engined car which actually won the Austrian Grand prix in 1976 with John Watson at the wheel. Penske pulled out at the end of the year, selling the cars to ATS. (ATS is another story altogether!!). The Vels Parnelli team gave up after just 3 races of the 76 season.