History of Formula 1 – American Grand Prix

United States Grand Prix – The History, The Circuits, The Drivers & the Cars

Road racing in America has taken a back seat to oval racing held at venues such as Daytona and Indianapolis but with the return of the United States GP and the continued growth of Formula One in the rest of the world Grand Prix History will take the opportunity to look back upon a time when Americans went Grand Prix racing. Formula 1 has a rich and varied history in America, having moved home more than any other grand prix since the championship began in 1950. But grand prix racing didn’t start in the United States in 1950, it goes way further back.  The American Grand Prix experience can be broken out into a few broad eras:

  • Beginnings and the Vanderbilt Cup
  • The Grand Prize era
  • Post-war decline and the Indianapolis 500
  • Sebring (1959) and Riverside (1958, 1960)
  • Watkins Glen (1961–1980)
  • Phoenix (1989–1991)
  • Indianapolis (2000–2007)
  • Austin (2012-2019, 2021)

The Vanderbilt Cup

Chain your Dogs and lock up your fowl. So was heralded the Long Island Vanderbilt Cup races. Many races have been held under the Vanderbilt Cup banner but the initial races from 1904-1910 on the streets of Long Island marked the high point of this series. Born from the imagination of William “Willie K” Vanderbilt, Jr., great grandson of millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt and a racer in his own right, these races were held despite numerous court orders, public hearings and threats of injunction. The initial course measured 30.24 miles winding for the most part through Nassau County, New York. The rules were simple; each car must be completely manufactured in the country represented, weighing no less than 881 lbs. and no more than 2,204 lbs. The drivers and mechanics themselves had to weigh a minimum of 132 lbs. The American Automobile Association (AAA) a new organization compared to the Automobile Club of America (ACA) sanctioned the events, which would cause problems in the future. Learn more.

American Grand Prize

Formula One racing has long been an exiting spectacle to behold. With cars blazing at speed in excess of 200mph, pulling turns at more than 5 g-forces, and always having the possibility to end in disaster, F1 racing keeps fans on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Only the best drivers in the world would even attempt to climb into an F1 car, and if that driver isn’t up for the task, Darwin’s theory is on full display as they’re inevitably weeded out. This true and unforgiving version of survival of the fittest pulls in fanfare from every corner of the globe.

However, the sport varies from country to country. In Europe and other countries around the world, the Formula One World Championship series, the highest class sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, is all the rage. But in the United States of America, the IndyCar Series, similar to F1, takes precedence. And they both bow out to NASCAR. Although the two respective leagues are extremely similar, many F1 faithful can quickly spot the differences in cars, tracks, and even drivers. The two leagues are wholly separate when it comes to circuits. For example, the Indy 500 (IndyCar Series) is not a Grand Prix race (F1). But the two worlds do collide every so often, when F1 includes an American track as part of their circuit.

Started in 1908, 42-years previous to F1’s official inception, the United States Grand Prix began. At first, the race was known as the American Grand Prize. Today, the race is a sometimes-included part of the Formula One World Championship circuit. The first 8 years of this race were known as the Grand Prize, but after proving to be unspectacular to many, it dissolved.

Grand Prix Racing in the U.S

Over those years there have been many homes for grand prix racing. There was a period in the ‘70s and ‘80s when America staged races using several other titles aside from ‘the United States Grand Prix’, no fewer than nine different venues have staged an F1 race on American soil, by far the most of any nation to have staged a round of the Formula 1 World Championship. Starting with F1’s maiden season in 1950, ‘the 500’ was an official round of the F1 world championship for a whole decade, and although it was never referred to as the ‘United States Grand Prix’, it was for many years the only American round on the calendar.

The United States Grand Prix moved briefly to Sebring in 1959, and then onto the Riverside Raceway in California a year later. Nether proved popular as an F1 venue, but from 1960, Formula 1 was able to find a new and more permanent home for the United States Grand Prix at Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen proved instantly more popular than the two venues that preceded it, drawing huge crowds from the very first year and becoming a permanent fixture for close to two decades.

 

In 1958, the United States Grand Prix took its place and was held at Riverside International Raceway in California. It instantly became famous among Americans when hometown hero Chuck Daigh, driving a Scarab, defeated Dan Gurnery’s Ferrari. The next year, the first Formula One American Grand Prix was organized and held on a road course at Sebring, Florida. The popularity gained due to Daigh’s win in ’58 wasn’t reproduced the following year, and just like 1916, 1959 would once again see the dissolution of America’s attempt at Grand Prix hosting.

Now 0-for-2, not even the most daring gambling man would bet on America playing host to a Grand Prix again. Nevertheless, Alec Ulmann, director of the Florida attempt, tried it again the very next year. 1960 would bring the race back to Riverside, but despite Stirling Moss’ excellent performance, the race still failed to lure in fans. Undeterred, there was yet another attempt to integrate F1 into American culture. Cameron Argetsinger hosted the 1961 event at one of America’s most famous road courses, Watkins Glen in New York. This course and this atmosphere proved to be the perfect combination, and the race was a smashing success. Over the next 20 years, Watkins Glen became a fixture on the circuit. But due to faster F1 cars, the road course was ill-equipped to handle the new technology. In 1981, Watkins Glen was removed from the F1 calendar.

US Grand Prix

Formula One has been back to the states since then, with Phoenix, Arizona playing host to the Phoenix street circuit from 1989 to 1991. However, due to horrifically poor attendance in ’91, F1 abandoned America and did not return for nearly a decade. As a way to bring the new millennium in with a bang, F1 paid a visit to America’s most famous racetrack, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, home of the Indy 500. The race was held in front of a crowd of 225,000 spectators, shattering all previous attendance records for an F1 Grand Prix. The race was held again at Indy in 2001, ’02, and again in ’04 and ’05. But during the 2005 running, problems with Michelin tires caused 7 teams to withdraw from competition. When the race was scheduled to run against the next year, many thought it was a joke, but the 2006 race went off without a hitch. F1 returned in 2007, but after failing to reach an agreement with the Speedway, F1 backed out and hasn’t returned since. On the 18th of November Formula 1 will return to the United States to race on the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas.

The 1950s

Alec Ulmann first saw an automobile race as a child in his native Russia. He brought this love with him when he emigrated to the United States. When local racers were looking for a place to race he organized the use of an airbase at Sebring, Florida. The first race in 1950 was a sports car event sponsored by the SCCA which had formed six years earlier. In 1952, seeking an international field he sought AAA sanctioning and the race was lengthened to 12 hours. It became a part of the FIA Manufacturers Championship the following year. The race began to attract the best cars and drivers in the world and in 1959 it played host to the first United States Grand Prix since the American Grand Prize series of 1908-1916.

Joining the contingent of Formula 1 cars was the number 1 Kurtis-Offy Midget of USAC National Champion Rodger Ward, the only American-built and American-driven entry. Ward’s car had an underpowered engine (1.7 liters to 2.5 for the F1 cars), separate gear-change levers for the two-speed gearbox and two-speed rear end, and an outboard handbrake. Ward explained how his participation in the race came about by saying, “Ullman called me up and invited me to race in the Grand Prix. He offered me some money, and I was in the habit of accepting money, so I told him I’d bring the midget.

The race was won by New Zealander Bruce McLaren driving a Cooper T51 for the works Cooper team, the first win for a New Zealand-born driver. Championship points leader Australian Jack Brabham ran out of fuel on the last lap and had to push his Cooper T51 across the line to finish fourth. Brooks’ third place finish clinched the title for Brabham. It was the first of three world championships for Brabham, and the first for an Australian, for Cooper and for a rear-engined car.

The upcoming race had all of the makings of a classic three man duel between Jack Brabham, Stirling Moss and Tony Brooks. Each had a chance for the championship but after various mechanical gremlins retarded the progress of the main antagonists, the race belonged to a young New Zealander by the name of Bruce McLaren. With his fourth place, Brabham took the title from Brooks and Moss in that order. The race had started with 19 entries including Roger Ward in his hopelessly out-classed Kurtis-Offy Midget and proved a financial disaster. For the following year the event was moved across the country to Riverside, California but the crowds were still disappointing. The title had already been decided in Brabham’s favor which did nothing to help the attendance.

Watkins Glen

In 1961 The Grand Prix circus moved to Watkins Glen in New York. Here the race had finally found a home or so it seemed. After the tragic events at Monza where Jimmy Clark and Wolfgang von Trips touched causing the death of the popular German and seven spectators, Ferrari withdrew from the remaining events after securing the championship under American Phil Hill. This left it to Lotus to score a win in the hands of Scotland’s Innes Ireland at The United States Grand Prix. This was the first victory for Team Lotus in a championship race; Moss had won in privately entered cars under Rob Walker’s team. Ironically the Scottish driver’s greatest triumph would not amount to much later that year when he was sacked by Lotus. Chapman who had the amazing Jimmy Clark was keen to open a spot for him in Formula One.

Finally the race produced a small profit and settled into its traditional October date. The championship in 1962 was a hard fought duel between Jimmy Clark and Graham Hill. Ferrari again was a no show, this time their absence was due to their poor season rather than a tragedy though for Enzo Ferrari they may well have amounted to the same thing! Jim Clark won the race but Hill who finished second would go on and claim his first title in season ending South African Grand Prix. 1963 saw Hill return the favor but in an act of symmetry it was Clarks turn to win his first title. Hill would win the next two years followed by another win for Clark.

Finally in 1968 the race was one by another driver by the name of Jackie Stewart. That year the race was run between the Canadian and South African Grands Prix. 1969 the race was won by Jochen Rindt but the following year he was tragically killed at Monza and not able to defend his title. That job was assumed by the young Brazilian Emerson Fittipaldi. With his victory the Championship was awarded posthumously to Rindt. The 1971-72 races were won by Tyrrell with Francois Cevert and Jackie Stewart driving respectively but the race in 1973 saw its first fatality when Cevert was killed during practice.

Cevert had crashed violently in the uphill Esses heading onto the back of the circuit. Fighting the car as he went up the hill, he brushed the curb on the left, whipped across the track and hit the guardrail on the right. The car began to spin, and he swerved back across the track at 150 mph and hit the outside guardrail almost head-on, Stewart said.

Tyrrell withdrew their remaining car and Jackie Stewart would never race again. 1974 saw the World Championship go to Fittipaldi as he drove to a conservative fourth place. It was Niki Lauda’s turn the next year.

After 15 years hosting the United States Grand Prix, the race at Watkins Glen took on a new name for 1976 – the USA Grand Prix East – which it used until its final race in 1980. This subtle naming tweak was introduced as a second US race was added on the streets of Long Beach, California which took on the title of the United States Grand Prix West.

After holding a warm-up Formula 5000 race in 1975, the first United States Grand Prix West at Long Beach was run. This would prove the the beginning of the high point of America’s involvement in Formula 1 that lasted until 1981. Long Beach was an instant hit, with its challenging street circuit seen by some as America’s answer to the Monaco Grand Prix. The race in Long Beach remained on the calendar for eight years.

Holding a Formula One race became more and more expensive and soon was out of reach for Watkins Glen. The race was moved to a parking lot next to Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. The Grand Prix that had raced in the streets of Monte Carlo and the forests of Spa and the Nurburgring now found itself amongst the Winnebagos of middle America. After two years this humiliation was ended only to be followed by further indignities at Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix.

Meanwhile Long Beach which continued to enjoy some access also found the price tag too dear and converted to Indy Cars after 1983. Soon it all ended and Grand Prix racing was once again absent from these shores.

The 1980s

Throughout the ‘80s, the United States Grand Prix continued to move around the country, with races taking place at Caesars Palace, Las Vegas (1981-82) plus a one-off race in Dallas in 1984. In 1982, the United States became the first country ever to host three rounds of the Formula 1 World Championship in one season with a street circuit in Detroit added alongside established races in Long Beach (USA Grand Prix West) and Las Vegas (Caesars Palace Grand Prix).

The Detroit Grand Prix remained until 1988, garnering a reputation as one of the most physically demanding on the calendar due to its bumpy surface and hot, humid weather. In fact, conditions were usually so hot and grueling, that it was seen as an achievement to simply finish the race with it not uncommon to see half the field failing to reach the checkered flag. Detroit’s time hosting F1 came to an end following the 1988 race, with FISA (Formula 1’s governing body at the time) deeming the facilities no longer to be of F1 standard.

After almost a decade running the USA East and USA West grands prix, as well as the short-lived Detroit and Caesars Palace rounds, a race in Phoenix was introduced for 1989 which officially returned the United States Grand Prix title to the calendar for the first time since 1980. The first race in 1989 was disappointingly not a sellout, and attendances did not improve much in the following two years either. After failing to agree on a renewal, Phoenix slipped off the calendar for 1992.

Indianapolis

For Formula 1’s first season of the new millennium, and for the first time since 1960, a race was confirmed to take place in Indianapolis – home of the iconic Indy 500. Although this time, the famous oval race remained part of the IndyCar calendar as a new course was used instead for F1. Using the infield layout and around one mile of the oval (in the opposite direction to how the 500 is run), the inaugural United States Grand Prix to be staged at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway proved popular with over 200,000 fans in attendance – at the time, one of the largest crowds in F1 history.

Formula 1’s decision to stage a race in Indianapolis was seen as the perfect opportunity to return grand prix racing to a passionate and enthusiastic crowd and boost its reputation once again, especially given America’s long absence from the F1 calendar. The 2005 race, however, did untold damage to F1’s reputation there and undid much of the work of the previous four years. With Michelin experiencing a series of tyre failures in practice ahead of the 2005 United States Grand Prix, seven of the 10 teams withdrew on the formation lap leaving just six cars to take the start and a furious home crowd demanding refunds.

A New Era

On 25 May 2010, Austin, Texas, was awarded the race on a ten-year contract, as Ecclestone and event promoter Full Throttle Productions agreed to a deal beginning in 2012. The event is being held on a purpose-built new track, which was named Circuit of the Americas.

On November 16th 2012, Formula 1 cars took to the track at Circuit of The Americas for the first time, with Lewis Hamilton emerging victorious in the race two days later. With the passionate Texan crowd flocking to attend the event each year since, the United States Grand Prix has rebuilt its reputation as one of the most entertaining and well-attended races on the F1 calendar. 

The Drivers

The Cars

The Races

The Circuits

Below, we take you through some of the most iconic Formula 1 and Grand Prix tracks in the United States:

Dallas Race Track

  • Years: 1984
  • Length: 3.901 km (miles)
  • Fastest Lap: N. Lauda, McLaren MP4-2 – (1984) – 1’45.353″ 133.3 km/h (mph)

And another street race; a 1984 one-off run between hundreds of portable concrete lane dividers that ended up as a test of how close drivers could come to heat stroke while driving a kart course. Curiously, the race was won by a Finish driver. Keke Rosberg took it, while Nigel Mansell passed out pushing his dead Lotus across the line. Knowledgeable observers wondered how any venue could be more foreign to Formula 1. A decade, or so, later, however, NHL hockey came to Dallas and met with quick success. The race organizers were probably not so crazy afterall, although they couldn’t come up with enough money for an encore in ’85. Like Las Vegas, Dallas was touted recently as a possible site for a U.S. GP in the future, but has recently dropped out of the running.

Detroit Race Track

  • Years: 1982 – 1988
  • Length: 4.023 km (miles)
  • Fastest Lap: A. Senna, Lotus/Honda – (1987) – 1’40.464″ 144.172 km/h (mph)

The ancestral home of the American car company plays host to a horde of effete European road racers screamed the Detroit Free Press. In fact the respected newspaper declined to make that statement yet many of the local inhabitants must have wondered why these racecars were not running on a local speedway instead of their “beloved” city streets. The inaugural event in 1982 gave the U.S. 3, count ’em, 3 GPs in a single year. Scene of a couple of classic races, including John Watson’s victory from the 17th starting position in 1982. The course itself was no classic, but neither was it a Las Vegas, Dallas or Phoenix.

Las Vegas Track

  • Years: 1981 -1982
  • Length: 3.65 km (last race) ( miles)
  • Fastest Lap: Alboreto, Tyrrell 011 – (1982) – 1’19.639″ 164.995 km/h ( mph)

Not even a street circuit but an “only in America” parking-lot course and possibly the sorriest excuse for a GP course yet produced. What does Las Vegas and Grand Prix racing have in common? Nothing, and yet for two years; 1981 and 1982 the Winnebagos and Airstreams that clog the parking lot of Caesar’s Palace were replaced by the whine of 1200 horse-power Formula One racing cars. Road racing in America had reached its lowest point or so it seemed at the time. Vegas may have surpassed even Bernie Ecclestone with its desire to place commercial above sporting interests. Piquet cemented his first championship here in 1981. Las Vegas looked for a while as if it might be the site for the next U.S. GP, this time with plans for for a purpose-built race track. The city fathers opted for another golf course instead.

Long Beach Track

  • Years: 1976 -1983
  • Length: 3.25 km (1st 6 years) (miles)
  • Fastest Lap: N. Piquet, Brabham BT 49 – (1980) – 1’19.83″ 146.6 km/h (mph)

Long Beach was the third best street course in the world, following Monaco and Adelaide. Sixteen years after it had first visited Southern California, Chris Pook brought F1 to this dockside course in 1976. It stayed through 1983 after which the less expensive Indy car show took over. Long Beach was the scene of some excitement. In 1982 Niki Lauda secured the first victory of his second F1 career in only his 3rd start. McLaren was victorious the next year as well when John Watson (who made something of a career of finishing well in America) won the final Long Beach event in impressive style, rising from the grave of grid position 22. Talented Swiss Clay Regazzoni’s career ended here in 1980 when the run-off at the end of the long straight proved insufficient.

Long Island Track

  • Years: 1904 – 1910

Born from the imagination of William “Willie K” Vanderbilt, Jr., great grandson of millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt and a racer in his own right, these races were held despite numerous court orders, public hearings and threats of injunction. The initial course measured 30.24 miles winding for the most part through Nassau County, New York. From 1904 to to 1910 the race was held on different circuits each year to offset strong civic opposition despite their popularity with the general population. In 1908 the course included 9 miles of Long Island Motor Parkway in a desperate attempt to gain some semblance of crowd control.

Phoenix Track

  • Years: 1989 – 1991
  • Length: 3.798 km (first 2 races) (miles)
  • Fastest Lap: G. Berger, McLaren MP4-5B – (1990) – 1’31.050″ 150.168 km/h (mph)

You guessed it, still one more street race. 1989 through 1991, the latter being the last year a GP was held in the U.S. Senna took 2/3 of the victories – ’90 and ’91. 1998 World Champion Mika Hakkinen made his F1 debut here in 1991 finishing 13th in a Lotus-Judd.

Riverside Track

  • Years: 1960
  • Length: 5.27 km ( miles)
  • Fastest Lap: J. Brabham, Cooper/Climax – (1960) – 1’56.3″ 163.1 km/h (mph)

Another one-off U.S. GP site. F1 visited the Southern California desert here in 1960. Riverside, like Sebring, could in no way be considered a quality GP course. Ferrari didn’t even bother to show up. The U.S.-made Scarab scored its only GP finish, at the hands of Chuck Daigh. Local talent Gurney placed his BRM on the front row but dropped out before the end of the race. Jim Hall, making his F1 debut, had been a victim of a Chapman shell game – he was supposed to get a full-up Lotus F1 car but somehow wound up with an under-sized engine. He had to scramble to find a replacement with enough displacement to power him to a very decent 7th place finish. The race was won by Sirling Moss in Rob Walker’s Lotus 18. Recently crowned World Champion Jack Brabham took fastest lap honors.

Roosevelt Raceway

Out of the Depression there arose a dream to resurrect international motor racing in the United States. The sport had degenerated into dirt and board oval track racing with Indianapolis as its crown jewel. While this type of racing was certainly entertaining it was so far removed from Grand Prix racing that few if any European manufacturers ventured across the ocean to compete. The rules also stunted the technological development of automobiles in the United States for years to come.

A group of Wall Street financiers and well-known sports figures such as Eddie Rickenbacker, former racer, WW1 Flying ace and ironically owner of the Indianapolis Speedway established Motor Development Corporation (MDT). This venture had as its goal to create a road racing circuit that would host an international event pitting the best that Europe and America had to offer in men and machines. George Robertson, one of America’s greatest pre-WW1 racing drivers and the winner of the 1908 Vanderbilt Cup was its vice president and general manager. The complex near Westbury, Long Island would be as grand as any in the world or so its owners wished, with seating for 50,000, elegant sky boxes for VIPs (a scourge, even then ed.) and permanent garages for the teams. With prize money equal to $600,000 in today’s dollars the new “George” Vanderbilt Cup race would entice some of the worlds greatest cars and drivers including the German Mercedes and Auto Union teams. Unfortunately reality differed from the fantasy that was Motor Development Corporation.

The Roosevelt Raceway’s 4 miles contained 16 corners and one ¾ mile straight. It was designed by Mark Linenthal, an architect friend of co-owner George Preston Marshall, who gained notoriety as a horse race track designer. In fact with its hard-packed dirt surface, wood rails and track width it resembled a venue for horses more than modern racing cars. The New York press would quip that higher speeds could be maintained on the nearby Long Island parkways. In two short years the dream was dead and it wasn’t until 1959 that international motor racing returned to America.

San Francisco Track

  • Years: 1915

For 1915 the American Grand Prize was held in conjunction with San Francisco’s Panama Pacific Exposition. The Fair, which opened on February 20, 1915, was in honor of the the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the completion of the Panama Canal; it was also celebration of San Francisco’s resurrection after the shattering earthquake and fire of 1906.

The 3.84 mile circuit was partially boarded over San Francisco Bay mud and when the cars drove over the boards the mud would gush out and splatter the drivers. The race was held on the 27th of February and after two hours of racing the winds picked up and the rain began to fall in buckets. After five grueling hours the winner was Dario Resta in a Peugeot.

Santa Monica Track

  • Years: 1914, 1916

After a one year interlude the American Grand Prize was re-established in 1914 on the other side of the continent. Santa Monica would play host to this race as well as the Vanderbilt Cup during a February Speed Festival. The 8.4 mile course along the Pacific shoreline started on Ocean Avenue before turning left at Nevada Avenue. This 90-degree corner was known as the notorious Death Curve.

After moving to San Francisco in 1915 the races were returned to Santa Monica the next year which would prove to be the last American Grand Prize (Prix) contested on a road coarse until a new Vanderbilt Cup race was held in New York in 1936. Speedways had become the “track de jour” in America.

Savannah Track

  • Years: 1908, 1910

The Vanderbilt Cup races were still being held when the new and richer American Grand Prize was established in 1908. That was the year when the American Automobile Association (AAA), the sanctioning body for the Vanderbilt Cup decided to ignore the latest international regulations emanating from Paris and instead imposed a simple 1200-kg. Weight limit on all entrants. This lack of regulations would remove any advantage held by the specially built Grand Prix cars of Europe. Into this breach stepped the Automobile Club of America (ACA) who announced that they would abide by the regulations issued by the ACF. The prize, the Gold Cup was worth $5,000 or twice the Vanderbilt Cup. The next task was to find a venue for the race. From several candidates, Savannah, Georgia was chosen.

Established in 1904 the Savannah Automobile Club built a 17-mile stock-car course and held several minor races before submitting the winning bid for the American Grand Prize. The club was originally interested in holding the Vanderbilt Cup event but entered into the new enterprise with great enthusiasm. Using convict labor they lengthened and refurbished their course to an expanded 25.3 mile configuration.

Sebring Track

  • Years: 1959
  • Length: 8.368km (miles)
  • Fastest Lap: M. Trintignant, Cooper/Climax – (1959) – 3’5.0″ 162.8 kph (mph)

The first American F1 race was held on this Florida circuit in 1959. Strangely, Dan Gurney was not in the field for this inaugural “U.S. Grand Prix” and the first GP on U.S. soil in 43 years, though future U.S. World Champion Phil Hill and 5 other Americans were. The only one of the 6 to finish was Harry Blanchard, taking 7th in his only F1 start. Roger Ward ran a midget dirt track car, to no avail. Sebring is an airport track, but it is no Silverstone. Nevertheless it has achieved fame through its annual 12 hour endurance race for sports cars originally promoted by Alec Ulmann (who also set up the GP) and first run in 1952. At the ’59 U.S. GP, Bruce McLaren became the youngest driver to win an F1 race, a record that still stands. Jack Brabham secured that year’s driver’s championship pushing his defunct Cooper across the finish line to finish 4th. The U.S. GP never made another visit to Sebring.

Watkins Glen Track

  • Years: 1961 – 1980
  • Length: 5.435 km (1970 on) (miles)
  • Fastest Lap: A. Jones, Williams FW07B – (1980) -1’34.068″ 207.998 km/h ( mph)

THE American GP track, the Glen was the only modern era U.S. track worthy of mention in the same breath with Monza or Silverstone. Buried in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York it was hard to get to, there was no place to stay, and it was cold in October. But the virtues of this classic road course more than out-weighed such nuisances. The contrast created by having a world class race track nestled in rolling farmland among forests, waterfalls and vineyards, and on the outskirts of a little hamlet that could not claim a population of 3,000, lent much to the Glen’s undeniable mystique. It hosted U.S. Grands Prix from 1961 through 1980. Notable races included 1962 through 1967, which GP immortals Jim Clark and Graham Hill split evenly between themselves. In 1970 Emerson Fittipaldi scored his first F1 victory, in the process securing that year’s driver’s title for dead teammate Jochen Rindt. The challenges presented by the track took their toll. Watkins Glen has been the only American GP track to claim drivers’ lives in the modern era. In 1973 it was promising Tyrrell driver Francois Cevert and in 1974 it was Austrian Helmut Koinigg who paid the ultimate price. In the late ’70s The Glen ran short of money, which, in the age of Ecclestone, meant a sure and swift death. The 1980 race was the end. There may never be another American GP course to match Watkins Glen.

Indianapolis F1 Track

  • Years: 2000–2007
  • Most victories: 5, Michael Schumacher (2000, 2003-2006)
  • Most poles: 4, Michael Schumacher (2000-2002, 2006)
  • Youngest winner: Lewis Hamilton, 22, 2007
  • Oldest winner: Michael Schumacher, 37, 2006
  • Closest margin of victory: .011 of a second, Rubens Barrichello over Michael Schumacher, 2002
  • Widest margin of victory: 18.258 seconds, Michael Schumacher over Kimi Raikkonen, 2003

The Formula One World Championship raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from 2000-2007 in the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. F1 competed on a 13-turn, 2.605-mile road course at IMS that run clockwise – the opposite direction of the oval events – and incorporated the iconic front straightaway, a newly built infield road section, the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 of the oval and Turn 1 of the oval.

IMS and Formula One officials announced in 1998 that F1 would return to the United States for the first time since 1991 at Phoenix with the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis in 2000. The Speedway embarked on a multimillion-dollar construction project that involved the building of the new road course, pitside garages and suites, a new media center and a majestic new Pagoda control tower.

Seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher of Germany was the king of F1’s run at Indianapolis, winning in five of his seven starts at the event between 2000-2006. 

Austin F1 Track (Circuit of the Americas)

  • Years: 2012-Current

Coming soon