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F1, like soccer and the metric system, is OK for everyone except Americans (qz.com)
65 points by antr 1783 days ago | hide | past | web | 69 comments | favorite

This isn't just a lack of interest in F1, it's an almost complete lack of modern motorsports in general.

Oddly enough, for a country where cars are sacred, the US has barely any capability to develop racing cars of any kind (NASCAR is low tech, Indycar, like most other US racing series, buys its cars from Europe), and there is little to no serious competition.

There are no modern racetracks (besides Austin), the facilities at ovals, even Indy, are cheap, low budget and utterly outdated compared to modern racetracks around the world.

There is very little competition outside the major series compared to the many dozens of competitive racing series around the world, and no way for talent to develop.

NASCAR's commercial success aside, the US is a third world country when it comes to racing.

The US isn't a third world country in regards to racing. Rather, it's motorsports heritage is somewhat antithetical to that of F1.

Motorsports in the US reflect this "run what you brung" democratic ethos. The high profile manufacturers in US motorsports are not Ferrari and Lotus. They are Ford and and Chevy and Dodge (and more recently Honda and Toyota). The manufacturer's badges in the parking lot correlate with those on the track.

NASCAR's racing culture is an organic extension of the cars and tracks that make up local races on Friday nights in rural areas. Compared to Formula 1, NASCAR's rules are designed to keep cost per race down and more participation (about three times as many teams in 2013). They are designed to allow frequent racing (about twice as many races, more than two every three weeks).

Instead, high tech motorsports in the U.S. has historically focused on straight line speed, but it always keeps the "run what you brung" ethos.

Got a nitro-methane mixture in the tank ? There's probably someone willing to go mano-a-mano down the track. Four G's and four seconds later, it's decided. And turbine heads with a surplus jet engine will always have Bonneville where the Art Alfonses of the world can take on the corporate Breedloves.

One of the NASCAR ovals mentioned in the article was Bristol. It's in the middle of nowhere, 290 miles from Atlanta, 340 miles from Nashville, and separated from both by the mountains. It holds 160,000 spectators. They don't generally stay in four star hotels, they camp. Good luck finding such rooms in the nearest metropolis. Johnson City Tennessee ain't Monaco.

"Third world country when it comes to racing." That is total BS. Maybe the problem is people don't know about all the different ways you can go racing in this country. It's a big country and there are a lot of different groups with different interests. Maybe you should check out the SCCA or NASA. Don't tell me there are no feeder open wheel series.

And there is tons of technology going on in the tin-top road racing and autocross world. I know folks working on open source engine management. There is currently an indie-go-go for an open source data acquisition system. The "import scene" is full of turbocharged four cylinder cars. Look at some of the cars we have now b/c auto enthusiasts have been screaming about why does Europe get them and not us: Mini Cooper, Fiat 500 Abarth, Mitsu Evo, Subaru STi, Ford Focus ST, Ford Fiesta ST. There are plenty of people in this country who like to turn left and right and are aware of what is going on in the rest of the world. We just do not make the evening news.

P.S. I also take offense to the metric system comment. I'm an mechanical engineer and in practice have to use both unit systems. I'd love if we could just switch to metric.

Lack of interest in soccer means that the US isn't very good in international football for lack of interest, not that it has 'barely any capability to develop' same.

Race cars are not development, they are entertainment. This is like criticizing Europe for not having enough pro wrestling/luchador stuff going on.

>NASCAR is low tech

Isn't that a common myth?

Nope. It's been what, only 2 years in to NASCAR actually having EFI engines? Even then, the teams were restricted from being able to use all of the data from the ECU, so everyone had to run at gimped tuning.

V8 Supercars, for example, debuts more tech in one race than NASCAR does in a season. Even WRC Rally cars are questionably more complicated.

edit: EFI was introduced 1 year ago.

Nascar is low-tech in many ways. The car bodies must fit production sedan templates, so the the chassis is welded tubular steel instead of carbon monocoque like on F1 or Indycar. The engines are carbureted instead of fuel injected. There's no turbochargers (although Indy just got those back this year as well). There are strict rules about spoiler size and type.

They do make extensive use of sensors and telemetry, but the cars themselves are pretty retro.

NASCAR moved to fuel injection this past season.

As someone who's been an F1 fan for a while (although less so at the moment, but I digress), I've always found it curious that it's never really taken off in America like it could have. Americans love cars, and love racing, it's easy to mock the love of the oval and NASCAR but American teams show up in Le Mans quite a lot, and have a long history of racing on the long, winding and, well, non-American tracks.

Maybe it's just a quirk of culture, something that slipped under the radar and never made it back into vogue. No American drivers, previously no American tracks, no American teams, there's little to get a fan hooked in. F1 suddenly got a lot more coverage in the UK when we had a couple of drivers, and oddly more coverage still when we had drivers doing well, maybe having one really good American driver would change it.

> No American drivers, no American tracks, no American teams[...]

F1 was run at the Circuit of the Americas two weeks ago, in Austin. I think F1 is to the USA as NFL is to the UK: there's a dedicated, small audience in both (judging from my Twitter feed), and they're both trying to extend their reach - F1 with more races in the US, and NFL with more games in Wembley. I think F1 is planning a New Jersey street race in 2014 as well.

Sorry I should have said 'previously no American tracks', was typing a bit too fast and I'll fix it.

There was also an F1 GP held at Indianapolis between 2000 and 2007.

I've been an F1 fan since I watched Ayrton Senna get killed 10 minutes after I turned on my first race in '94. Weird, but I was hooked. The last time F1 was run at Indy in 2005 was a disaster. Michelin brought the wrong tires and 14 cars did one lap and pulled into the pits quitting the race.

Senna was before my time, and I'm not even a F1 fan, but watching him in action is a mind-blowing display of skill.

Here's an on-board view of an on-board lap in Australia:


1400hp engine (in a car body weighing half-nothing), manual transmission (Senna would drive with 1 hand on the wheel a good chunk of the time), no electronic driving aids...pure driving. I've watched documentaries where he would make the car 'dance' in the rain and destroy everyone on the track.

One commentator described his cornering technique - Senna would flick the wheel in the direction of the corner before turning into the bend - allowing him to get the tightest possible racing line, so he would brake less than other drivers.

His famous heel-and-toe technique:


That latter video is one of my favorites on YouTube: Senna on Suzuka in an NSX wearing loafers! His skill is truly unmatched, but to be fair, heel-and-toeing is a rather common technique in performance driving. Hell, I do so to match revs on every 3->2 downshift before a corner when driving around town, and I wouldn't call myself a skilled driver.

I still stand by 'previously' as 5 years is an awful long time to keep people interested in a sport that doesn't appear in your country and has none of your countrymen involved, especially with similar series (Indy 500 etc) running anyway. Especially 5 years in F1, where everything gets changed around and fiddled with.

It's the same with Cricket and Rugby.

By some quirk of history, Americans got into Baseball and Gridiron instead.

They're both fine sports so it's all good; but we all have a chuckle when you have a 'world series'.

There's a theory (according to the relevant Wikipedia entry it's a controversial theory) that the World Series is named for the newspaper which sponsored early contests.

> it's easy to mock the love of the oval and NASCAR

Check out Top Gear s18e02 (edit: now I see you're British, so you probably have watched it). Not that I'm convinced or will watch Nascar, but how they pictured it in the show was hell damn exciting.

> F1 suddenly got a lot more coverage in the UK when we had a couple of drivers

Imagine what was going on here when Kubica appeared.

If you've never watched NASCAR, you should definitely do it. I've not watched a race in years, but it used to be shown on Channel 5 around 10/11pm, it's perfect 'crack a beer' TV. Very fast, very aggressive, very loud, very full of crashes. The street brawl to F1's refined Queensbury Rules.

However, it is frankly ridiculous in many ways and it's very easy to pick on the fact it's beloved by red necks and so on.

Uhm, I don't have channel 5 because I'm not in the UK nor I do have a tv ;) but I have watched some fragments and I don't buy it due to the oval thing. The crashes, yeah, they are cool, but it's a bit like watching gymnastics hoping that the chick will fall off and crack her arm. It's too bad tourer races (DTM, WTCC) don't get as much attention as F1.

In the "sports I didn't watch" category I never expected motorcycle racing would be more exciting than F1. I've never shared an interest in bikes and I don't know most of the names except Rossi and Pedroza, but once got into watching a MotoGP race and wow, there is action!

It was when you'd mention Top Gear and 'British' and I put two and two together and got 8. Honestly, you should try at least one race purely to see how aggressive some of the drivers can be. It's similar to the British Touring Car Championships, but even less polite.

Superbikes is one of the reasons why I don't watch the F1 as much, it's far more entertaining, the drivers seem to be a lot more humble, and rules aren't constantly being monkeyed.

Rallycross is very cool too, if we're talking only about contact sports. If not, obviously rallies are the shit, mad skillz.

Yeah, the rules mess is one of the reasons I kind of lost interest in F1 (the major ones were BMW dropping out and later the Kubica hiatus).

Rallycross is fantastic to watch but mostly organised chaos, which is no bad thing. Rally is fantastic but I've not seen it properly for a number of years now, it got passed pillar to post in the UK so the coverage was always terrible, so I try catch it when I can.

I think it's more the time difference problem, A lot of F1 races take place in Europe/The Middle East/Asia

Only Brazil, Canada and Austin are in the "prime time" US timezones.

I'm American, like F1 and NASCAR but rarely spend time watching either (or any other television). I also prefer to drive on a winding country road in a European touring sedan versus more boring routes.

I played soccer (shouldn't he have said football?) when I was younger and I'm fine with the metric system (the real question is why they taught it in elementary schools starting in the '70s, but didn't bother switching).

I think there are a lot of people in the US like me, but we don't spend enough money to get sponsor/advertiser attention. When was the last time you saw F1 tee-shirts, or F1 drivers on beer cans? Which events are offered is all about the almighty dollar.

It's 'football' in the UK, but in most of the rest of the Anglophone world, it's 'soccer'. Australia has its own 'football', as does Ireland.

Oddly in most of Europe it's 'football' as well, EUFA, IFA, Ligue de Football and so on, seems to be quite fractured depending on whereabouts in the world you are, and with the rise in people learning American English through TV/movies/etc I can see it becoming more popular to call it soccer.

it's football in south america too ( Fútbol,Futebol).

Maybe of interest:


> Australia has its own 'football'

In fact, we have multiple: 'football' here can refer to rugby league in QLD and NSW, AFL in pretty much every other state (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barassi_Line ), or soccer.

Over the last few years, there has been a move in Australia to use "football" for soccer. The 3 other footballs (rugby league, rugby union and AFL) are more commonly "rugby" or "footy".

(At least, that's what I've noticed.)

as does Ireland

Yet if you say "football" in Ireland, it is assumed you mean soccer.

i have to agree on "...is all about the almighty dollar."

at the end of the day, one-directional media consumption (almost anywhere) is driven by maximising ad dollar expenditure. we just need for the Formula One Group to make the same sales effort in the US as they've done in asia. since the sales push in asia (during the past 3 years) a whole bunch of new asian sponsors/cars/drivers have joined F1. i guess it's a matter of time.

> Racing isn’t like professional soccer or curling; something that Americans don’t do.

Soccer it top 5 in the USA in most played for both men and women

> and driving a French car (Renault).

Don't tell Red Bull that their car is French

> Americans are too fond of their ovals

Both NASCAR and Indy race on regular racing circuits. The majority of the Indy season this year, 10 of 15 races, is on regular circuits.

> a 120,000-person capacity track. But, said Weaver, a large part of that audience was from Mexico, Latin America, and South America.

Ridiculous and unsubstantiated. I know a large number of US based fans who went to the race. It averaged 2.2M viewers in the USA.

This article is furthering poor generalizations from both sides of the Atlantic about the various sports.

For a better and more accurate take on F1 in the USA see The Economist:


Just to clarify a few things:

> "Don't tell Red Bull that their car is French"

It's not. They use Renault engines but the car is built in Milton Keynes, England by the team.

> "Ridiculous and unsubstantiated"

I'm not sure it's been confirmed but it was talked about that 40% of the tickets to the Austin GP were bought by Mexicans.

I guess its the international America-hating crew on HN at this hour but come on, this story has nothing to do with tech and is not even a good sports story. It is just a way for smug Europeans to feel superior. Get over yourselves.

But it feels so good. Europe out.

This article put on the same level two dumb sports and an international standard. I find it quite arrogant to judge Americans base on their favorite sports, but I'd be quite happy if the US adopted the metric system and other international conventions.

It's so rare Europeans get to be superior -- let them have it. They do in fact have superior motorsports. It's okay, whenever an American feels bad, they can just look at the moon or Mars and smile.

Every heard about Wernher von Braun? ;)

And Sergei Korolev - perhaps the greatest rocket designer of them all?

We got something to Mars, it just didn't work!

Wasn't it the British lander that failed?

Yes, Beagle 2.

That's a cheap shot on your behalf. Life isn't about bullying my friend.

Amusing that you didn't post this exact phrase to whomever posted this article on Hacker News.

This article was nothing more than stereotypical Euro-bullying. I mean, "like soccer and the metric system" -- do Europeans really have to list every way they're superior every time the subject comes up? Come on.

But but but.. qz.com is an American company based in NY. Maybe they just hate NASCAR. Who knows?

Now, their attitude doesn't justify yours. We are all equals, or at least that's the theory.

Man, this website has the worst navigational experience ever. I accidentally flicked my magic mouse upwards and I was on another article, I tried to correct it by scrolling to the bottom but I ended up at yet another article instead of the original one.

Before I knew it, I was just lost.

Agreed. Can't use my android phone to nav around. It just flips articles.

No real meat to this article. Americans don't love F1 because the track isn't oval? Really? And the shot about how poor F1 drivers do well in NASCAR ruins the credibility of the argument even more.

I think the culture of NASCAR really prevents people who would be more interested in F1 from approaching motorsports.

The reality is that the Venn diagram of people who shop and Wal*Mart and people who watch NASCAR is probably closer to a circle than a lot of people are comfortable with.

"You don't have Javascript enabled" so let's show you just how badly we can make rendered HTML look. Great work there Quartz!

As for the article, it's an article about racing, not sure why they mentioned football or the metric system at all, but to mention it in the context they have, they should've called it by it's proper name "Football" and then perhaps added "Soccer" in brackets.

If you don't have Javascript enabled that's a conscious decision you've made, fully aware of what the tradeoff is.

Either turn it on for websites you want to read properly, or just accept the fact that it's 2013 and the vast majority of websites use it.

I do have JS enabled but still run into problems. Probably some script blocking plugin that's causing them but the cause doesn't really matter, what does is the fact that it's preventing one from reading the article.

There's really no reason at all to obfuscate text based information in such way unless you want to display ads or track the user. It even shows the actual article behind the loading screen but you can't read the article itself since the loading never finishes. That's just bad design.

It's not the first time I've had to open lynx in order to read an article that's behind some javascript nonsense. (note: the text data is fine, it's actually only broken on modern browsers which actually handle js)


What can I tell you? If you are using a script blocker this is what you get in the current landscape. There really isn't a reason why text should be mangled without javascript, but that's just the way it is with some sites.

Believe me, their "badly-rendered HTML" is sooooo much better than the stupid, stupid "thing" they show you when JS is enabled...

Chrome F12... then delete the overlay and enjoy the article.

wow, they are worst 'js for reading text' offenders than blogspot.

I'm an American and love F1. I hate NASCAR because ovals are boring, like soccer. Hockey is even better. NASCAR also sucks because it uses spec cars instead of letting teams be creative. NASCAR should include real muscle cars and allow the Camry to be front wheel drive if that's what Toyota wants.

Just another thought on this. We had an American in F1 just a few years ago. Scott Speed drove for Toro Rosso. Unfortunately I think he was mediocre and drove for a mediocre at best team. American Alexander Rossi tested for Caterham F1. And American Conor Daly is enjoying success in GP3.

I am a little surprised that Grand Prix Montreal did not even get a mention in the story. F1 supporters travel all over the globe to watch their teams, so it seems odd not to include an event in a great city within easy driving distance of fans in the northeast.

Driving on complicated non oval tracks is just in-American.

What I don't get is how a racing sport derived from bootleggers outrunning police on back country roads turned into driving around an oval track.

Streetracing is a topic I'm hoping to somehow appear in Boardwalk Empire in the future. I will be disappointed if it doesn't get mentioned even as a third-rate scene or side joke.

Thanks to the sheer weight of numbers of people in the Indian subcontinent, I'd say cricket is second only to soccer in global popularity.

The story of sports in America is the story of television interests. The reason the media doesn't promote F1 is that they cannot control the sport from that point of view. What TV (other than specialized channels) is interested in a sport in which half of the races happen before dawn (in Asia)?

The only sports that do well in America are the ones with a powerful league that can control all the TV rights and make the necessary deals with TV networks.

Just to note, any discussion of the issue that does not mention Talladega Nights is incomplete.

An article like this on the homepage is probably the result of someone gaming the system. This is when a down voting arrow would come in handy.

feel free to check my submission/comment history. good day

Americans getting defensive ITT

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