A Brief History of the F1™ USGP


The United States Grand Prix has been around for more than a century in some form or fashion, but the spirit of the race and American obsession with automobiles was kindled long before that.  The loose origins of the U.S. Grand Prix date back to 1904, when the Vanderbilt Cup – a chain of races in the United States to celebrate the country’s zest for racing – was founded in Long Island, New York.  Modeled after the Gordon Bennett Cup in Europe, the Vanderbilt Cup was created with the intent of fueling American auto manufacturers’ interest in racing and encouraging American drivers to compete on the international playing field.

The inaugural American Grand Prize in 1908 saw the further spread of racing fever into Savannah, Georgia.  In 1911, the Vanderbilt Cup was held in conjunction with the American Grand Prize in spite of issues that plagued each series.  Unfortunately, this version of the American Grand Prize would be discontinued in 1916, due primarily to the outbreak of World War 1 and the correlated lack of European drivers available.  

1959:  Sebring International Raceway

Fortunately, the Indianapolis 500 kept American drivers competing with European drivers off and on until the 1950s.  Fast forward to 1959, when the first true “United States Grand Prix” involving Formula 1™ was held at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.  It was the final race in the nine-round F1™ 1959 calendar season (compare that to the 21-round calendar in 2016!).  This groundbreaking contest saw New Zealander Bruce McLaren, a familiar name in the world of Formula 1, beat out the top three ranked drivers in the world to place first. 

1960:  Riverside International Raceway

In 1960, the race was held at Riverside International Raceway in California.  Though local promotion of the race was a serious issue and turnout was surprisingly low, the crowd that gathered was simply incredulous at the mere sight of the vehicles, which were unlike anything they’d seen before.  British driver Stirling Moss came out on top of what ended up being the final race of the 2.5 L engine era in F1 racing.

1961 – 1980:  Watkins Glen International

1961 – 1980:  WATKINS GLEN INTERNATIONALAfter the sputtering start of the first two races, the United States Grand Prix settled into a home at Watkins Glen International in New York for twenty years.  It quickly earned a reputation as offering significantly more prize money than the majority of the other races on the calendar and having arguably the best scenery.  Held in autumn, the changing of the leaves provided a spectacular backdrop for what was fast becoming one of the most popular races in America.  Watkins Glen saw two glorious decades of the F1 USGP, but was unfortunately forced to sever ties with the race due to monetary issues in 1981.

1989 – 1991:  Phoenix

Though there were rumors of Formula 1 hanging around in Detroit on a long-term basis, it never happened.  Instead, F1 moved the race to a street circuit in downtown Phoenix, Arizona.  Due partly to the miserably hot weather and partly to the plethora of long straights and 90-degree turns on the “track,” Phoenix was a short-lived locale due to the insanely low attendance numbers it drew.

2000 – 2007:  Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Sadly, Formula 1 avoided the United States entirely after Phoenix and wasn’t seen again on American soil until the year 2000.  Indianapolis has had a long love affair with auto racing (keep in mind that Indy races were what kept the international racing scene alive in the United States for a number of years prior to the first USGP at Sebring).  Though the event got off to an impressive start in Indianapolis, drawing a crowd of over 225,000, bad luck and tire issues in 2005 led to a poor excuse for a race with only six competing cars.  Due to financial reasons, the Indianapolis race was discontinued after 2007.

2012 – Present:  Circuit of The Americas™

2012 – PRESENT:  CIRCUIT OF THE AMERICAS™Plans for the purpose-built Circuit of The Americas track in Austin, Texas were announced in 2010.  This course is one of just four anti-clockwise tracks on the Formula 1 calendar, featuring 19 turns and a 133-foot climb into a blind left turn.  The layout borrows features from classic circuits around the world, providing both a demanding challenge for drivers and spectacular entertainment for fans. 

Get Your Name on the Waiting List for the 2016 F1™ USGP!

Don’t miss your chance to be a part of history and experience the greatest incarnation of the United States Grand Prix to date!  Circuit of The Americas Experiences’ best packages sell out quickly, so don’t miss your chance to reserve your ideal package before someone else claims it.  Get on our 2016 FORMULA 1 UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX™ waiting list to be notified as soon as our Official Ticket Packages are released.  Our guests are assured incredible seats, lavish amenities and unbeatable hospitality!

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