Nov 5, 2009

Toyota's exit a blow to U.S. F1 fans?

Lost in the discussion of Toyota's exit from Formula One announced this week has been the impact it may have on the sports plans to get back into the U.S. market.

The announcement of Toyota's withdrawal from the sport came Wednesday.

Make no mistake, the departure of Toyota from Formula One threatens to derail any plans the teams had to force the sport to hold a race in the U.S.

At the least, it would seem that the loss of another manufacturer will certainly take some of the pressure off Bernie Ecclestone to deliver a U.S. venue quickly.

Earlier this year, the pressure was on Ecclestone as the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) looked serious in its plans to establish a breakaway series and leave Formula One without any manufacturers.

That was before BMW and Toyota decided to leave, joining Honda which exited the sport last year.

So, considering that Formula One now only has two manufacturers -- Ferrari and Mercedes -- that sell cars in the North American market, perhaps Ecclestone will get a reprieve.

Yes, the sponsors still have some influence, but there's no doubt that a three-manufacturer FOTA is considerably weaker than it was only six months ago.

In addition, it's a chicken and egg scenario for the big name American sponsors in Formula One. They will sit on the sidelines until the sport gets a solid U.S. venue and Formula One will wait to get a solid venue until U.S. sponsorship materializes.

And it's not like anyone is pounding down teams doors looking to drop buckets of cash in their coffers. In fact, the opposite continues to be true. Look at the short list of big names leaving the sport this year alone: ING, Panasonic, and Royal Bank of Scotland.

And while the manufacturers do supply engines to the smaller outfits, the lesser teams really have no incentive to side with the manufacturers.The new teams, plus Williams, will have Cosworth power, so that has one-third of the grid already out of the manufacturers' sphere of influence.

Unless they have top name U.S. sponsors on their cars, what need do they have to be in that market anyway? Heck, it wouldn't be surprising if the new teams don't even make it to the end of the season, or actually even how up in Australia next March anyway.

So, U.S. race fans may just have to wait for Formula One to return.

Until then, we keep hearing the Montreal will be back but no announcement seems forthcoming.

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