Why Aren't There More American Drivers in F1?

In Europe, Formula 1 is kind of a religion regarding car racing, and it's undoubtedly the most popular motorsport competition. Basically, for Europeans, F1 it's the same as NASCAR for Americans. That may be why we never see any American drivers.
Why there aren't more American drivers in F1? 16 photos
Photo: Formula 1/Twitter
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At least, that was the case until Logan Sargeant was given a place on the grid from Williams for the upcoming Formula 1 season. Formula 1 was founded in Europe, so it should be no surprise that most drivers on the grid over the years have been of European origin. At the same time, it has been the home of every championship-winning driver since 1998, with only 12 non-European drivers ever winning an F1 title.

However, it is important to note that in the history of this competition, there were two American and one Canadian champions. Phil Hill was the first US citizen to conquer an F1 title, winning the championship in 1961 with Ferrari. Many years later, Mario Andretti teamed up with Lotus in order to win the 1978 championship. In 1997, son of former legendary driver Gilles Villeneuve, Jacques won the driver's title and helped the Williams team achieve its ninth and last constructors championship.

While the Haas team has been on the grid since 2016, the last driver to race under the American flag in F1 was Alexander Rossi, making seven appearances in 2015 for Manor Marussia. The last American to have a full-time seat in this competition was Scott Speed in 2006 because a year later, he was replaced by a certain guy called Sebastian Vettel after ten races. Those two guys are the only American drivers in the past 22 years to compete in F1. Oh, and the last one to win a race was Mario Andretti at the 1978 Dutch Grand Prix.

Another thing that is important to note is that the United States has the second most drivers that participated in F1 if you look at the stats. However, this is not actually true. You see, between 1950 and 1958, the Indianapolis 500 was part of the official Formula 1 racing calendar. But most of the time, the favorite teams and drivers will not take the long trip to Indianapolis, instead preferring some non-championship races in Europe. That's why you will see so many American drivers in the stats because only they would participate in the Indianapolis 500. However, with all that in mind, there were a total of 57 American drivers in Formula 1. And even if only two of those were world champions, there were other excellent and important drivers. To mention a few, we have Dan Gurney, who achieved four wins and drove for a lot of good teams, Richie Ginther, who in 1963 finished third overall, or the legendary Carroll Shelby, who took part in eight races.

Why There Aren't More American Drivers in F1\?
Photo: RSF Motorsport/Twitter
Without a doubt, Americans are no slouches when it comes to going fast, but the thing that holds the best drivers from the USA (and from other parts of the world) from getting on the F1 grid is the lack of commitment it takes to get there. And it is understandable because if they wanted to get in F1, they would have to pack their bags and plan on speeding their teenage years in Europe, competing in karting events and single-seater series in order to gain experience and make a name for themselves. Besides, you will need to do that against the very best and maybe future F1 stars like Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen, and many more.

Everyone did this on their way to the top. Even Scott Speed and Alexander Rossi competed in multiple European championships, from Formula Renault to GP2 and Formula 3. This is a hard thing for Americans who have numerous professional racing series options in the US, like IndyCar, NASCAR, and IMSA, which are all well-respected series. Even if teenagers could go to Europe at a young age, it does not mean they would have success. Joseph Newgarden (IndyCar champion) moved to the UK in 2010 to compete in GP3, but after a poor overall season and difficulty with culture shock moved back to the US to continue his career to make it to IndyCar.

Even with European success in the smaller categories, most of the time, they will need to be part of a Formula 1 team's junior program. This requires them always to be competitive to remain in the program because it is very easy to be dropped off. It can even be so bad that drivers are good enough to reach F1 but do not have a seat available due to the team's affiliation, which is an issue that many drivers face. Funny enough, this is not the biggest problem. For many people, money is where the real issue comes into play. An F1 seat can cost millions and millions of dollars without accounting for the cost of the junior career. Lewis Hamilton's father is the best example of understanding how much money you need. He mortgaged the house and had four jobs in order to fund Lewis's possible F1 career. While most drivers come from wealthier families, this competition-level wealth typically requires a relationship with a company willing to help support the racing seat.

Americans, indeed, would definitely have no problem finding US sponsors for a racing career with the amount of money that goes around for advertising. However, they would probably like to invest those amounts of money in national competitions or start a new US series. With all that aside, Logan Sargeant will race for Williams, Haas is not the worst team in F1, and Mario Andretti has been in talks for a long time to enter his squad at the pinnacle of the motorsport.

Why There Aren't More American Drivers in F1\?
Photo: Logan Sargeant/Twitter
At the same time, Colton Herta (son of former open-wheel driver Brian Herta) is a young star competing in his fourth season of IndyCar. He is one of Mario Andretti's favorite drivers to use if he succeeds in entering Formula 1. The second spot in the lineup is unknown, but maybe Andretti will give that spot to another rising American driver. And with good reason. Colton Herta has the racing pedigree he needs. He started racing in karting at the age of ten and then went to Europe to race in multiple British series before returning to the US to compete for a spot in IndyCar. It's the same with Logan Sargeant too. While Herta had some European experience, Sargeant understood the assignment better than anyone and moved to Europe in 2009 at the age of nine years old to begin competing in go-karts. Logan would go on to win the Junior World Karting Championship in 2015. After that, he went on to compete in Formula Renault Eurocup, scoring multiple victories before progressing to GP3, where in 2020, he finished third overall.

Sargeant had all the talent in the world but did not have the financial backing. He had to take part in an additional season of Formula 3 due to a lack of funding to proceed to Formula 2. Later, he was announced as part of the Williams driver academy, and after a successful year in GP2, he was promoted to an official Williams driver for F1. In addition, other promising young Americans are trying to take the necessary steps to compete at the highest level. In 2022, three American drivers competed in Formula 3, waiting for a chance for a spot in F1.

Hopefully, Logan Sargeant will have a good enough career in the premier competition of motorsport to inspire more and more young kids and teenagers from the United States to take this beautiful path to Formula 1.
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About the author: Silvian Irimia
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Silvian may be the youngest member of our team, being born in the 2000s, but you won't find someone more passionate than him when it comes to motorsport. An automotive engineer by trade, Silvian considers the Ferrari F50 his favorite car, with the original Lamborghini Countach a close second.
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