No F1 race has a more colourful history than the United States Grand Prix. Ten different circuits have hosted a race spread over 115 years.
Equally, no manufacturer has enjoyed more success in America than Ferrari. As the F1 teams move to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for the US GP on October 22, so Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc will be hoping to boost that tally to 11 victories.
Some of Ferrari’s most memorable wins have been in the United States. Niki Lauda wrapped up his first world championship for the Scuderia by dominating the 1975 US GP, at Watkins Glen in rural New York. He led from start to finish, in what would be his fifth win of the season and Ferrari’s first US GP triumph.
The Scuderia’s second US victory was in 1978, when Argentinian Carlos Reutemann dominated, his rookie teammate Gilles Villeneuve running second for much of the race. Villeneuve was one of Enzo Ferrari’s favourite drivers. His victory in America the following year was one of his finest drives. It was the final round of the 1979 championship, with the race held again at Watkins Glen. In Friday’s very wet qualifying session, the diminutive Canadian – an acknowledged rain master – was an astonishing nine seconds faster than the second quickest driver, Scheckter. He won the race, held partly in the wet, by almost 49 seconds.
Scheckter would win the 1979 title, Villeneuve was second and Ferrari won the constructor’s championship. It was the last championship win for the Ferrari flat-12 engine and the 312T, most dominant F1 car in the last half of the ‘70s.
Yet Ferrari’s most successful time in F1 in America was the first decade of the new millennium. The US GP itself had disappeared from the F1 calendar after the 1991 race, owing to poor attendance (Americans, it seemed, were more interested in domestic oval Indycar racing and in stock cars).
The US GP was resurrected in 2000 by the organisers of the most famous domestic US race of them all, the Indianapolis 500. The GP circuit used an infield road course and a mile of the famous oval. It would host the US GP from 2000 to 2007. Ferrari would win six of those races (in every year apart from 2001 and 2007), scoring a 1-2 five times.
The first United States GP was held in 1908. This was almost 40 years before the birth of Ferrari. Yet an Italian car, a Fiat, would win, on a 40 km (25 mile) road course in Savannah, Georgia.
From 1914-1916, the race was held in Santa Monica (northern metropolitan Los Angeles): the start-finish line was on the Pacific Ocean. Riverside in California hosted the US GP (for sports cars, not F1 cars) in 1958. Two American drivers, both in Ferraris, excelled. Dan Gurney and Phil Hill would both drive for Ferrari in F1 in 1959. Hill would go on to win the 1961 world title for the Scuderia.
The US GP joined the F1 world championship in 1959, when it hosted the final round. In 1961 the race moved to Watkins Glen, venue for the next 20 years.
As well as the official US GP, there was additionally a US GP West, held in Long Beach, California from 1976-83. Ferrari is the also the most successful team there: a three-times winner.
So, there is much for Scuderia Ferrari to emulate as it ventures to Austin, Texas (US GP host since 2012). The omens are good. Last year Sainz started from pole and Leclerc finished a strong third.