Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

Can you have an F1 race without that high-pitched scream?

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso of Spain on his way to winning the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone Circuit on July 10, 2011 in Northampton, England.

Clive Mason/Clive Mason/Getty Images

When you're trying to make someone believe you've got a better offer, it's usually a good idea to let your cover story in on the ruse.

So, when several Formula One promoters got together and said they'd switch to IndyCar races should the sport move forward with smaller turbocharged engines, they likely should have called first.

IndyCar Commercial Division president Terry Angstadt quashed the idea, saying that most F1 venues simply do not fit into the series' strategic plan.

Story continues below advertisement

"They haven't spoken to us," Angstadt said. "It is quite flattering to be named and having people considering that, if there is an alternative open wheel series to F1, it would be IndyCar. We have a number of opportunities [internationally]but they are not connected to F1 circuits."

"We are not just going to go to whoever is going to pay us a sanction fee, it has to make sense and be a strategic market that will advance the IndyCar model."

IndyCar is the top open wheel series in North America, while F1 is considered by most as the premier racing series on the planet.

Unlike F1, where the manufactures involved make cars and engines to specifications laid out by the series, IndyCar has one chassis supplied by Dallara and one engine provided by Honda that all the teams must use. The big difference is cost. Just being a backmarker in F1 carries a price tag of upwards of $50-million, while an entire IndyCar season can be run for about $10-million.

The F1 circuit owners oppose the adoption of smaller 1.6-litre, turbocharged engines in 2014 that will replace the high-revving 2.4-litre, normally-aspirated motors now in use. The problem is that the turbo engines would not have the high-pitched scream that they feel separates F1 from other series. The move is designed to reflect a more eco-friendly approach for the sport.

"We are not going to have our customer base destroyed," the leader of the promoters and Australian Grand Prix boss Ron Walker told late last month.

"I told them that the circuits would not run it. The sound is part of the brand. It must be 18,000 revs and it must sound the same."

Story continues below advertisement

Ironically, Walker would likely be the odd man out even if IndyCar considered adopting a few F1 tracks. Angstadt said IndyCar is "not particularly interested" in going back to Australia because of the huge costs involved in staging a race there.

Had the F1 promoters taken a look at the IndyCar's engine plan, which has been public for more than a year, they would know that the series will also switch to the dreaded turbocharged powerplant, but in 2012. IndyCar now uses normally aspirated V-8 engines but will swap them for 2.2-litre V-6s next year.

The series will have three engine makers in 2012: Honda, which has been the sole supplier for IndyCar since 2006, as well as Chevrolet, and Lotus.

It is thought that Honda will be the first to get their 2012 motor on track in a test next month at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course directly following the Honda Indy 200 on August 7.

Another obstacle to switch from F1 to IndyCar would likely be the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), which might not look too kindly upon another series nosing in on the turf of grand prix racing. It is thought that the IndyCar Series had a difficult time convincing the FIA to allow it to race on the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, where F1 also runs at the Interlagos Circuit.

While IndyCar has had informal talks with circuits like the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari in Imola, which staged its final F1 race in 2006, no deal was ever close to being signed.

Story continues below advertisement

Although Angstadt said a sponsor looking at the series may want it to take over an unidentified former F1 venue in Europe, IndyCar has its radar trained elsewhere in its near-term expansion plans.

"I am very hopeful we are going to announce a race in China, and that's going to be a very interesting and very good model for us," Angstadt said.

"We are about to announce a second venue in Brazil and, although it's still early stages, we are very interested in Mexico City."

"We are not very far along at all, but we are a couple of conversations and a trip in by our representatives to Qatar. We think strategically that's a fascinating market that we would love to be in."

The reason Qatar is in IndyCar's plans is its large U.S. military base as well as the cultural recognition for women's rights in comparison to other Middle Eastern countries. It also has a racetrack that hosts a MotoGP event and likely isn't on F1's radar because that series already runs grand prix in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

IndyCar's disinterest is also bad news for the disgruntled F1 promoters, because a switch would let them benefit from the way the series lets the tracks in on the financial action.

Essentially speaking, there is a night and day difference between the way IndyCar deals with promoters as opposed to the F1 model. Not only is IndyCar's sanctioning fee for international races often less than half of an F1 race, but the series also allows them to keep all the commercial rights and revenue from everything sold at the venue, including tickets, track signage, and luxury suites.

For example, when F1 shows up for a race, all the sponsorship around the track has already been sold in a worldwide package deal. While it's lucrative, the cash ends up in the accounts of Formula One Management, run by F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone.

"Frankly we think ours is a sustainable and attractive business model that allows promoters to actually make money, which is not the case in the other model," Angstadt said.

"It's impossible to make money on ticket sales alone - it can't happen. So, in most cases, governments have to step in."

Report an error
About the Author
Motorsports columnist

There's an old saying about timing being everything in racing and Jeff Pappone's career as a motorsport correspondent shows that it also applies to journalists covering the sport too. More

Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Combined Shape Created with Sketch.

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the newsletter at

You can unsubscribe from this newsletter or Globe promotions at any time by clicking the link at the bottom of the newsletter, or by emailing us at