United States Grand Prix history 16 Jun 2004
Watkins Glen, Indianapolis, even the Caesars Palace Casino car park in Las Vegas these are just some of the venues to have hosted Grands Prix in the United States over the years.
The races current home, Indianapolis, staged its first US Grand Prix in 2000, on a 4.2 kilometre (2.6 mile) circuit combining the first corner and start-finish straight of the famous oval - run in the reverse direction - and a tighter infield section.
However, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway itself - or the' Brickyard' as it is affectionately known - dates back to 1909. The first Indianapolis 500 was staged there in 1911 on a track surface consisting over three million bricks, hence the nickname. Today, only a small strip of bricks remains, to mark the start-finish line.
Bizarrely, the Indy 500 was actually on the Formula One World Championship calendar from 1950 to 1960. However, it was virtually unheard of for any of the Formula One teams or drivers to make the trip to the States to compete in what was such a specialised race. Similarly, the American Indy teams and drivers rarely competed in any other round of the championship.
Stranger still, it was only once the 500 had disappeared from the calendar did the Formula One fraternity truly take up the challenge of the great race. Jim Clark finished second in 1963 in a Lotus. Two years later he went one better to take victory, again for Lotus, and in 1966 he followed Graham Hill home in a British one-two.
By this time the US already had its own Grand Prix on the Formula One calendar, the inaugural event having taken place at the Florida airfield circuit of Sebring in 1959. Bruce McLaren was the first US Grand Prix winner, the New Zealander inheriting the lead after Jack Brabham ran out of fuel on the final lap.
The race made a one-off trip to the Riverside circuit in California for 1960, before moving to what was to become its home until 1980, Watkins Glen in upstate New York. Innes Ireland won the first Grand Prix there for Lotus, while in the following six years, Hill and Clark took three wins apiece with BRM and Lotus respectively.
Jackie Stewart and Tyrrell continued the run of British triumphs in 1968, before Jochen Rindt finally broke the cycle with Lotus in 1969. Lotus's success continued in 1970 with new boy Emerson Fittipaldi taking victory.
The circuit was extended for the 1971 event and it was Tyrrell's Francois Cevert who overcame team mate Stewart to take his one and only Grand Prix victory. Tragically though, the circuit also claimed the Frenchman's life in practice two years later.
Ferrari clinched their first US Grand Prix victory in 1975, courtesy of Niki Lauda, and the Italian team were to win twice more before the race left Watkins Glen, with Carlos Reutemann in 1978 and Gilles Villeneuve in 1979.
James Hunt was a double winner at the track, taking back-to-back victories for McLaren in 1976 and 1977, while Alan Jones and Williams claimed the final Watkins Glen win in 1980.
By this time there was a second US race on the calendar. The United States Grand Prix West, or the Long Beach Grand Prix as it was also known, became part of the championship in 1976, with Ferrari's Clay Regazzoni the inaugural winner on the Californian street circuit. Then in 1977 Mario Andretti made history there by becoming the first and only American to win a championship Formula One race on home soil.
The confines of the walls that lined the Long Beach track meant that accidents were never far away, none worse than the 1980 shunt in which Regazzoni broke his back, ending his Formula One career and leaving him paraplegic. Nevertheless, the race continued until 1983, after which organisers chose to switch to Indy cars.
In the mean time, another US race had appeared on the calendar, in an even more unlikely venue - a car park in the Caesars Palace casino in Las Vegas. The make-shift track's first race in 1981, known not surprisingly as the Caesars Palace Grand Prix, was that year's title decider, with Nelson Piquet's fifth place enough to clinch the crown over rivals Reutemann and outsider Jacques Laffite. Alan Jones was the race winner.
In 1982 both titles were decided in Las Vegas, as it staged its second and last Formula One Grand Prix. Williams Keke Rosberg arrived as favourite, with his key rival Didier Pironi still hospitalised from his accident earlier that season. John Watson was his only potential threat, but a controlled drive to fifth was enough to make the Finn champion, while Ferrari took constructors' honours.
Amazingly the Las Vegas event was one of four North American Grands Prix on the calendar in 1982, along with Long Beach, the Canadian Grand Prix and a new US race in Detroit, the traditional home of the American car industry.
The Detroit round proved a relative success after Long Beach and Las Vegas, and remained on the calendar for seven years, providing several entertaining races. The first was particularly remarkable with Watson coming from a lowly 17th on the grid to take victory for McLaren.
The 1983 race saw a surprise win for Michele Alboreto and Tyrrell, while in 1984 an overambitious start-line move by Nigel Mansell triggered a first-lap pile-up and a restart. Nelson Piquet eventually won the race for Brabham.
Keke Rosberg was victorious in 1984, before Ayrton Senna dominated the final three races in Detroit, winning twice for Lotus and the final time for McLaren.
The 1984 season saw yet another US venue added to the schedule. However the one-off Dallas Grand Prix did not prove a great success. Searing temperatures caused the track surface to progressively disintegrate, with countless drivers crashing out after spinning on the marbles. Rosberg won the race, but the enduring image was that of an exhausted Mansell pushing his stricken Williams across the line to take sixth.
Formula One racing in America finally re-settled in a single home in 1989. With Long Beach, Las Vegas, Dallas and Detroit all having disappeared from the calendar, it was yet another street circuit, this time in Phoenix, which adopted the US Grand Prix.
And it was Senna who made Phoenix his home, winning two of the three races there. Alain Prost was the inaugural victor, finishing first ahead of only five other finishers. However, the 1990 event was the memorable one, with Senna having to fight hard to find a way past rookie Alesi to take the win. The champion passed the Frenchman once, but then had to do it all again after Alesi unexpectedly repassed him in the following corner.
Formula One racing was then absent from US shores until Indianapolis put the series back on the map in 2000. Michael Schumacher was the first winner on the all-new track layout, leading home Rubens Barrichello for a Ferrari one-two, ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzens Jordan.
The 2001 race was overshadowed by the events of September 11, but also provided a memorable Grand Prix as Mika Hakkinen took the final victory of his Formula One career. The 2002 event was memorable too, though for quite different reasons. Ferrari dominated the race, but when leader Michael Schumacher eased off on the final straight to set up a photo finish it didnt go quite to plan and Barrichello found himself the unlikely victor by just a hundredth of a second.
Any American fans that Schumacher had lost in 2002, he won back the following year by winning an eventful wet-dry Grand Prix. An impressive victory in the changeable conditions was almost enough to clinch his sixth world championship. However, a gritty performance by McLarens Kimi Raikkonen saw the Finn grab second place in the closing stages, giving him just enough points to take the title fight down to the wire at the following round in Japan.
Last year it was another red one-two, Schumacher once more ahead of Barrichello, in a race dominated by Ralf Schumacher's huge accident at the final turn. In third, however, was a newcomer to the Formula One podium, Takuma Sato. And with both Ferrari and BAR enjoying a revival in form at the last round of 2005 in Canada, a similar result this year may not be impossible.