Thursday, 24 April 2014

Sato doubts a Formula One return to Long Beach will work


Former Formula One driver Takuma Sato believes a plan to bring the sport back to Long Beach in California when IndyCar's contract expires at the end of 2015 will not work.

The Japanese driver who raced for Jordan, BAR-Honda and Super Aguri in F1 from 2002 - 2008 has stated that due to the circuit standard in Long Beach means that it will not return to the Formula One calendar is in his opinion to bumpy for the modern Formula One car. Sato won the Grand Prix of Long Beach in IndyCar in 2013.

Sato believes that if they are successful in getting Formula One back to Long Beach there will be an awful lot of work to be done. Formula One has enjoyed a renewed relationship with America since the introduction of the Circuit of the America's in Austin Texas in 2012 and this has helped the popularity of the sport to sky rocket State side in recent season's, so much so that a second race was due to be held in New Jersey this year, however that has been put back to next year.

Long Beach has now been put forward as a possible replacement venue should New Jersey fail to make it onto the calendar next season. Bernie Ecclestone has backed the plan to bring Formula One back to California however the Englishman's bribery trial started in Germany today over alleged corrupt payments and should he be convicted it is likely that he will be forced to step down as the commercial rights holder of Formula One.

It would depend on whether or not any potential successor to Ecclestone is happy to bring the sport back to Long Beach. America is such a massive market for the sport that it would be silly for the sport not to consider a return to California particularly as Gene Haas has been granted a licence to enter Formula One from next season while will substantially increase the United States involvement in the sport as the team will be based in North Carolina next to his NASCAR operation.

Former F1 driver Justin Wilson echoed Sato's skepticism by saying: 'There is no way an F1 race could happen around here anymore.'

The Englishman who raced for Minardi and Jaguar in Formula One in 2003 believes that the track surface in Long beach would have to be ripped up and completely replaced to enable Formula One cars to race on the circuit and he does not believe that this will happen.

However despite Sato and Wilson's concerns if Bernie Ecclestone says there will be a race in Long Beach then Formula One will have a Grand Prix at the circuit regardless of what happens with Ecclestone in the future.

©Ben Johnston 2014

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