Following opening practice for the fourth round of the NTT IndyCar Series at Barber Motorsports Park, Rossi said that F1’s arrival in Miami is “going to be awesome” and said that adding a Las Vegas race in 2023 to the extant rounds at Circuit of The Americas and Miami, was justified.
He went on: “I’m just excited for Formula 1 and America, honestly. It’s been a long time coming to have multiple races in the States. It’s a big country. There’s no reason not to have three. Obviously starting next year in theory we’re going to have three. That’s an amazing thing.”
Rossi said he also believed that increased F1 booming was a boost to IndyCar, because “people are just becoming aware again of motorsports, what it has to offer, how cool it is. I think we went through a period of time where the younger generation, they weren’t as interested in cars, getting their licenses. I think I was honestly a part of that kind of final phase of really loving cars and such.
“I think now that motorsports is offering more than just cars, it’s an entertainment entity, people are being drawn back into it and realizing it’s a pretty awesome sport. I think all forms of motorsports are on the rise right now. I think it all kind of coincides with each other, which is really exciting to be a part of.”
But he also warned that IndyCar needs to up its game in appealing to the public in terms of attendance. Asked directly if he considered Formula 1 as a competitor to IndyCar, he replied: “Sure, it is, especially when you look at U.S. market share. With three races, it’s something we need to be aware of, certainly continue our development and plan in terms of what we’re doing with the series, with the driver personalities, the teams, the representation we have out there. I think it’s certainly a moving target.”
Rossi cited this year’s returning Iowa double-header, boosted by Hy-Vee backing, as an example of what race organizers need to do to increase their events’ appeal to spectators, enhancing the attendance experience.
“One example of something that in theory is going to be awesome this year is Iowa,” he said. “That’s a promoter, a partner, that’s really getting behind an event, putting a lot of capital into it in the beginning. I think it’s going to be massive, right? … If that comes off as we’re all expecting it to, I think that lays a really good foundation for other tracks and venues that we go to as an example of this is something we need to do.
“We look at Long Beach being so popular, look at St. Pete, you look at Indy. It’s because it’s an event, right? Yeah, the racing is probably the majority of the reason why people are there, but not all of it. It’s hard to sell someone on devoting three days of their lives, with all the distractions we have in the world now, to just watch cars going around the track, right? It’s all the other things that are going to keep people captivated for the entire day, want to bring their friends and families out.
“I think Formula 1 has that kind of sex appeal to it. They’ve done a good job of marketing it, pushing that, displaying that. I think IndyCar to a certain extent needs to work on that, but also we just need to continue to push the product that we do have in creative ways. I think what we have is very special, but we just need to be creative and continue to push the envelope in terms of showing that to people.”
Asked if an equivalent of F1’s Drive to survive series would be welcome, he said that “you start to have a potential issue when you get into a scripted-type situation,” but otherwise, “I don’t see that there would be any negative to it.
“There’s so much that happens outside of just being a racecar on a racetrack on Sunday that people want to know. We have the ability to show that. I think IndyCar is more welcoming and the personalities are more open to kind of sharing their thoughts and feelings than maybe Formula 1. I think it could come off really, really well.
“I think we all have to remember we are an entertainment property ultimately. That is what we are. That’s why we always talk about ‘the show’. That’s why we’re always interested in improving that with car updates. It’s talks and conversations we always have. I think IndyCar is aware of that.
“The on-track product is not necessarily the issue, right? It’s creating that buzz around it that we lack, that we struggle in.”