Ever since purchasing Formula 1, Liberty Media have sought after increasing the calendar, especially in North America as it is such an untapped market to enter.
Watkins Glen could be the answer. The interest in F1 cannot be higher especially after the now success of the Circuit of the Americas at Austin and Alonso’s Indy 500 participation this year.
Watkins Glen International, or known as The Glen for short, is full of history, and has the experience to hold an event. The track was part of the Formula 1 calendar for 20 years, last held in 1980, traditionally in autumn. This could allow a back-to-back with Austin on the current calendar structure.
The Glen has an annual schedule, and is regularly used, from its traditional 6 hour endurance to the various NASCAR events and Verizon IndyCar events throughout the year. Hulman & Company, owners of the IndyCar series, are in talks with extending the contract, only back on the 2017 calendar this year due to the collapse of the planned street track in Boston.
In recent years various redevelopments on and off track have been completed which have increased interest in the track. The much out-of-date media centre has been taken down and completely reconstructed with a state of the art control tower which allowed the full 43-car NASCAR grid last year.
Whilst on track in recent years from 2010 onwards the track has been repaved, including its extension ‘the boot’ which was added to the track in the early 90’s.
To make the track look more modern, they took away the rumble strips and added the more common red & yellow designs with extending the asphalt run off areas for safety.
Charlie Whiting, Formula 1’s race director, is a big fan of Watkins Glen. “It is a wonderful circuit,” he stated last year. Every few years he inspects the track, with a visit in 2016 after the most recent repave increasing speculation that Formula 1 was to return. This was before Liberty Media bought the sport but still led to major rumours around the paddock.
Above you can see a layout of the Watkins Glen track; as you can see though, we have colour co-ordinated it to accommodate possible areas for DRS zones. The only amendment you could make to the layout really is to make the pit entrance before the last corner for safety concerns. The Glen has a lovely flow to it, especially in the chute through to the boot section on the bottom right of the track.
Liberty Media want more races in America; Bernie Ecclestone for many years sought Formula 1 to be in New York, for the Grand Prix of New Jersey as it would be known.
But when you have a fully fledged historic race track in the state of New York, so why let it go to waste? The Glen currently holds an estimated 38,000 on race days, but with a few more stands it could easily have space to accommodate 45,000+ fans.
Currently an FIA grade 2 track, Watkins Glen is compliant with every racing series except for Formula 1, similar to established tracks like Sebring and Le Mans; but if a contract can be put in place, plans can made to bring the track up to the Grade 1 that it needs. Most recently, look at the renovation that was put into place with Mexico to increase the grading of that venue.
The Glen has had great entertainment in recent years, and with a contract with Formula 1 that could only continue to grow.
Chris Lord, F1 Correspondent