Austin: Formula One could benefit from a sprinkling of Hollywood stardust as it looks to build a bigger American fanbase, according to U.S. Grand Prix circuit chairman Bobby Epstein.
Sunday`s race at the Circuit of the Americas will be the third held at the country`s first purpose-built F1 circuit and has become a firm favourite with both the travelling circus and home fans.
However, the sport has found it hard to crack an American market dominated by NASCAR and is still struggling to position itself for audiences outside its European heartland because of an image that is seen as elite and aloof.
Asked on Friday what he would do to promote the sport better in America and build it through the year if given a clean sheet of paper, Epstein suggested the sport could usefully look even further west.
"I would go to guys who know how to build...we`ve got Hollywood. And they know how to build personalities and they know how to market much better than I do, and they do something right," he told reporters at the circuit.
"I`d go to those guys and I`d say `We want to build a brand`."
Epstein felt a connection with the personalities mattered most to the casual fan, with those who appreciated the technology and understood the political nuances already committed in their passion.
"I don`t know that the Americans that are not yet engaged in the sport even realise those nuances yet. They turn on and they see cars," he said.
"One thing that NASCAR has done is that they help people relate to the individual, get to know the driver and the personality.
"By and large the U.S. fan is connecting with the personality, not the piece of metal and not the manufacturer behind it necessarily. When they start to pick who they want to win, they are looking at the personality."
Epstein said Formula One should also move away from scheduling start times for European audiences and welcomed the possibility of more races in the Americas.
"If we had six or eight races in this time zone, it would make it easier to turn on your TV on a Saturday or a Sunday and engage with the sport," he said. "It`s very hard when you say `Hey, if you want to really follow us you`ve got to wake up at seven or six in the morning`.
"We were pushing for a later start time and we said `Look, at some point you have to make a commitment to this continent if you want to be here. You`re going to have to do a later start time`. And they are listening."
Epstein expected a crowd of around 100,000 for Sunday`s race, close to 2013 but down from the inaugural grand prix in 2012, and said the economic benefits for Austin from Formula One were clear.
A study conducted by New York-based Greyhill Advisors reported this week that the Circuit of The Americas generated $897 million in economic impact to the Austin area last year.
Of that, Formula One was deemed to have generated $507 million with around 60 percent of fans attending the race coming from outside Texas.