sport

Whitmarsh welcomes US return

McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh believes Formula One's return to the United States this weekend is crucial for the sport.

After a five-year absence, F1 embarks on an all-new adventure across the Atlantic at the 250million Circuit of The Americas just outside Texan capital Austin.

The hope is that in providing a purpose-built facility the sport will find a permanent home, as it once did for 20 years, from 1961 to 1980 at Watkins Glen in New York state.

For the teams, their sponsors and partners, in particular for the car manufacturers in Ferrari, Mercedes, McLaren and Lotus, having a foothold in the American market is key.

Whitmarsh said: "I've always maintained Formula One's presence in the United States is crucial.

"So I'm personally pleased and satisfied we're back in America after spending far too long away from its shores.

"On a wider level, the arrival of a state-of-the-art, purpose-built grand prix track is perfect for Formula One.

"This is a golden opportunity for the sport to finally put down roots and find a long-term home.

"From a business perspective, too, we are in the right place at the right time.

"This is an invaluable commercial opportunity for the sport, for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes and our partners."

On the track, and there is every hope the latest Hermann Tilke-design which has drawn inspiration from a number of other circuits will prove a winner, Whitmarsh knows his team has to end the year on a high.

Lewis Hamilton's fuel-pressure issue in Abu Dhabi 11 days ago, which resulted in the 27-year-old retiring for a second time in five races when leading, was the latest in a long line of problems this season so unlike McLaren.

With the drivers' championship a two-horse battle between Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso, and with McLaren simply now fighting for second spot in the constructors' title race, there is little but pride and honour to reclaim in Austin and Brazil next weekend.

"It was a strong, but ultimately disappointing performance in Abu Dhabi," said Whitmarsh.

"So I know both Lewis and Jenson (Button) head to Austin determined to pick up the baton and return us to the top step of the podium in what should be a great race for Formula One."

On F1's last visit to America, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2007, Hamilton took the chequered flag in his debut campaign.

Delighted to be back in the States, Hamilton said: "It's a fantastic country and a place where our sport truly deserves to be.

"I think the Circuit Of The Americas looks like it could also be the place modern Formula One finally calls home.

"I've only driven it on the computer and in the simulator, but I think it's going to be a track that drivers enjoy, which produces some great, close racing, and which fans will quickly love.

"This is a new circuit, a new challenge and a new opportunity - I'm definitely looking to be the first grand prix winner at the Circuit Of The Americas."