With Formula One’s bid to bring a second American-based Grand Prix to the New York/New Jersey region floundering, the series is now coveting a return to the streets of Long Beach, California, where it raced in the late ’70s and early ’80s.
The latest story in that saga emerged recently as the Long Beach City Council proposed a three-year extension of its contract with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, which should keep the IndyCars racing by the Pacific Ocean through 2018.
However, at the end of that extension, the event would be opened up for bidding, which could give F1 a way back to Southern California.
The event has been an American open-wheel racing staple since 1984 – and the Andretti Autosport drivers believe it needs to stay that way.
Marco Andretti – whose father, Michael, and grandfather, Mario, combined for six Long Beach wins in their driving careers – scoffed at the idea (“They were supposed to go to Jersey, too,” he noted) while James Hinchcliffe said the money needed for upgrades and sanctioning fees would “further bankrupt California.”
And former Long Beach winner and Verizon IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay felt like the event was on its way to returning to its past splendor, when the likes of the Andrettis, Al Unser Jr., and other superstars dueled through the streets.
“It’s an IndyCar race. It needs to be,” said Hunter-Reay. “That’s where the glory days were, and we’re heading back there. The crowds are ‑‑ on Friday, this race is the best I think I’ve ever seen. Just getting here, we couldn’t find a way through the crowd on a Friday.”
Much has been made about the costs of a possible F1 event at Long Beach and whether or not they would be worth it for the city. But the Grand Prix’s founder, Chris Pook, now a critical part of F1’s attempt to return to the Beach, has said that those costs would be far less than what some are expecting.
“People have been saying it would cost $100 million,” he said in March to the Orange County (Calif.) Register. “That number has just stuck in people’s minds. It’s not even close to that.”