Juan Pablo Montoya offers F1 advice: follow IndyCar and NASCAR’s lead to regain fans, TV viewership

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Juan Pablo Montoya has raced in numerous motorsports series, including Formula One, IndyCar, CART and NASCAR.

So when Montoya offers suggestions, he knows what he’s talking about.

That’s the case with F1, where Montoya recently told AutoSport that the international racing series could learn a few lessons from its motorsports counterparts in America, particularly IndyCar.

With F1 having downturns in at-track attendance and viewership, much like the same battle NASCAR has fought the last several years due to the poor economy in the U.S., Montoya thinks F1 should study what’s going right of late, particularly in IndyCar and its engagement of fans.

“(To get fans engaged), they ought to look at IndyCar,” Montoya said. “I think IndyCar does the best job of looking after its fans.

“It’s very different (for fans), just walking around seeing the cars. In the garage in NASCAR, the drivers are never there. The cars are there but the drivers are always in the motorhome. (In) F1, (the paddock) is always closed. It’s so complicated. There is no right answer.”

Montoya won a CART championship, an Indianapolis 500 victory, and seven F1 races before a seven-season/two wins tenure in NASCAR.

Now that he’s back in IndyCar and has returned to his open-wheel roots, Montoya shows that he still has some affinity for F1 and its troubles.

His No. 1 suggestion on how to “fix” F1?

“Number one, F1 has to change the sound,” he said. “It is a really hard compromise because they all talk about saving money, but at the end of the day F1 has never been about that.

“They still spend all the money in the world. One team there could probably sponsor the whole series here (in IndyCar).”

Montoya also said F1’s teams and the league as a whole could learn a great deal from both NASCAR’s and IndyCar’s efforts to attract fans, particularly with social media engagement, as well as the latter’s numerous autograph sessions at every race, plus fan-friendly and accessible paddocks.

As a result, it’s not surprising that IndyCar especially has shown significant attendance and especially TV rating gains in the last two years, particularly with its TV deal with NBC and the NBC Sports Network.

“The people that best understand it … NASCAR is the best at understanding that at the end of the day it’s a show,” he said. “Formula 1, being very European, they think it’s a sport. And it is a sport. But the way it’s played … the fans have to like it.”

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Red Bull rising into the form expected when the season began

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) Young “Mad Max” Verstappen had plenty to be angry about for the first half of the Formula One season. After his breakout season in 2016, this year had been little more than a rash of retirements, crashes and clashes with other drivers.

But a late burst over the last two races delivered his second career victory and a second-place. Those results have Red Bull rising and looking more like the fast and muscular team it was expected to be.

Verstappen and teammate Daniel Ricciardo now look primed to keep pushing for the front over the final four races of 2017, starting this week at the U.S. Grand Prix. Do that and the prospects for a 2018 title fight grow brighter.

“We’re definitely going the way we need to be going,” Ricciardo said. “If we start on the front foot, I genuinely believe we can fight for the title if we start closer. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

Verstappen’s win in Malaysia demonstrated a perfect marriage of the young Dutchman’s driving skill and his improving car when he beat Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton with a head-to-head pass early. He was on the podium again a week later in Japan. The champagne spray at both races was a tasty but dry reminder that Red Bull wanted – and expected – so much more this season.

While Ricciardo has been a workhorse with nine podiums and one victory, Verstappen’s season was crippled by reliability issues with his car or crashes.

“There were so many races this year when he was in a fantastic position to achieve big results,” team principal Christian Horner said this week. “Credit to him that at such a young age he hasn’t let frustration boil over … when it comes right for him, it’s going to come right in a big way. And that’s exactly what happened in Malaysia. He drove a great race there, with no issues.”

Some of the “issues” created internal tension.

The first lap of the Hungarian Grand Prix was a disaster for Red Bull. Verstappen tried to overtake Ricciardo and hit him, knocking Ricciardo out of the race while Verstappen finished fifth. Ricciardo lashed out at Verstappen as “immature” and criticized the “amateur” maneuver.

Verstappen said he can’t think about what happened early in the season.

“That frustration I put behind me,” Verstappen said. “It happened. You can’t change it anymore. You’re just happy that it’s going well again and we had some good results.”

Ricciardo has carried Red Bull to the podium time and again but his broad smile hasn’t beamed from the top spot since Azerbaijan in June. Despite his run of strong finishes, he’s stuck at fourth in the driver’s standings and needs a boost to overtake Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas for third.

The Circuit of the Americas has been good for both Red Bull drivers in the past. Ricciardo finished third here in 2014 and 2016. Verstappen had an attention-getting drive in 2015 when he finished fourth in his Toro Rosso after sloshing his way through the field on a wet track.

Verstappen had a wild race in 2016 when he challenged for the lead early, came in for a pit stop when the crew wasn’t ready and yelled to his garage: “I’m not here to finish fourth!” He didn’t finish at all when his car was knocked out with a gearbox problem on lap 32.

Verstappen was 17 when he joined the F1 grid as the youngest driver in series history and he still jokes about his age. Austin is known for its live music and nightlife, but he’s limited as to how much he can party away from the track.

“I’m only 20. I can’t drink,” Verstappen said. “If I’m on the podium (Sunday) I won’t care.”