Daniel Ricciardo said that Formula One’s popularity in the US should continue to grow with ownership of the sport soon to transfer to US entertainment company Liberty.
Ricciardo said that F1 may never be the equivalent of the top US sports, but believes there is great scope for advancement.
“It’s still below … here in Australia and England and that, but it’s growing, it’s definitely growing,” Ricciardo said of the past few Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, where he placed third in 2016.
“Like the last two years you can really see that, people know what Formula One is now,” he told The Age.
The Liberty sale, which is reportedly worth more than US$10.5 billion, is to be completed in the first half of 2017, the company is tipped to expand the sport’s popularity through digital media in the US and other potential growth markets.
Despite placing third in the Drivers’ Championship this year — Ricciardo finished on 256 points, 129 behind winner Nico Rosberg — the Red Bull driver does not expect to be a nationwide star in the US any time soon.
“I sort of see it a bit like how Australia was pre-Mark Webber’s successful years. You know, the racing fan obviously knew it and knew Mark and knew a lot of the drivers, but not really if you walk up to someone on the street and they wouldn’t necessarily know; the name Michael Schumacher and maybe Mark Webber and that’s it.”
“I doubt it will ever be like an NBA and a baseball or anything, but yeah, it’s growing the awareness is there. It is cool, but you know, the Americans are just happy doing their thing. You can always sort of go under the radar somehow when you are over there.”
As Ricciardo prepares for the 2017 season that begins in his home nation with the Melbourne Grand Prix on March 26, he said the US is a place he would like to spend more time in when his career is over.
“I think once I’m done with the F1 stuff and all that I don’t see myself full time in Europe. I love Australia. I love that. I think I’ll always spend a good chunk of time here you know once it all slows down. And then I think elsewhere in the world.”
“I’ve enjoyed America the last few years. So I do envisage settling down, in terms of not doing 100 flights a year, but I’m sure part of me will still want to travel.”