US GP: 'F1 is the perfect sport for the American market'

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    Story highlights

    • Circuit of the Americas hosts US GP on October 23
    • Lewis Hamilton looking to close 33-point gap with rival Nico Rosberg

    (CNN)How do you make more Americans switch on to Formula One?

    Bobby Epstein, chairman of the Circuit of the Americas -- which will host the US Grand Prix on October 23 -- thinks he has the answer.
    "We could offer Lewis Hamilton citizenship!" Epstein cheekily suggests to CNN's The Circuit.
    The British driver is probably too busy to think about making a permanent move to the US -- although he does own a home in Colorado -- as he is desperately driving to defend his world title.
    Hamilton arrives for the race in Austin, Texas 33 points behind his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the world championship with just 100 points on offer at the remaining four races of the season.
    "It's important this year that the race is so tight," says Epstein, ahead of the fifth US Grand Prix to be held at the popular Texan track.
    "We've got people coming this year not just to see someone crowned the winner but to see the competition when you don't know the outcome [of the title race]."

    'Best race in years'

    Hamilton won his third world title with victory in the US last year despite Hurricane Patricia washing out qualifying until Sunday and the race then starting on a wet track.
    "It was the best race we've had in years and it had the highest viewership of the season," recalled Epstein despite the chaos.
    "But for the folks who came on site we learned a lot about what we could do. We had 25 inches of rain in the week and it's hard to plan for."
    Texan businessman Bobby Epstein sees a long future for F1 in Austin
    Epstein may not be able to control the weather but he does have some ideas about how to increase F1's reach in the US where NASCAR is traditionally the most popular motorsport.
    "Right now most of the marketing for F1 is left down to the local promoter and I think there's so much more we can offer if we can raise its profile year round," explained Epstein, who has booked pop stars Taylor Swift and Usher to play over the race weekend.

    'The perfect sport'

    "It's the perfect sport for the American market because it's a finite amount of time. You have a two-hour race, you can build it into your schedule for the day. Most American sports could take three or four hours or you don't know how long.
    "But in order for F1 to grow you need an American champion ... we have some promising drivers coming up but it's going to be a few years. It will take some time."
    When will an American driver win the U.S. Grand Prix?
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    Californian Alexander Rossi was the last homegrown racer to compete in the US Grand Prix, finishing 12th for Marussia in 2015.
    After losing his seat in F1, the 25-year-old hit the headlines in 2016 as a shock rookie winner of the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport. Rossi will be making an appearance in Austin over the race weekend as a celebrity racing legend!

    US and them

    Rossi is focused on the oval-track racing for now, but home fans at the US Grand Prix will at least have an American team to support for the first time in 30 years in the colors of Haas F1.
    "Haas do raise the profile of F1," said Epstein. "They've been successful in NASCAR and other racing.
    "The fan base that follows them are very curious about why this guy [owner Gene Haas] goes from NASCAR to what he aspired to be a different, higher level of racing."
    Haas Heroes
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    Entrepreneur Haas, who joined forces with three-time Sprint Cup champion Tony Stewart to form the successful Stewart-Haas Racing NASCAR team in 2009, has had a solid start in his first year racing in F1.
    With horsepower and technology from Ferrari, Haas F1 won points at its very first GP thanks to French driver Romain Grosjean, and at the last race in Japan both cars got into the top-10 of qualifying for the very first time.
    The arrival of a promising American team on home soil may also help assure the future of F1 in the US.
    That may be some comfort considering classic races in Brazil, Canada and Germany are all yet to be confirmed on the 2017 F1 calendar.
    "I'd like to see another 10 years," Epstein said on a possible new contract for F1 to stay in Texas. "I think that will happen."