TABLE OF CONTENTS
Formula 1 will be adding a second Grand Prix in the United States in 2022, heading to Miami, Florida for the first time. The United States throughout F1 history has used ten other circuits across the country since the 1950s. The current United States Grand Prix has been held in Austin, Texas since 2012.
In this article, we will look at the GP histories of American F1 races that were not considered to be the United States GP but rather a complimentary race on the schedule. We will take a look at four different circuits in four different states and in March 2022 we will be able to add the Miami GP to this mix. Here are the histories of the United States Grand Prix west, Detroit, Dallas, and Caesars Palace Grand Prix.
UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX WEST-LONG BEACH CALIFORNIA
The beautiful state of California and the city of Long Beach were home to Formula for eight years and were the counterpoint to the United States GP East that took place on the east coast at Watkin Glenn.
Long Beach was a tough street circuit that challenged drivers and their cars dealing with multiple chicanes and sharp hairpins. If the F1 cars could survive the heavy pressure on their brakes, gearboxes, and suspension simply making it to the finish line would be considered a success.
Formula 1 kicked off the first United States Grand Prix West in 1975 and Long Beach did not disappoint, perfect for racing with temperatures reaching 21degress Celsius. The race attracted many of F1’s former champions and great drivers to help promote the race. The likes of Juan Manuel Fangio and Phil Hill amongst the others would not be disappointed with the race.
Ferrari and Austrian Clay Regazzoni secured the first pole position on Saturday and on race day Regazzoni had no issues at the start maintaining his lead. As Regazzoni pulled away from the pack the real battle was between Frances Patrick Depailler driving in Tyrell and Britain’s James Hunt in his McLaren. Hunt, who was in the third position, stayed close to Depailler making numerous attempts to overtake the Frenchman in the opening laps of the race.
FERRARI ENJOYS THE BEACH
On Lap 4 Hunt dove to the inside of Depailler heading into a hairpin, Hunt could not stay on the track and when he attempted to return on the track Depailler forced him into a wall. Austria’s Nikki Lauda driving for Ferrari was not far behind the melee in fourth place and took advantage of the situation passing Depailler, hopping two positions into second place.
Reggazzoni by the end of the race had a comfortable forty-second lead over his teammate Lauda. Ferrari scored a 1-2 finish with Depailler who slipped to seventh place and battled back for third place on the podium.
THE FIGHT FOR FIRST
In 1971 Long Beach provided fans with another stellar race that would feature yet another three-way battle for 1st place. The great battle was between Lauda still with Ferrari, American Mario Andretti driving for Lotus, and South Africa’s Jody Scheckter in a Wolf. The three drivers qualified in the above order and were only separated by less than half a second.
When the lights went out at the start of the race, Scheckter was able to fly past Andretti and Lauda to take the lead. Andretti survived the start of the race and moved up to second place and began pressuring Scheckter immediately with Lauda trailing closely in third.
Scheckter held the American off until one of his tires began to lose air pressure, giving Andretti a chance to overtake him on lap 77. Scheckter fell even further from first place to third, unable to stop Lauda from passing him too. Now Andretti had the Ferrari to contend who was seeking their second win in a row at the GP battling at multiple corners blocking Lauda from overtaking him.
THE AMERICAN DREAM
Andretti became the first American to win a United States GP in his home country. Lauda finished in second place less than a second behind the American and Scheckter had to content himself with third.
VILLENEUVE STEALS THE LEAD
Ferrari seemed to enjoy the sunny weather of California performing well at the circuit claiming another pole position this time with Argentina’s Carlos Reutemann behind the wheel. His teammate Canadian Gilles Villeneuve qualified in second place, ensuring the front of the grid was Ferrari red. Villeneuve had the better start taking Reutemann’s spot in the lead until the young Canadian crashed on lap 38.
Reutemann, who had an awful start to the race, kept falling to fourth place and now had to deal with passing Lauda who was in third ahead of him. Lauda suffered from an ignition problem on lap 27 which made Reutemann’s life much easier.
Reutemann benefited from his competitors’ crashes or car troubles and took over the lead of the race and did not relinquish it as he crossed the finish line. Ferrari had won their race in Long Beach and Andretti returned to the podium in second place with Depailler adding his second third-place finish at the GP.
Baseball in the United States is easily one of the most popular sports and fans certainly love it when a player hits a grand slam to win the game. In 1979 Gilles Villeneuve and Ferrari would hit their own grand slam in front of one hundred thousand fans.
Villeneuve came into the race winning the previous GP in South Africa and went on to take pole position by a narrow margin of 0.041 seconds over Reutemann who now drove for Lotus. Villeneuve on race day would complete his grand slam performance never losing the lead of the race, scoring the fastest lap and of course winning the race.
TRIPLE FOR FERRARI
Ferrari added their second win in a row at Long Beach and third win overall at the circuit. Scheckter added to Ferrari’s celebration finishing in second giving La Scuderia a 1-2 finish. Australian Alan Jones finished in third place driving in Williams, nearly one minute behind Villeneuve.
BACK TO BACK GRAND SLAMS
In 1980 another grand slam was hit out of the park, this time with a young Brazilian driver by the name of Nelson Piquet taking the swing. Piquet, who drove for Brabham, took pole position with what a far superior car any of his competitors could muster.
Piquet almost struck out during warm-up when bumped into Britain’s Derek Daly launchings Piquet’s Brabham into the air. Luckily, he landed on all four wheels and no damage had occurred. Piquet recovered from the gaffe and went on to win his first career Grand Prix and threw himself into the mix for the battle for the driver’s title.
Piquet led the entire race, scored the fastest lap, and won the race, completing the grand slam. Italy’s Riccardo Patrese driving for Arrows finished fifty seconds behind Piquet in second and fellow Brazilian driving in his own Fittipaldi finished in third well over a minute behind.
JONES WANTS THREE
The United States GP West kicked off the 1981 season hosting the opener in mid-March with beautiful sunny warm weather perfect for racing. Alan Jones who won the driver’s title and the last two races of 1980 in Canada and the United States East GP’s was looking to keep his winning streak in North America alive.
VILLENEUVE TAKES A DIVE
Patrese took pole away from Jones by a hair that was 0.009 seconds long. With all eyes at the front of the grid on race day, it was Villeneuve who was in fifth that would pull off one of his trademark dives into a corner taking the lead and jumping four places.
Villeneuve was unable to keep the lead after he ran wide at a hairpin, losing the lead to Patrese who was ahead of Reutemann who passed Jones. Patrese bowed out of the race on lap 33 due to fuel issues, placing the two Williams comfortably into the lead.
Reutemann, who led the race, respected team orders and did not put up a fight, allowing Jones to pass him easily and eventually win the race. Jones secured his third win in a row, Reutemann achieved another podium finish in second and Piquet finished in third.
In 1982 Nikki Lauda returned to Formula 1 with McLaren after stepping away from racing for two years. Lauda drove well in Long Beach but could never take the chequered flag in first place. Italy’s Andrea de Cesaris driving for Alfa Romeo had pole position with Lauda one-hundredth of a second behind him.
De Cesaris held off Lauda at the start of the race and maintained his lead until lap 15 when the Italian had to pass back markers slowing him down but not Lauda who slipped right by him. De Cesaris was forced out of the race on lap 33 spinning out and crashing hard into a wall.
Lauda now could enjoy a comfortable lead while the battle for the other two podium spots raged. Villeneuve and Finland’s Keke Rosberg delighted fans with the duo exchanging positions multiple times over numerous laps.
Rosberg finished ahead of Villeneuve to secure second place while Villeneuve, who finished in third, was later disqualified because of his rear wing being too wide. Patrese, who sat in fourth, got the bump up and was awarded third place. Lauda had finally won in Long Beach.
A FAREWELL TO CALIFORNIA
California and Long Beach hosted their last Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1983 because organizers decided to focus on the CART IndyCar series. The final race was a chaotic one where half the field of drivers could not finish the race. Both McLarens qualified in terrible positions with John Watson in 22nd place and Lauda in 23rd.
At the front of the grid Ferrari had locked up the one-two positions with Tambay and Arnoux in the 1-2 spots followed by Rosberg and Williams in third. It would seem throughout that anyone who battled for the lead of the would ultimately collide and be put out of the race.
WASTON AND LAUDA FROM THE BACK
All the while McLaren slowly moved up the ranks and eventually took over the lead. You would think that both McLarens would be leading by a narrow margin over their rivals but that was not the case because of all the incidents on track they now led by over a minute.
WATSON MAKES HISTORY
Watson became the only driver to win a race after starting in 22nd place. Nikki Lauda grabbed his fourth podium finishing in second and Ferrari finished in third with Tambay. It was a wild finish to an exciting slew of races in California.
DETROIT GRAND PRIX
In the capital city of automobiles, Detroit began hosting Formula 1 races in the 1980s adding yet another American street circuit to the calendar. Like most street circuits, the Detroit Street Circuit was a battle of attrition taking drivers and their cars on a wild adventure on a slick and bumpy road surface while being surrounded by concrete walls.
Detroit was very unforgiving leaving drivers with a sour taste in their mouths. Only one driver could dominate the track with repeat success, none other than Brazil’s Ayrton Senna.
The opening race in Detroit in 1982 was a thrilling spectacle that would finish with a driver no one gave a chance of winning the race on top of the podium. Alain Prost was the first to take a Pole Position in Detroit driving for Renault while De Cesaris in an Alfa Romeo was in second with Rosberg and Williams in third.
The race started with the front of the grid remaining intact until cars started to fall out of the race with mechanical issues and a serious crash on lap 7 causing a red flag to be waived, stopping the race for over an hour. Prost resumed the race in the lead with a smaller pack behind, but he too would suffer from mechanical issues after brilliant battles with Rosberg for the lead.
WATSON CLIMBS AGAIN
John Watson and his McLaren who qualified in seventeenth had an incredible race catching up to the race leaders and eventually passing Rosberg whose car had lost a gear. Watson ended up winning the race with a fifteen-second with American Eddie Cheever and his Ligier in second place while Frances Didier Pironi with Ferrari finished in third.
YOU’RE NOT GOING TO MAKE IT
In 1983 Detroit would continue to pay a toll on F1 cars and during the GP twelve drivers retired from the race with mechanical issues. The track underwent some changes making the track a little quicker removing a tight hairpin from the circuit. Ferrari with Rene Arnoux Pole Position only to lose the lead spot to Nelson Piquet at the second start of the race.
The first start of the race was aborted due to the stalled Alfa Romeo of De Cesaris. Once again leading midway through the race would mean nothing for Piquet because he too would exit the race early with a tire puncture.
Surviving the race can give unexpected teams a chance of winning in Detroit and by the end of the GP Alboreto won the race for Tyrell. Rosberg finished in second place while Watson once again stormed from the back of the pack to third place.
WORLD CHAMPIONS COLLIDE
Piquet would not be denied in 1984 after two solid performances in Detroit only to suffer from matters outside of his control putting him out of the race. Piquet who took pole position once again was faced with matters beyond his control when Britain’s Nigel Mansell attempted to overtake the Brazilian and hit Prost who was in the mix and ended up causing a pile-up of cars forcing a red flag.
A SPARE CAR SAVES THE DAVE
Luckily at the time, spare cars were allowed, sparing the race leaders from an early exit of the race. Piquet would benefit most by winning a race that included nineteen retirements and two disqualifications. Only five drivers were able to complete the race. Italy’s Elio De Angelis finished in second place with Lotus and Italy’s Teo Fabi finished in third with Brabham.
WILLIAMS HITS THE STREETS
Ayrton Senna driving for Lotus took his first pole position at the 1985 GP, but his lead did not last long as Rosberg and Williams passed Senna on lap 8. Senna eventually exited the race after he crashed on lap 51.
Rosberg, on the other hand, maintained his lead and won the race easily with nearly a sixty-second lead. Ferrari filled up the rest of the podium with Sweden’s Stefan Johansson in second and Alboreto in third.
SENNA TAKES OVER
Senna in 1986 learned from his mistakes in Detroit the year earlier grabbing his second consecutive pole position. It was not easy for Senna as he fell to eighth place at the start of the race.
Senna, driving in his Lotus, battled the likes of Mansell, Alboreto, and Johansson to regain the lead of the race. Senna achieved the fastest lap of the race and won the first of three wins in Detroit.
LOTUS MAKES IT TWO
In 1987 Brazil would reign supreme in Detroit by the end of the Grand Prix but first Mansell who took pole had to get out of the way. Mansell led the races until he began to suffer from cramps in his legs making it difficult to brake.
Mansell could not hold on to his lead, ceding his position to Alain Prost, and continued to slide all the way to fifth at the finish line. Senna was able to pass his French rival who suffered from tire issues forcing him to pit.
Senna won his second consecutive race and took the lead for the driver’s title over Prost. Nelson Piquet and his Williams finished in second giving Brazil a 1-2 finish in America. Prost stepped onto the podium in third.
SENNA TAKES IT HOME
After so many complaints from drivers and teams, it was easy to predict that the GP in Detroit would eventually be canceled. In 1988 Detroit hosted its last race despite some attempts to convince Formula 1 that they could attempt to move the race to another part of the city.
Senna, who now drove for McLaren, added another pole position to his name and drove the entire race to his third consecutive race at Detroit. Alain Prost also with McLaren finished in second place with ease staying ahead of Belgium’s Thierry Boutsen in Benetton in third place. I am certain no drivers were disappointed when this GP was removed from the schedule.
DALLAS GRAND PRIX
Formula 1 went down to the longhorn state of Texas for the first time in 1984 in the City of Dallas. Only one race would take place at the Fair Park Circuit, which was a temporary street circuit. The weather in July in Texas on the day of the race was extreme with track temperatures hitting over sixty degrees.
WILD WILD WEST
Drivers and their cars would be put to the test if they could both withstand the heat. Nigel Mansel claimed the first and only Pole Position in Dallas. On race day drivers were told they would start the race three hours earlier due to the heat.
Mansell seemed to survive the heat for half the race in the lead until his gearbox began to struggle, taking him out of contention for the win. Only eight out of the twenty-five drivers who started the race crossed the finish line.
Keke Rosberg and Williams kept their cool, winning the race with Rene Arnoux and Ferrari in second and Elio De Angelis in third driving for Lotus. Formula 1 returned to Texas in 2012, this time racing at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
CAESARS PALACE GRAND PRIX- LAS VEGAS
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS STAYS IN VEGAS
In an attempt to further promote Formula 1 in the United States a grand Prix in Las Vegas Nevada was added to the schedule. The Caesars Palace Hotel and Casino built a temporary circuit using their massive parking lot for the track and grandstands. Only two races were held there in the eighties and were canceled due to lack of interest and unprofitability for the hotel.
PLACE YOUR BETS
The first race took place in 1981 and was scheduled last on the F1 calendar. Three drivers were battling for the world title with Reutemann and Piquet neck and neck and Lafitte who had a mathematical chance of winning.
Racing in the desert proved to be arduous due to the hot weather forcing drivers to endure heat exhaustion. The Driver’s Championship was not decided with any of the contenders finishing on the podium.
Piquet won his first title by finishing in fifth place ahead of Laffite in sixth and Reutemann in eighth. The front runners of the race and winners of the race were Alan Jones in first with Williams, Alain Prost with Renault in second, and Italy’s Bruno Giacomelli with Alfa Romeo in third.
In the final race to take place in Vegas in 1982, the Drivers World Championship was still on the line in the last race of the season. Rosberg led by nine points over John Watson who needed to have a stellar race to have a chance of winning the title.
John Watson did all he could to claim the title for himself by finishing the race in second place in his McLaren but could not change the fact Rosberg finished in fifth securing his lone championship title.
The race was won by Alboreto in his Tyrell while the crowd cheered on their fellow American Eddie Cheever in third driving for Ligier. Caesars Place chose to longer host Formula 1 races after 1982 and went on to host Trans-Am and Cart IndyCar races until the mid-eighties.