F1’s embarrassment in Oz could be IndyCar’s gain

The show IndyCar puts on is second to none. Sure makes F1 look silly.
The show IndyCar puts on is second to none. Sure makes F1 look silly.

This might seem like a strange way to start an article about Formula One, but the big winner following Sunday's season-opening "race" in Australia, which was won by world champion Lewis Hamilton, has got to be the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Why?

Because unless the opening IndyCar race in St. Petersburg in two weeks' time turns out to be a total disaster, I guarantee you there will be more cars, more racing, more passing and more excitement in Florida than we ever saw on Sunday in Melbourne.

IndyCar's problems stem from management and marketing and not from the on-track product, which is second-to-none. If it can straighten out the first two, the sky's the limit for the American series.

To say F1 has got problems at the moment would be an understatement.

Although 20 F1 cars showed up in Melbourne, only 15 of them got past the starting line and only 11 of them finished the 56-lap event. Only the top five cars were on the lead lap at the checkers and that 11th-place car was two laps behind.

The winner, Hamilton, was so dominant that he could extend his lead over teammate and eventual-second-place finisher Nico Rosberg any time he felt like it, and with ease. Although they ran the whole contest within a second or two of each other, Hamilton said “see ya" near the end and was more than seven seconds clear of Rosberg by the cool-down lap.

Third-place Sebastian Vettel, driving his first race for Ferrari, was 25 seconds back at the conclusion, four seconds (or so) ahead of Felipe Massa in a Williams-Mercedes, who finished fourth. Felipe Nasr, a rookie, finished fifth for Sauber-Ferrari but he was nearly a minute behind Massa.

Ricciardo lapped in front of his countrymen
Ricciardo lapped in front of his countrymen

The remainder of the top ten, all of whom were lapped: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull-Renault), Nico Hulkenberg (Force India-Mercedes), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), Carlos Sainz Jr., (Toro Rosso-Renault) and Sergio Perez (Force India).

The last car running was the McLaren-Honda of Jenson Button, two laps behind the winner, in 11th. He called the spanking a “really positive" experience.

It wasn't much of a race – if you want to call it that. The Mercedes cars have been the class of F1 since the first pre-season test – really no surprise – and the only question was whether Rosberg, who finished second to his teammate in the championship last season, would be able to rise to the occasion and really take the fight to him. Apparently not.

Vettel was never able to challenge the Mercedes drivers and made his move into third when Massa was in the pits.

Nasr did a good job to take the Sauber home in fifth. Norris McDonald/Toronto Star

(Editor's note: This article would be valid if IndyCar had any idea of how to market itself in the global arena. But as it is, a 5-month season, with no television reach, and no real strategic plan to go forward, IndyCar is no position to take advantage of recent declines we've seen in F1, NASCAR, or any other racing series.)

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