Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone expects sport to thrive in Austin

The Circuit of The Americas played host to a rousing race yesterday

Austin

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone feels the passionate backing of the city of Austin ensured the United States Grand Prix proved to be a resounding success - and will be for years to come.

When the Texas capital was first mooted as a venue it raised doubts, with suggestions F1 would never work in an area renowned for its love of NASCAR.

At one point last year it also appeared as if the circuit would not be built due to various disputes and contractual problems.

But the people behind the Circuit of The Americas overcame the issues and constructed a £250million masterpiece of a track that yesterday played host to a rousing race.

In front of a crowd of 117,429 - and an overall three-day attendance of 265,499 - it was clear the public truly embraced Formula One that was back Stateside after a five-year absence.

Downtown Austin was also a hive of activity, giving F1 a home in the United States it has long craved.

Ecclestone could not have been happier as he said: "Everything's good, and everyone in Austin seems happy. It's good when you do something and it works.

"It has been much better than I expected, partcularly when you think that 12 months ago there wasn't a race

"Hopefully we'll have another couple of events (in America) in the future, so we will see what happens."

Without doubt, the success of the grand prix will be measured by what transpires next year and how many fans turn up.

As with any new event there is always the novelty factor before a drop-off in attendance the second time around.

Ecclestone feels Austin could buck that trend, adding: "The second year is always difficult.

"You get a big crowd for a new event, but here you can see they are behind us, which is good.

"The governor of Texas (Rick Perry) said we are going to get a bigger crowd next year. He's confident of that."

From the team perspective, the likes of McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh and Christian Horner at Red Bull were both bowled over by the whole experience, but know F1 cannot rest on its laurels.

"It was an epic race, and it can only get better," said Whitmarsh, who was celebrating at the end following Lewis Hamilton's victory.

"It's a great looking circuit which exceeded all my expectations. I wasn't exactly dispassionate as I watched that race, but it must have been fantastic.

"And we needed that, we needed a great race, but now we have to work.

"The important thing is that in three to five years' time, given the job the people have done, we have to really repay them by working very hard to promote the sport in the States.

"We had 120,000 people here, well, in five years' time we have to be bigger, we need a bigger television audience in America. We have to see that we grow this sport."

Like Ecclestone, Whitmarsh also feels the fact Austin embraced F1 was key to its success over the weekend.

"They wanted us," said Whitmarsh.

"Downtown Austin is a cool place. It has a slight Montreal set about it, but it's new, and now we have to create that special vibe we have in Montreal because we all like going there."

Horner could only echo Whitmarsh's sentiments, adding: "They've done a great job here.

"The track is fantastic, the drivers enjoy it, we saw a good race, and the enthusiasm from the fans, the public and the town was tremendous.

"It looks like Formula One has been a big hit here in Texas, and now we just have to make sure we continue to make it work.

"You can see the enthusiasm is there for Formula One, and it would be great to have another race in the States, which is obviouly under discussion.

"But Formula One has put on a great show this weekend, and I'm sure it will be remembered."

PA

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