More Formula 1 drivers should be like current championship leader Lewis Hamilton according to Bobby Epstein, the man in charge of the United States Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s off-track antics have attracted criticism from some who claim his party-goer lifestyle is taking away his focus from racing and winning, but he has so far answered his critics by taking nine wins this year so far.
The Briton is also on the brink of clinching his third title and could do so this weekend in Austin if he outscores Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel by nine points and his own team-mate Nico Rosberg by two – it would also make him the first Briton to take back-to-back championships.
Epstein isn’t one of those who criticise Hamilton, in fact he believes his off-track personality should be more common in the paddock as it would boost F1’s profile, particularly in America where Hamilton is becoming a household name.
“Hollywood is based in America,” Epstein told the Guardian. “This is the centre of the entertainment business. Formula 1 has some great personalities and we shouldn’t hold them back. They are the people who sell tickets.
“Lewis has recognised that and he’s got outside the traditional comfort zone for some people in F1. I think it’s great. We need more of that. He’s a personality. Cars don’t have the same personality.
“Fans relate to human beings, not metal. And what Lewis is doing is great for the business. We also like winners over here, and Lewis is the biggest winner out there. We don’t like rooting for the guy who comes in 20th.”
Epstein has other ideas to boost F1’s interest in the US too and believes the country needs six races to build up a big fan base.
“Two races wouldn’t help much,” he added. “But six could. I’m talking about building an audience. You have to get up very early in the morning to watch F1 in America. So if you had six races in this time zone it would make a big difference.
“We’re living in the age of instant data. When you wake up and you know the result of a race why would you want to watch it? No one wants to go to a movie when they know how it ends.
“Five or six races would help. It would mean frequency and give people habits. And this is a big country. We really could stage that many events.”