Hamilton: We need to change for US market

Lewis Hamilton believes that Formula 1 needs to more proactive and deliver a better product if it is to make headway in the United States.

The F1 roadshow is in Austin this week for the fourth time, with the race having returned to the calendar in 2012 after a four-year absence.

With a mass of rule changes in the works ahead of the 2017 season, Hamilton has said that F1 needs to return to wheel-to-wheel action if it is to grow in popularity.

"It does need to change," Hamilton said in a pre-race press conference. "For example with the DRS [drag reduction system] it doesn't feel organic, it doesn't feel like natural racing.

"I want to see wheel-to-wheel racing, it needs to be like karting was. Karting is racing wheel-to-wheel and overtaking and we need to make F1 like that. I don't know how they will do it, but it needs to be a lot different to how it was in the last 20 years."

In order to gain traction in the highly competitive US sports market, Hamilton feels that F1 should be looking to align itself with the stars of other US sporting codes.

"It is difficult for people to get attached here in America," he explained. "They are crazy about NFL and NBA and they are sports that you can just go buy the equipment, buy a ball or a racket and go and play in the street.

"I was very lucky my dad bought me a kart and we drove it around a DIY store car park for a while. But there is not that accessibility for kids to say 'hey I want to go karting'. You need to plan it weeks in advance or save up.

"Maybe Formula 1 can start to engage more with the NFL or the other sports and brands that you have in the States. I don't know if I have ever seen an NFL star come to a race other than a friend I had once. But there has never really been anyone from the other kinds of sports come and see what F1 is about and maybe bring some attention to it.

"As you can see I am doing as much as I can, but I am only one person."

Hamilton has been pictured regularly in America over the past year, attending a number of high-profile events, while rubbing shoulders with the likes of singer Rihanna and reality stars the Kardashians.

US Grand Prix organiser Bobby Epstein believes that more drivers need to be like Hamilton if fans are going to be drawn to the sport.

"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."

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