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Diffey: Herta could take F1® to the next level in America


The time is right to piggyback off the wider appeal of the sport.

A full-time American driver is the final frontier for Formula 1® if the sport is to capitalise on the momentum created in the United States by Netflix and 'Drive to Survive', says long-time Australian-American broadcaster Leigh Diffey.

Brisbane-born Diffey, who cut his teeth commentating on motorsport in Australia before moving to the United States 20 years ago, works for NBC Sports, where he calls the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar championship.

Off the back of Formula 1® racing in Miami for the first time last weekend, Diffey feels the time is right to piggyback off the wider appeal of the sport thanks to 'Drive to Survive' with an American racer, with rising IndyCar star Colton Herta front of mind.

Speaking to the Australian Grand Prix Corporation's In the Fast Lane podcast, Diffey said Miami showed just how far F1® has come in the US.

"The event was phenomenal, even before the lights went out everyone was referring to it as 'the Super Bowl of Formula 1'," he said.

"There's been a massive shift in the popularity of Formula 1 here (which) has been a blessing. If something comes along and takes it to the greater masses, so be it and so good. It's spurred on Indycar and NASCAR to think 'we need a 'Drive to Survive' for our category, so it's been a good thing."

No American driver has raced in F1® since Alexander Rossi competed in five races for Manor in 2015, and Diffey feels Herta, who has six Indycar wins at just 22 years of age, could be the catalyst for even greater inroads in the US.

"He's young, he's good and he's got the connections as well – Zak Brown at McLaren has offered Colton a testing program," Diffey said.

"Formula 1 has gone out to the larger audience here in the US … now, they need somebody to cheer for. Haas, you can hit on those parochial heartstrings by being an American team, but to have a young California kid whose dad (Bryan Herta) was a racer and tested for Minardi many years ago … if he could be there, that would be a huge step.

"Colton as a driver … if he tests well, it would do wonders for even bigger things for Formula One in the United States."

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