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Interview: Mexican GP promoters would welcome more U.S. races

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By Alan Baldwin

LONDON (Reuters) - Mexican Grand Prix organisers hope U.S. company Liberty Media's takeover of Formula One will boost their event by expanding in the region and eventually creating a North American season similar to Europe's run of races.

Liberty, owned by cable TV mogul John Malone, agreed this month to take control of the global sport in a deal expected to lead to expansion in the U.S. market that Formula One has struggled to crack.

"When we are trying to build new audiences and bring new fans and create a new fan base, it does get a little complicated," Mexican Grand Prix marketing director Rodrigo Sanchez told Reuters.

"We wish we could have more and more races on prime time on our side of the world and I think the only way we will get that is if, collaboratively, there start being more races in the region in general.

"It would be great to basically consolidate Formula One in North America."

Formula One currently has three North American races -- in Montreal, the Texas state capital Austin and Mexico City. There is also one in South America, the Brazilian Grand Prix at Sao Paulo's Interlagos circuit.

Canada's Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has been on the calendar since 1978, although the contract has yet to be extended beyond next year, and this year was scheduled between Monaco and Azerbaijan.

Mexico returned to the calendar last year after a 23-year-absence while the United States has tried out 10 different venues over the years and had no race between 2007 and 2012, when Austin made its debut.

Europe has a block of races, Canada apart, running from May to September.

"We need to keep promoting Formula One... amongst the entire continent. We don’t have the luxury as a geographic region that some of the other areas have," said Sanchez, whose Oct. 30 race is paired with Texas.

"It’s well known that there is just a European part of the season. Having more races within your geographic area, it definitely helps to build a good fan base.

"There really hasn’t been any longevity or consistency in the events, whether they change cities or disappear for a few years and come back, especially in the United States," added Sanchez, whose race has a contract to 2019.

Formula One's new chairman Chase Carey, an American, has said he sees the United States as a big long-term growth area.

The sport's 85-year-old chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has long talked about adding a race on the west and east coasts, with a return to Las Vegas considered most likely and Miami also mentioned.

Sanchez said this year's race was 90 percent sold out and expected a full house come race weekend. Last year's race day crowd was put at 135,000 with a three-day attendance of 336,000.

Mexico currently has two drivers on the starting grid, Force India's podium-chasing Sergio Perez and Haas F1's Esteban Gutierrez, who has yet to score this season.

The 12th corner of the Hermanos Rodriguez circuit has been renamed after local hero Adrian Fernandez, now an ambassador for the race, who was runner-up in the U.S. CART series in 2000 and ran his own team.

There are also plans to improve the podium ceremony by allowing more of the crowd onto the track.

"You look at Monza and it’s just a beautiful picture of that front stretch full of people. So hopefully we can create something special this year," said Sanchez.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)


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