Formula 1 and the latest ridiculous example of undermining IndyCar

The obsessive use of an IndyCar trademark has reached new levels as the American open-wheel racing series aims to fight back against Formula 1 and its partners.
Las Vegas Grand Prix, Formula 1
Las Vegas Grand Prix, Formula 1 / ANGELA WEISS/GettyImages

The phrase "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" was trademarked by Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Hulman and Company in 1986 and has been used to promote IndyCar's biggest race, the Indy 500, ever since.

Unfortunately, Formula 1, its owners Liberty Media, and now its United States broadcast partner ESPN have recently ignored that trademark and used variations of the phrase in attempt to draw fans -- specifically American fans, of course -- to their product.

Rapper LL Cool J used the phrase "the greatest spectacle in motorsports" during driver introductions ahead of the second annual Miami Grand Prix last May, and the Las Vegas Grand Prix used the phrase "the greatest racing spectacle on the planet" ahead of its inaugural running last November.

Now ESPN have used the phrase "the greatest spectacle in motorsports" in a trailer to advertise their coverage of the upcoming season, which is scheduled to begin this coming weekend.

Though the exact phrase was not used, points out that the latest display of disregard for the trademark came just days after NASCAR posted -- likely by mistake, due to the subsequent deletion -- the words "the greatest spectacle in racing" to describe the Daytona 500.

As a side note, can you imagine the uproar if IndyCar tried to call the Indy 500 the "Great American Race"?

For as popular as Formula 1 is, not only worldwide but in the United States, IndyCar seems to be living rent-free inside their heads.

This continued obsession with the world's most competitive open-wheel racing series' trademark of nearly four decades is becoming ridiculous.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles continues to fight back, stating that he and his team are "aware of the use of our mark in what appears to be a broadcast promotional spot" and that they "will once again address it with the appropriate people and are prepared to take every measure possible to protect our brand's intellectual property."

He added that "it continues to be disappointing that others can't create their own brand identity without infringing upon ours." Truer words have never been spoken.

ESPN did end up tweaking the promo and called the situation an "unintentional error", but the fact that this kind of situation has happened multiple times in the last year alone is certainly noteworthy.

Without completely contradicting ESPN's claim, because this was indeed only their first slip-up, the network did produce live coverage of the Indy 500 from 2007 to 2018. It's hard to imagine that they don't know about the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing".

And how many more "mistakes" are going to be made until IndyCar is finally forced into taking some sort of meaningful action?

Here's the reality of the situation: those within Formula 1 know that IndyCar just had its most-viewed season since 2011, and they know that motorsport fans in the United States who want to watch something competitive are poised to move in that direction if something doesn't change.

While you can't not appreciate what Max Verstappen is doing and the historic implications of his dominance -- and yes, several Grands Prix did indeed break viewership records in the United States last year, even amid his 19-win season -- the fact is that IndyCar is a far more competitive racing series than Formula 1, by every metric.

And notice how we did not include the words "at the moment", because it has been that way for quite some time. This didn't just start with Verstappen, or even Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel before him.

Formula 1 knows they risk losing the American fans they have fought so hard to attain in recent years, either via the Drive to Survive Netflix series, the addition of the Miami Grand Prix, or the addition of the Las Vegas Grand Prix.

So enter the "You can copy my homework, but don't make it too obvious" approach.

As IndyCar continues to surge in popularity itself and its races continue to produce a significant amount of overtaking, those very fans suddenly have a better alternative if they view Formula 1's current product as dull.

And by the way, the Indy 500 is already the most attended single-day sporting event on the planet. IndyCar has no need for any sort of "three-day attendance" figure in which fans are counted two or three times each.

Mistake or not, this ESPN situation is just the latest instance of Formula 1's elitist attitude being on full display in a way that directly correlates to an attempt to minimize the significance of IndyCar.

The complete disrespect shown by the series when it came to the decision to reject Michael Andretti's attempt to join the Formula 1 took arrogance to new levels. The reasons provided by the sport were nothing shy of laughable, and it was a slap in the face to the United States fanbase as a whole.

Formula 1 literally let William Storey and Rich Energy into the sport, not to mention Vladimir Putin's pal Dmitry Mazepin. You can't make this stuff up.

You really do have to wonder if the Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari bombshell was intentionally held off to divert attention away from the Andretti nonsense, given the timing. The fact that the announcement was effectively "confirmed" several days prior is particularly interesting.

Next. IndyCar: Two different teams need to replace the same driver. IndyCar: Two different teams need to replace the same driver. dark

And now, just days before the start of the 2024 season, yet another trademark-related issue just so happens to emerge. Is it really that difficult to decipher what's going on here? Should we expect another "mistake" of a similar nature in the near future? It's getting quite old.