Top Formula 1 Drivers are Challenged by a World-class Track
For the first time since 1984, Formula One will host two races in the United States, with Austin and Miami joining the calendar. As in many other countries, F1 has had a growing appeal in the USA.
The F1 can be a thrilling and fun affair, especially when the venues work for both the sport and attract fan interest.
Now that Las Vegas has been slated for 2023, F1 is approaching the Miami weekend with much of the optimism that has shadowed previous new race ventures.
The interest of drivers, teams, fans, media, celebrities, sponsors and the local community has left anticipation for the weekend at a fever pitch that is not experienced in many other places.
And for Zak Brown, the CEO of McLaren, what Miami will unleash on the F1 circuit this weekend is unlike anything he has seen before.
“I’ve never seen the level of sponsor engagement, activities, hospitality requests, celebrity requests ever at a grand prix,” Zak Brown said.
“That is not just in my six years of running McLaren, because I’ve been around the sport for 20 years. And it feels to me very much like the Super Bowl, which is like the biggest event of the year.
“Not only does everyone want to come to the Super Bowl to see the event, but the half-time show, the parties, the events is all a part of it. And it’s off the charts.
“We’re one of the largest teams with hospitality, and we had double the requests. It’s the largest hospitality programme we’ve ever had.”
In the past, Formula 1 has been guilty of hosting races in cities where the sport’s presence is hardly felt (for example, venues where a grand prix takes place were essentially racing tracks). But this will be different in Miami – as F1 looks set to take over the city.
Shops, restaurants and bars around town are getting into the spirit of the Grand Prix; and temporary venues have already appeared in South Beach.
McLaren is setting up a Speedshop in a multi-storey car park there, a large area that will feature car displays and additional entertainment for fans over the F1 weekend.
But the biggest city takeover might be organized by FTX, a crypto exchange and Mercedes sponsor.
It is transforming 165,000 square feet of oceanfront space at Miami’s South Beach into an entertainment venue with concerts, fashion shows, and more.
Mercedes-Benz will also be introducing a Mercedes-Benz F1 Show Car onto Ocean Drive as part of its demo day.
“F1 is expanding beyond just getting people to the track,” said F1’s marketing VP Stephen Martin. “It’s about creating the kind of excitement that cities get when the Super Bowl comes to town.”
Louis Frangella, vice president of partnerships on the U.S. team for the Worldwide Travel Group, told Motorsport.com: “There are only a certain amount of people who can get to go to this race, so in order to create that Super Bowl-type atmosphere, you have to do things that engage the people who are in and around the area.”
“We’re bringing the Mercedes F1 demo car to go up and down Ocean Drive two days in a row, and some of those people who see it won’t ever get that close to an F1 car in their life.
“I think it’s important for us to do things like that to help cultivate that fandom, and amplify it through our partnership with Mercedes.
“This will be the biggest activation that FTX has ever done, and we’re so excited about it because it blends everything together: art, culture, our partnership with Mercedes, crypto and technology. It’s going to be something definitely not to miss.”
For the US brand FTX, which is looking for expansion around the world, the growth of F1 and its presence in a city like Miami is a big deal.
Avinash Dabir, Vice President of Business Development at FTX US, believes that F1’s decision to add Miami and Las Vegas to the calendar is exactly what the sport needs to achieve even greater success in the future. It is why the Miami Grand Prix is not the culmination of F1’s success in the United States, but the beginning of something bigger.
“What’s exciting about this is that the race is being built from the ground up,” he said. “You have an opportunity to modernize it, and you have an opportunity to attract a new audience to it, by offering different things at the race.
“I think the city of Miami also has the infrastructure to support it. It’s got the hotels, it’s got the nice restaurants, it’s got the beach, and it’ a beautiful place to be. So it is a very unique offering.
“And I think Vegas has a lot of those same qualities to it. It seems very strategic in the way that F1 are picking their locations and I hope and want to see it grow.”
Teams feel that Miami provides a good snapshot of Liberty Media’s efforts to drive the sport forward.
When Ferrari team principal Mattia Binotto said, “It’s not only Miami,” he added, “Although Miami is one example.”
“It’s all about what’s happening around us, in terms of sponsorship interest, new tracks coming onto the calendar. It’s a great moment. You can see with Netflix, digital communications, it’s all good and positive.
“We see so many people at the races at the weekends, and it’s fun.”
For Brown, after years of difficulty, the Miami Grand Prix and the sport’s expansion in the United States mark the start of an exciting time ahead for F1.
“I don’t think there’s any doubt now that it’s working,” he said about F1 in America.
“Everything says it’s working right: we’ve got more US based sponsors than ever, our US fan base is growing rapidly, our celebrity list for Miami is unlike any I’ve ever seen, including Monaco, which is kind of the next one that brings out a lot of celebs.
“All of this is just going to keep building this unbelievable momentum that we have. It’s awesome.”