Formula 1 hopes to maintain the recent surge in popularity in the United States with the inauguration of the Miami Grand Prix

Michael Jordan, David Beckham and “The Rock” are among the celebrities expected to flock to the first ever Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix as the sport’s popularity in the United States expands to new realms.

After a series of failed attempts to break into the American market in the 1980s, the country looked like a lost cause for the world’s most popular auto racing series, with fans favoring the familiar names of NASCAR and the national open-wheel series. IndyCar.

Yet many in F1, including seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton, believe times have changed.

“Growing up knowing how extraordinary this sport is and seeing that there was still a great gap between the United States and the rest of the world in terms of the passion for the sport, it is truly amazing to see that we have overcome it and there is a love growing in the United States, ”Hamilton said.

The Miami race, which quickly sold out, is the fifth stop of the season and, along with the long-running race in Austin, Texas, one of two in the United States this year. There will be three in 2023 with the debut of a race in Las Vegas.

Austin attracted the largest F1 audience of the season last year, with a total three-day attendance of 400,000 spectators and the sport is benefiting from the success of the Netflix series “Drive to Survive,” which created a buzz among drivers and team.

F1 – which now has American owners in Liberty Media – has a major broadcast deal with ESPN, which has helped propel it further into US sports mainstream.

Sports marketing pundits agree that F1 has really made a splash in the United States.

“Sport brings a bit of European glam to America’s auto racing scene at a time when audiences may be tired of the same old NASCAR and Indy Car events,” said Bob Dorfman, sports marketing analyst at San Francisco. tip.

“Thanks to the success of Drive To Survive, a strong American marketing focus from Liberty Media, serious broadcasting efforts by ESPN, compelling driver personalities and rivalries, fantastic cars and thrilling non-oval racing venues, F1 is here to stay and grow, “he added.

Lewis Hamilton (right) and Sergio Perez compete during the Melbourne Grand Prix on 10 April. | REUTERS
Lewis Hamilton (right) and Sergio Perez compete during the Melbourne Grand Prix on 10 April. | REUTERS

It is very different from the days when F1 was mocked for its unfortunate attempts to “crack” America.

The Phoenix Grand Prix was held on an Arizona city street circuit between 1989 and 1991, but was stopped after intense heat caused reliability issues, while the annual local ostrich races attracted larger crowds. .

The 2005 United States Grand Prix at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway ended in a sham, with tire problems meaning only six cars took part in the actual race. The cars with Michelin tires retired after the formation lap, leaving only the six cars racing with Bridgestone tires to race. The event was canceled in 2007.

The latest F1 attempt in Las Vegas was ridiculed for being a race in the Caesars Palace hotel parking lot, and despite that experience, the Miami race will also take place in a parking lot.

While Miami, which is regularly in the running to host the Super Bowl, is a city that loves a “big ticket” event and often attracts sports craving South Beach glamor, it’s also a tough place to get the setup right.

Whenever Miami was talked about as a potential racing venue, comparisons were made to one of the sport’s legendary road races: the Monaco Grand Prix, with the potential for side views of the water and yachts.

Because the organizers couldn’t secure a downtown venue, Sunday’s race will take place about an hour’s drive from South Beach, inland from Hard Rock Stadium, home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and their large parking lot in the much less glamorous neighborhood than Miami Gardens.

In an effort to capture some of the Miami vibe, the organizers created a simulated marina with dry-docked yachts and a boarded area that creates the impression of water for the cameras.

While this may have upset some purists, it doesn’t seem to have worried fans who stole tickets, including more expensive hospitality packages at a number of camp spots designed as much for enjoying mojito cocktails as for admiring Hamilton and his rivals.

“The Miami location may not be the sexiest choice, especially considering all the flashy city streets available,” Dorfman said.

“But the newness and excitement of an F1 event for the first time should prevail.”

Hamilton is certainly looking forward to race day.

“Miami is going to be an experience for all of us, for the racing community, for the fans out there watching, the fans flying in who may have never been there before. The United States has a lot to offer … So that’s super exciting. “

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