GOn a sober level, it was one of those races that are almost as sparkling as clear coat. It only got really exciting on the final laps of the Formula 1 debut in Miami. World Champion Max Verstappen fends off the attacks of championship leader Charles Leclerc and is crowned the first winner at the Miami International Autodrome.
Before the guest appearance in Barcelona in two weeks, Verstappen is now 19 points behind Monegasque Leclerc, who was unable to use first place on the grid to success. After the two retirements at the beginning of the World Championship, it was his third win in five races. From a sporting point of view, this chapter of the first Grand Prix in Florida would be told quickly.
But the bottom line is that this run delivered much more than just the realization that Verstappen will also win the race if he finishes this season. Rather, it offered a glimpse into the crystal ball of how Formula 1 intends to shine as a product in the future.
Around the Hard Rock Stadium there was apparently a view of where the American owner group Liberty Media would like to direct the racing series in the future. The big show plays a role, a lot of glamour, alongside champagne, tequila flows in large quantities, and then at some point there is also a race. The 57 laps to be unwound seemed a bit like the necessary epilogue to a great show under the Florida sun.
Michelle Obama in Lewis Hamiltons Garage
But the three-day party worked, at least from a commercial perspective. The organizers reported that the house was sold out, the outrageously expensive tickets for the race were said to have sold out in just 40 minutes. And the paddock had rarely experienced a star crowd like in South Florida. Former First Lady Michelle Obama visited Lewis Hamilton’s garage, football superstar Tom Brady and basketball legend Michael Jordan strolled through the paddock with football icon David Beckham, and they were joined in the pit lane by actor Michael Douglas.
“I’ve never seen a race where there was so much demand from sponsors and so much interest from celebrity guests,” said McLaren boss Zak Brown, who can look back on 20 years in motorsport. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter that the beach as a scene is only heaped up and the ten yachts in the small marina aren’t standing in the water, but on a sea-blue surface. A bit of Monte Carlo flair on dry land, artificial instead of artistic – so what?
Formula 1 always wanted to gain a foothold in America, it was the promised land, but in the past it didn’t succeed in this market. For many years, former chief marketer Bernie Ecclestone tried in vain to attract a larger US audience to the sport, which was shaped in Europe. The two races in the parking lot of “Caesars Palace” in Las Vegas were a fiasco at the time. When Formula 1 was in Phoenix, a street race held in the city at the same time is said to have attracted more spectators. The scandal in Indianapolis 2005 was also very bad publicity. Only six drivers around Michael Schumacher started because the rest were afraid of bursting tires because of the steep curve.
Miami is now the eleventh Formula 1 host in the USA. But meanwhile not only the engines are humming, but rather the business. Miami was added to the racing calendar as the second US location after Austin. Next year there will even be a third Grand Prix in Las Vegas. Rights holder Liberty Media has just bought a huge plot of land there for 240 million dollars in order to be able to set up the pit lane and the paddock of the night spectacle.
The role of Netflix as a vehicle for Formula 1
The ratings for Formula 1 on US television have increased significantly, and the demand for tickets was huge in Austin. “In the final phase of the Ecclestone era, important decisions were not made. Digitization was missed, and with it the communication bridge to the next generation was cut,” said industry expert Lars Stegelmann, Head of Marketing at Motorsport Network. Formula 1 has now escaped this impasse.
The successful PR strategy of the American owners, the use of social networks and the increased show factor around the races appeal to spoiled US sports fans. The Netflix series “Drive to survive” is seen as the most important driver for the new enthusiasm in the industry.
With its dramatic narrative style and the look behind the scenes, the documentary fully meets the taste of a younger audience. Formula 1 produces and transports stories with the series, communicates with a new target group and thus also overlaps with a large number of fans – especially in the USA. Now continuing with two more seasons, the streaming giant confirmed the extension of the collaboration ahead of the Miami race.
The premiere party in Miami, which can be regarded as a success, will probably not satisfy the Formula 1 bosses’ hunger for further expansion. The shimmering show is more likely to encourage them in their plans to further inflate the world tour in the future. With the recent boom in Formula 1, demand has not only increased sharply in North America, Managing Director Stefano Domenicali has long been talking about up to 30 Grand Prix per season – and issuing a warning. “Tradition does not mean that something is guaranteed,” said the Italian.
In the cut-throat competition, the more financially weak routes in the old core market of Europe are under pressure. Even famous venues like Spa and even Monaco can no longer be certain of their regular place. With might, Liberty Media is modernizing the horsepower industry into an American-style entertainment machine. “The truth is that most fans who follow Formula 1 on TV or on social networks don’t care where we drive,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.