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Miami (AFP) – Backed by record TV audiences, Formula 1 is putting its growing popularity in the United States to the test this weekend with the opening of the Grand Prix in Miami (Florida).
For the first time since 1984, the United States will host two events on the Formula 1 calendar this season, which will be expanded to three events next year with the addition of an overnight race in Las Vegas (Nevada).
In a country where motorsports is deeply rooted and has competitions of its own like the IndyCar and Nascar series, Formula 1 has been generating high expectations, as evidenced by the sale of Miami Grand Prix tickets, which sold out in less than an hour despite their high prices.
The North American giant first entered the Formula 1 program in 1959 but since then its presence has fluctuated from three annual races to none.
In 2012, Austin, Texas was established as a new permanent circuit (this year the race will be held on October 23) and interest in the competition has continued to grow.
“There is a gap between the United States and the rest of the world in terms of emotion,” said Britain’s Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), the seven-time world champion, who at the start of his career saw a gap between the United States and the rest of the world.
Besides Asia and the Middle East, the United States is currently one of the priority markets for the single-seat world championship, which is dominated by the American group Liberty Media.
The group acquired the commercial rights to the competition in 2017, ending Britain’s Bernie Ecclestone’s 40-year reign.
Since then, Liberty Media has focused on increasing F1’s appeal to a younger audience, and increasing its presence in the digital world and social networks.
F1’s desire to expand in the US was also fueled by the success of the Netflix series ‘Formula 1: Drive to Survive’, which was released in 2019.
As a result, Formula 1 viewership rose to a record size in the 2021 season, attracting an average of 934,000 viewers per race, up 54% from 2020.
The quick final battle between Hamilton and Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) in Abu Dhabi was followed by nearly a million Americans.
Lizzie Isherwood, marketing agency CSM Sport & Entertainment, told SportBusiness.com that this growth “has had more significant consequences than the increase in fan numbers.”
“From a commercial point of view, we’re seeing a proliferation of American brands in Formula One,” Isherwood said.
The expert estimates that nearly 40% of the 127 sponsorship deals around F1 last year were with US-based brands.
National teams and drivers
To further these developments, the United States is also working on introducing “Made in the USA” competitors.
Currently, there is only one North American Formula 1 team – the humble Haas team, which finished last in 2021 – and no drivers.
The last American to win a title was Mario Andretti in 1978.
That ruling family intends to bring its name back into the competition as former F1 driver and owner of the eponymous IndyCar team Michael Andretti aspires to add his team to the grid from 2024.
Colton Herta, who in 2019 was the youngest IndyCar winner, may be the team’s favorite driver.
For now, Formula 1 is focused on putting on a great show on Sunday at the Miami International Autodrome, a circuit built around Hard Rock Stadium, where figures such as Michael Jordan, David Beckham and Dwayne Johnson are expected to meet, “The Rock”.
© 2022 AFP
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