I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that the Miami Grand Prix is the most anticipated race of the 2022 Formula 1 season so far. More than the season opener in Bahrain, and more then the sport’s return to Melbourne.
Most people who work in F1 love racing in the United States, and that’s mainly thanks to the success of Austin and Circuit of The Americas, where a very cool track and fun location combine to make for a great week that the sport always looks forward to.
So Miami was already onto a winner before anyone has even set foot in the city, despite having a track that isn’t really in the city at all, and utilizes the parking lot around a sports stadium after it was unable to get approval to be set up downtown. (But let’s get real, it’s hardly Caesars Palace…)
But it’s not just those who work in F1 who are excited. I can honestly say I’ve not had as much interaction with brands, venues and PR agencies as I have in the build-up to next weekend’s grand prix.
There seems to be multiple parties and events planned for every single night of the week, starting as early as Wednesday and running right through to the following Monday. F1 is going to be in town, and bars and restaurants all want to be a part of the show.
I wasn’t expecting that. Sure, I thought Miami would be embracing the race, but not to this level. A lot has been said recently about a desire to protect classic tracks and I’m very much on board with having the best driving challenges remain on the calendar, even if they’re not in the most glamorous of places or able to pay the same race-hosting fees. But there’s also something the much more established events can learn from Miami.
Thousands of fans are going to descend on the city for the race, but not everyone can afford a ticket. While I’ll get into the costs later, the fact that somebody isn’t going to the actual grand prix itself doesn’t mean they don’t want to be part of the atmosphere, and viewing parties, events and other activations around the city can ensure people come in and enjoy the weekend whether they’re trackside or not.
It appears that Miami has picked up on the success of similar events around the States — one similar meet-up in San Francisco had over 300 people show up for an Australian Grand Prix that started at 10 p.m. local time — and is going big on ensuring there’s plenty to do in the city.
That approach is clearly boosted by the demographic that the race is aiming at, with a focus on high-value tickets and even higher-value hospitality areas. Beach clubs, fake marinas… Miami International Autodrome is not going for the biggest crowd of the year by any stretch, but it is going for one of the wealthiest. So multiple venues around the city are trying to tap into some of the money that is coming in, in what is quite a similar approach to the Monaco Grand Prix.
It’s a price point and target audience that has come in for criticism, but I think it’s pretty smart. The United States Grand Prix in Austin is the established, awesome fan event that has given F1 a permanent home in the States and has the capacity to welcome over 400,000 across a race weekend. It’s similar to some of the established European races and Melbourne, and with the latter it shares a cool city that gets behind the race too.
If Miami tried to do the same, the two events would be fighting over fans. The appetite is there for more races, but it’s smart to target contrasting audiences, ideally ones that are almost unique to each event and leaves space for the other. Miami is catering to a very different kind of fan compared to Austin, allowing each to focus on what they do best.
The fact still remains that the far greater audience watches a race on television, so simply having the event look cool visually and take place on the right timezone is a big step for F1.
And the teams know it. Just this week, McLaren, Alpine and Williams all launched Miami merchandise ranges — coinciding with F1’s own efforts — that go above and beyond anything seen for a specific race so far this season. By the time I’ve finished writing, there there might even be more.
As another example, the day after the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix took place, F1 had a post on its Instagram page advertising Miami as the next event. Imola didn’t get the same treatment after Melbourne…
It is an event that has been prioritized by the teams and the sport, because it’s the latest one in a market that is exploding, and they want to capitalize. With countless team and driver activations taking place as well, there’s no doubting that the sport is putting absolutely everything it can into trying to ensure the race is a success.
And that’s all anyone who is a fan of F1 in America can ask for. In the past it was almost like the sport was arrogant in its approach to racing Stateside, going through its normal routines and putting in no extra effort to make its mark, instead expecting the local market to do the hard work for it.
Even Austin, with a great circuit and big crowds, had spells where it seemed to be struggling and it felt like F1 might walk away in search of even more money, like it didn’t really want to be there. But now it is starting to see some of the potential that it knew was there realized, both at COTA but nationwide with the additions of Miami and Las Vegas.
For millions around the world, the first race at Hard Rock Stadium will rightly be judged on the sporting spectacle they see on their televisions. But that’s not going to be the only measure of success next weekend, and right now it’s clear that F1 and Miami itself are leaving nothing on the table in terms of making it a race to remember.