The Miami Grand Prix knows what it sells


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When adding a second Formula 1 race in the United States, Liberty Media had just about any city and track in the country available to them. They ignored any pre-existing opportunities to focus on a temporary track built around a parking lot in Miami. From a racing fan’s perspective, it’s obviously a poor choice in the country that continues to race every year at tracks like Road America, Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca. It’s not necessarily one of the country’s iconic cities either; If you scan the list of US metropolitan areas by population, Miami comes in behind Philadelphia, Will Smith’s less secret first home, at just eighth place. No, F1 came here because the whole city markets itself the same way Formula 1 does: as an ambitious luxury product worth traveling from anywhere in the world to see.

Like Monaco, Miami is on the F1 calendar for glamour. Or at least for the pomp. Liberty knew that Miami was a city that its most exclusive guests would happily travel to, but, more than that, they knew it was a city that its most powerful sponsors would gladly take advantage of the promotional opportunities that make sponsorship of the F1 a viable business model. This made the first draft of the GP an event akin to the Super Bowl, not in terms of importance but in the opportunity for partner companies to show their best to their best customers. That meant the weekend’s influence went far beyond the Miami Gardens track, but don’t miss the track’s role in it all. Miami is built on competitive exclusivity, perhaps the hallmark feature of the circuit.

Miami Grand Prix

Fred Smith

The Miami International Autodrome, the official name of the semi-temporary circuit designed to be deconstructed and rebuilt every year around the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, aims to bring this exclusivity to every corner of the track. The Autodrome isn’t just built around luxury experiences, it’s built around a wide variety of competing luxury experiences. The Paddock Club is the heart of it all, a $13,000-a-ticket experience that drew surprisingly negative reviews. Then there are individual team hospitality structures scattered all over the track, including the Red Bull hospitality section that I attended with Acura. Then you have the Hard Rock temporary beach at turns 11, 12 and 13, with mermaids in swimming pools and raised huts guarding what turned out to be the toughest corners on the track. Grandstands are of course spread out, including those that provide an optimal view of pre-race activities like concerts and the now traditional celebrity mistake of Martin Brundle. All of these things give different types of fans, customers, and customers a unique experience that they can tell people scattered in other corners of the track is somehow superior to what has been offered to them. However, only one section has a compelling case that their experience is one of a kind: the marina.

miami f1 grand prix preview

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The first Miami Grand Prix will be remembered as the fake water race. Not the race with the sold-out crowd, not the most hyped day in F1 history in America, not even the race where Max Verstappen wore a football helmet on the podium. If you build a fake marina with painted water for dry-dock boats in the middle of a corner, you’ve marked yourself as the race with the fake water. The absurdity of it all was a joke online, but on the pitch it was pure joy. There’s a novelty in person, with the place being so shamefully fake you knew even the wealthiest patrons had to be in on it. At an event where the main meaning is everyone trying to impress everyone, the concrete marina looked like one of the most authentic pleasures available. There are boats, the boats are parked in a parking lot and F1 cars drive around this parking lot. It’s not Monaco, but it’s a good time.

Miami Grand Prix

Fred Smith

The dominant feature of the Miami Autodrome is the reason this parking lot was built, the Hard Rock Stadium. The huge canopy built over the stadium in 2015 hides what lies beneath a concrete relic of the 1980s, the kind of stadium NFL teams across the country have used as leverage to force their host cities to pay a significant amount of money to replace it. You see this canopy from all over the track, the only massive structure in an otherwise flat area bounded at both ends by Florida’s current Turnpike. Inside, the stadium has been transformed into something like the world’s largest live recording stage. Dan Marino’s retired number remained visible along the top ring of the room. It’s a stark reminder: Here, this weekend, Formula 1 is bigger than football in an NFL town.

Miami Grand Prix

Fred Smith

The track itself was decidedly less special. The generic layout around a mostly flat surface was only highlighted by turns 11 to 16, a complex made unique mainly by its poor flow. Turn 11, a great overtaking opportunity after the most important DRS area of ​​the track, was difficult as it fed into Turn 12. Turn 12 was made difficult as its awkward shape fed the cars into the 14-15 chicane at a odd angle. This chicanery was made difficult by the distance the turtle curbs protecting the runoff areas jutted into the air. All of these spots are easy to make mistakes, but nothing around the track is in the league of a single corner at Monza. If the layout is completely scrapped for a completely new temporary design, it won’t noticeably change how the event works.

The energy in the sold-out stands on race day was incredible, especially whenever Sergio Perez or Daniel Ricciardo gave a loyal crowd a reason to cheer. Drive to survive made a strange class of fans, a class that led to F1 putting up banners for team principals around the track as they traditionally do for drivers, but the public certainly loves F1 as we know it . Unfortunately, the race gave little cause for celebration. Once Max Verstappen came within range of Charles Leclerc’s DRS and took the lead, almost all the drama on the pitch was in a battle for eighth on track. Far from a classic race far from a classic track.

miami f1 grand prix

Alex Bierens de HaanGetty Images

What we will remember is the event. The crowds were bigger at COTA, of course, but this weekend was F1’s biggest day in the US yet. ESPN sent a camera crew to report from the site all weekend on its channels. More than that, however, the event actually managed to take over a city as big as Miami. Every night in Miami Beach, the Cullinans and Uruses parked on the street sat under banners featuring Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, in front of venues that would rather sit them than anyone but A-listers. from Miami, DJ Khaled and Pitbull. If you’re an American fan who started watching F1 before 2018, this all seems unimaginable. But the real test comes next.

In 2023, we start again. Not just in Miami, where this race is expected to continue for at least another nine years. Not just at COTA, where a somewhat more accessible USGP should continue. The two will be surpassed by a new race in Las Vegas. The glamor of an inaugural event has shifted to America’s only more famous party city, where a season later all the same parties will be tasked with bringing together an even higher level of luxury, exclusivity and prestige around of an unfolding event yet another temporary track. If this is a bubble, I’d bet Miami was the peak and Las Vegas would be the wake-up call that we can’t stand. If America’s love affair with F1 is here to stay, it’s just the beginning.

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