The Las Vegas Grand Prix could be the crown jewel of US F1 dreams

The Las Vegas Grand Prix could be the crown jewel of US F1 dreams

For many years, Formula 1 decision-makers have been looking to grow the sport in emerging markets. While Formula 1 remains very popular in Europe and throughout Asia, there are some areas of the world that remain more growth opportunities than anything else.

The main one among them? United States of America.

So, ahead of the US Grand Prix, we thought it would be appropriate to take a look at the history of the series in the US, the recent growth of the sport in the US market, and how the Las Vegas Grand Prix fits into the big picture.

History of F1 in the United States

The history of Formula 1 in the United States remains a somewhat checkered past. Formula 1 and the United States have been linked for more than 50 years, with the relationship beginning in 1950 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. From 1950 until 1960, the Indianapolis 500 was a highlight on the Formula 1 schedule.

However, few European drivers made the trip to the United States, leaving primarily American drivers to participate.

Indianapolis did not return to the Formula 1 calendar until 2000 when it was returned to the Formula 1 schedule as the United States Grand Prix. This race ran for eight seasons, until it was halted after the 2007 United States Grand Prix after Formula 1 and race organizers could not agree on a path forward.

Meanwhile, other departments in the United States hosted events. One such event was held at Sebring International Raceway in Sebring, Florida in 1959. The race itself was a thriller, with Bruce McLaren winning by less than a second to become the youngest driver – at the time – to ever win a Formula 1 race. .

However, the Sebring location did not attract many spectators to the track, and 1959 was the only year it was held.

Next up was Riverside International Raceway in Moreno Valley, California, billed as the successor to the United States Grand Prix in 1960. However, the event failed to attract racers and spectators, with race officials left to pay drivers out of pocket. Their own pockets to avoid becoming a miserable failure.

He did not return to the calendar.

Formula 1 enjoyed a good run of success with races at Watkins Glen in New York, with the series holding races at that track from 1961 until 1980. The event became the most successful segment of the United States Grand Prix during that time period, as seen by fans . They flocked to New York and race promoters were able to offer larger sums of money to race participants as a result. More than 60,000 fans turned out for the first installment of the USGP at Watkins Glen in 1961, making it an instant success. What also helped was the race’s place on the calendar, as it was often held at the back end of the schedule, leading to some exciting battles as teams and drivers battled it out for critical spots in the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships.

However, this success has waned over the years. When the teams and drivers arrived at Watkins Glen for the 1973 United States Grand Prix, the final race of the season, Tyrrell driver and three-time drivers’ champion Jackie Stewart had already secured his third drivers’ title. But the team was locked in a fierce competition with Lotus for the Manufacturers’ Cup (now the Constructors’ Championship). Although the race will be Stewart’s 100th Grand Prix, he has made the decision to retire at the end of the year.

During qualifying for the Grand Prix, Stewart’s Tyrrell teammate François Sivert collided hard with the barrier as qualifying was drawing to a close, and the horrific shunt killed him instantly. Tyrrell decided to withdraw from the race, handing the title to Lotus and leaving Stewart, who considered Sivert a dear friend, with 99 career races.

The following season saw another fatal accident as Helmuth Koenig, driving in his second Formula 1 Grand Prix, crashed into a barrier on lap 10 of the 1974 United States Grand Prix, losing his life.

Formula 1 continued to race at Watkins Glen until 1980, but the 1981 edition was cancelled, and the grid never returned.

Other circuits have held Formula 1 events in the United States, and in 1982 America became the first country to host three races in a single season, with events in Detroit, Long Beach, and Las Vegas. But when racing cooled off in Indianapolis after 2007, it looked as if Formula 1 would never return to the United States. Then-Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone struck an ominous tone when F1 and race promoters failed to reach an agreement on the 2008 installment. “We haven’t reached an agreement… let’s see if we miss America,” Ecclestone said at the time.

Formula 1 clearly missed America. Because the sport has returned to the United States after a four-year hiatus with the new edition of the United States Grand Prix, at the Circuit of the Americas – or COTA – in Austin, Texas. COTA has become one of the best events on the calendar for drivers and fans alike, thanks to the sprawling complex that offers amazing sightlines for fans, and a track that drivers love to take on.

“From the heart, this is probably the date I look forward to the most on the calendar,” Daniel Ricciardo said ahead of the 2014 edition. “I loved every minute I spent in Austin. When they chose this venue for the US Grand Prix, they absolutely nailed it. Circuit of the Americas, in my opinion, is the best of the new circuits.”

COTA remained the only American date on the calendar until 2022, when Formula 1 added the Miami Grand Prix, which is held around Hard Rock Stadium in Miami, Florida. Now with Formula 1 returning to Las Vegas, the United States is once again the only country to have three races on the calendar in a single season.

Can the United States add a fourth? There has been some speculation on this front. Speaking ahead of this year’s US Grand Prix, McLaren CEO Zak Brown addressed the idea in a pre-race press conference.

“I think the United States can, but I don’t think the Formula 1 calendar can or else you wouldn’t want to add a fourth race at the expense of another part of the world,” Brawn said. “I would still like to see us in India, South Africa, another race in Asia and so on.” “That, so I don’t think we need a fourth race here. “And I think that would jeopardize some of the other areas where Formula 1 could continue to grow. So I think if we look at the Americas – Canada, Mexico and Brazil here – I think we’re in great shape.”

The recent growth of F1 in the United States

Photo by Eva Marie Ozcatigul T/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Of course, the addition of two additional races – Miami and Las Vegas – coincides with the greater overall growth of the sport here in the United States.

There are a number of factors behind the rise of Formula 1 in the United States. The most important of which are Netflix documentary series Driving to survivewhich took viewers behind the scenes starting in the 2018 season. The series, which premiered in 2019, spent its first season focusing largely on Ricciardo and his decision to eventually leave Red Bull for Renault.

This has helped turn Ricardo into a fan favorite in the United States, as well as a household name. But as the series went on, viewers turned into fans thanks to drivers and team managers alike, including Haas team principal Guenther Steiner.

Then there is the presence of Haas itself, as the only team on the grid with American ties. The team is owned by Gene Haas, who has a large presence in NASCAR as well and has an operation based out of their factory in North Carolina.

This season also marked the first full-time American driver on the grid since 2015. Sargent has carried the hopes of the sport and its American fanbase on his shoulders this season, and just two weeks ago became the first American driver to score points in a race. Formula 1 racing since Michael Andretti in 1993.

Then there’s Andretti himself. The team is now a driving force in Andretti Autosport, and announced a partnership with General Motors last January with the aim of becoming the next team in Formula 1. That bid was approved by the sport’s governing body recently, and now the Andretti-Cadillac partnership is in talks with a management group F1 regarding commercial rights and place on the grid.

While some teams – such as Ferrari, Williams and Mercedes – have expressed reservations about adding another team, the proposed Andretti-Cadillac team would be an all-American operation, something Andretti predicted would be “the biggest story of the year.”

Add it all up, and you get huge attendance — and viewership — numbers in the United States. Consider this before the 2023 season starts:

This year, the calendar will include three races in the United States – more than any other country – including Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, which last year broke the all-time attendance record for a race with 440,000 fans in attendance. It includes the Miami race, which debuted on ABC in May and attracted its largest ever audience of 2.58 million viewers in the United States. This year’s calendar will add a very exciting night race with a straight track that spans the attractive Las Vegas Strip.

High viewership means the sport is also reaching new audiences. The 2021 season, which witnessed one of the most exciting championship battles in history, averaged 949,000 American viewers, according to ESPN. The 2022 season beat that by 28%, exceeding an average of one million viewers per race for the first time. The network reported more female and young viewers than ever last year.

“Viewership has increased every year since Formula 1 returned to ESPN and ABC in 2018,” ESPN spokesman Andy Hall said in an email, adding that the pandemic-delayed and stressed 2020 season “remained mostly flat from the previous year.” Unlike other sports.

Formula 1 continues to gain ground in the US market, but the Las Vegas Grand Prix could be its boldest move yet.

How to complete the las vegas puzzle

How does the Las Vegas Grand Prix complete the puzzle?

Here’s how.

There are several factors that could make the Las Vegas Grand Prix the crown jewel of Formula 1’s expansion into the United States. Firstly? Speed. As we’ve highlighted here, the Las Vegas Grand Prix is ​​expected to be one of the fastest races on the grid, set against the backdrop of the Las Vegas Strip. Seeing Formula 1 cars zipping down the strip under the lights at some of the fastest speeds of the season will be an assault on the senses, perfect for Vegas.

second? Consider where it is in the schedule. The Las Vegas Grand Prix is ​​the penultimate race of the season, and the third to last race on next year’s calendar. While this season has seen both Max Verstappen and Red Bull win the drivers’ and constructors’ titles long before the race, if we get a proper title fight next year, Las Vegas could be a deciding factor.

Imagine the spectacle that plays out when a driver or team clinches a title in Las Vegas?

Finally, there is Las Vegas itself. It’s not hard to imagine that Formula 1 – and race promoters too – want the Las Vegas Grand Prix to become an event on par with the Monaco Grand Prix. The vision is to transform the Las Vegas Grand Prix into an event, an established destination for fans around the world that offers the glitz and glamor of celebrities, and Las Vegas itself.

If this race performs as expected, it could complete Formula 1’s vision of establishing a foothold in the United States.

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