The Miami F1 Grand Prix was a resounding success, like it or not

Yes, the marina was wrong. Yes, it was built around the parking lot of an NFL stadium. And yes, the guy everyone loves to hate won. But this weekend’s first Formula 1 Grand Prix in Miami was a major scorecard for the sport, for America and, most importantly, for all racing fans.

For the first time in nearly three decades of following the sport and competing in races around the world – some of which are also firsts – a racetrack has managed to deliver a top-notch fan experience in its first year. . And while no race is perfect (whether in person or on TV), the Miami GP has set the bar high for Las Vegas in 2023 and essentially every inaugural race to come, regardless of venue.

As I said when I arrived on the track last Friday: yes, all aspects of the Miami GP were organized for an ultra-premium audience. F1 has always been a rich man’s sport. it’s expensive to watch on cable TV or stream, it’s expensive to attend in person, and even memories have always been expensive. Miami, however, has taken this concept to a whole new level.

Tickets weren’t cheap, with most people would have paying an average of $1,790 per person for a three-day ticket to a variety of grandstands, up to $5,897 to sit straight along the main. (And in case you were wondering, team hats cost at least $70, with some going as high as $130.) But that’s not where the money was this weekend, though. . The real Miami Money was in the hospitality suites, experience areas like “The Beach” and of course, the swanky Paddock Club that sits above the stands.

Turns out Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was right: “It’s the most important thing and so you want to create premium experiences, and Formula 1 is one of the most exciting sporting experiences , if not the most exciting sporting experience, on the planet.”

I watched the race from the Red Bull Energy Station on the inside of turn 11. It was an amazing pavilion with mostly outdoor spaces, viewing decks, 24 hour food and drink and an open bar. It was by far the best hospitality I have ever experienced at any race in any series. I was an Acura guest, but after talking to a few people who were more than happy to flaunt their buying power, I found out that a three-day pass for the energy station cost about $15,000 to $20,000 per person. A Sunday-only pass was around $6,000. Many glamorous people were there, including the families of Red Bull drivers and even Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Jr., one of the richest men in the world and one of the main supporters of Red Bull driver Checo Perez .

Other corporate suites were available, which isn’t new to sports, but Miami still stood out for the number of them erected for the event. There were suites, villas, pool decks and more. If you wanted to watch the race in style – or just want to have a good time with your fancy friends as a race unfolded around you – you could do it for $30,000 to $200,000 for the weekend, according to some people. I talked to. Some of them couldn’t even pay to enter, as they were by invitation only. Many F1 venues do the same; places like Monaco and even Austin have no shortage of extreme exclusivity. But the Miami race brought a unique vibe to it all; in an international city already awash with cash, where every tenth car on the road is an Aston Martin for some reason, F1 felt like a perfect fit for that crowd, locals and visitors

But the vibes wouldn’t matter much if the execution wasn’t there. For this first race weekend, it was definitely the case, so it’s impossible to call the Miami GP anything but a resounding success. Everyone I spoke to, whether sweating in the stands or hanging out with the Slims, was absolutely thrilled. Even today, at 6 a.m. in a Miami airport full of spectators heading home, everyone I spoke to was absolutely thrilled with their experience. And I can’t disagree, really. The areas of the track that I explored (apart from the posh Red Bull area) were well maintained and clean, bathrooms were plentiful and I noticed plenty of water stations for people looking to refresh without wasting $10 on a bottle of water. However, perhaps the most impressive thing was the organization. The employees were, for the most part, very well trained, directing hordes of spectators to the right stands or facilities. This is essentially unheard of for a venue hosting its first race. From the Circuit of the Americas from Austin to Mexico City and even Magny-Cours in France, I have never experienced this level of organization at an inaugural race, whether in F1, IndyCar, MotoGP, IMSA or otherwise.

There is one major downside though, and this one has been picked up by everyone I spoke to the runway and to the airport: the runway is extremely compartmentalized. Probably because there’s a huge NFL stadium right in the middle, or because most posh people paying big bucks for an air-conditioned suite don’t want to walk around the track in the heat and humidity. extremes, the Miami International Speedway does not have the walkability of other tracks. You can easily walk the inner or outer perimeter of COTA without having to pull out a detailed map. That’s not the case here.

This made Miami racing feel rather stuffy (in Miami? No!), and it lacked that sense of community that most race tracks are known for. You were either a lowly general admission ticket holder camping out on a sun-soaked mound of dirt, or you were a dude driving a Ferrari that drove it from the parking lot to a swanky suite. There really was no middle ground; no one picnicking on the lawns or tree-lined hallways, no real feeling of F1 fans coming together for the fun of the sport.

Apart from this significant detail and the fact that there is work to be done on the track after drivers have complained a lot about the surface and other vital safety features – the 2022 Miami F1 Grand Prix will be a great success for everyone involved. Every person I spoke to is looking forward to coming back next year, and a large majority are willing to shell out big bucks for Vegas next year. Formula 1 is in the United States and here to stay, baby.

Do not forget it; the sport needs more fans, and more importantly, it needs New fans in order to secure its future. If all I have to do is put up with fake marinas and star-studded Hollywood grills in exchange for a few more decades of racing at venues like Miami and Monza, I think I can do it – and most fans of the sport can too. .

See you in Vegas, folks.

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