With the circus surrounding this sport, the fast cars, the attractive people, Formula 1 could easily have passed for an American sport.
While the sport’s spiritual home will always be in the engineering of England or the speed of Italy, Formula 1 has found a new home in the United States.
Max Verstappen may have won his second world title in Japan, but that didn’t stop around 440,000 F1 fans from flocking to Austin over the three days, a remarkably up 10% on the number attendance last year. According to race organizers, they even had to build a new road to the circuit in order to keep up with demand.
After a grim start as the grid honored the passing of Red Bull team owner Dietrich Mateschitz, the 140,000 spectators in Austin and those watching around the world were treated to drama at the first corner , strategic mayhem only a safety car can bring and a not-so-sweet reminder of just how dangerous the sport is.
In the end, Max Verstappen came back from a slow pit stop that threatened to ruin his day to win race number 13 of the season (tying the record for most wins in a season), sealing Red Bull the constructors’ championship and refuse Lewis Hamilton. his first victory of the season.
This was Formula 1 racing as it was meant to be, and it will only have fueled interest in a country that continues to fall in love with the pace, the power and the people who make F1.
The US market is growing
There will be three races in the United States next season, with Las Vegas joining Miami and the long-running Circuit of the Americas (COTA). The latter remains the more traditional racing circuit, while the two new tracks offer glitz and glamour.
Built from the rebranding of American mass media company Liberty Media, the sport quickly and smartly locked itself into the American market. The creative storytelling of the Netflix show Drive to survive made riders human beings rather than helmets behind a halo, and caught the attention of a young audience invested in a generation of young riders who are on the same social media platforms as their new fans.
Viewership for Formula 1 in Europe may not be the same as it was in the days of Michael Schumacher when the sport was more available on terrestrial television, but in the US the numbers reflect a invested market.
ESPN broadcasts F1 in the US and earlier this year they reported an average of over 300,000 viewers per race in the 12-34 age group over the first six races, an increase of 84% compared to the same period last year. And at the end of last season, F1 revealed that its viewership in the US was up 58% year-on-year.
The connections go even deeper. The American Haas team has just signed a new contract with an American sponsor which puts them even more in their home market and, they hope, will also make them more competitive. Other teams have also signed deals with US companies, such as McLaren with Google Chrome and Red Bull with Oracle, increasing cash flow into the sport of some of the world’s biggest brands.
In a sport largely dominated by European drivers, the likely arrival next season of the first American driver in seven years is the final piece of the jigsaw for a market keen to cheer on a local hero.
Formula 2 driver Logan Sargeant is on track to be Williams’ second driver next year, as long as he finishes the season in the top six he will be in the seat next year. The 21-year-old is currently third in the standings and spent the first practice session in Austin driving for Williams.
There’s even an F1 movie in the works with Brad Pitt in the lead role.
As important as all the other parts are to making modern F1 the event it is, the race still has to live up to it. And the 2022 COTA race was exactly the product Formula 1 needed on a weekend in which the sport’s roots deepened in the American sports market.
There’s a reason F1 drivers love COTA. Unlike Miami, COTA is a track specifically designed to evoke a series of classic F1 circuits from around the world, the result of which is a track that offers a real chance of spectacular racing.
And, as befits a sport obsessed with timing, the 2022 United States Grand Prix delivered just when needed.