How America has taken Formula One to NEXT level

How America has taken Formula One to the NEXT level: Netflix’s Drive to Survive paved way for a new era where F1 can seriously challenge Nascar for motorsport supremacy… Miami and Vegas are new on the calendar – now Liberty just need a US driver!

  • F1 is gaining popularity quickly in the United States under owners Liberty Media 
  • The American market offers huge opportunity for growth to the sport as a whole
  • Netflix’s Drive to Survive caught attention and has given a paddock personality
  • From there TV figures have rocketed and three races in USA are on 2023 slate 

‘F1 is for the die-hards who love to read the latest engineering mag and find out what each team is doing different each year,’ ex-Formula 1 driver Scott Speed told Wired in 2015.

As one of the few American men to ever grace a Formula One grid, it was hardly a ringing endorsement.

But it wasn’t a million miles from the truth.

Fighting for a slice of the pie with IndyCar and NASCAR – by far the most popular, even to this day, motorsport in the US – was proving difficult for a number of reasons: lack of American presence on the grid, lack of on-ground visibility for hosting races, and there was also the issue of time difference, particularly on the west coast, that made following practices, qualifying sessions and races an afterthought for swing viewers.

Liberty Media were aware of all of this when they purchased F1 in 2016 for $4.4 billion.

Formula One’s fandom in the United States has absolutely skyrocketed in the last five years

2008 to 2011 saw no grands prix in the States but the 2023 calendar will see three races. (Pictured: The Miami Grand Prix, which made its debut in F1 earlier this season)

Rather than focus on NASCAR, time difference woes, the lack of American drivers or a lack of races in North America, they saw a series with an entire market still to conquer; they saw unbelievable opportunity.

In purchasing F1 they gained access to a global fan base of more than 400 million. 

There is huge interest in Europe – not least because of its rich history and the sheer number of tracks spread across Spain, Italy, France, Belgium, Holland and others – and Asia – Suzuka, Japan, is one of the most iconic tracks across the sport – but the States was proving something of a forgotten cousin.

‘F1 has huge potential with multiple untapped opportunities,’ then-CEO Chase Carey said in 2016. ‘We will work to enhance the racing experience and add new dimensions to the sport.’

It is important to look back before looking forward to what BBC radio presenter Richard Ready now describes as an ‘American sport’.

As previously mentioned, outside of F1’s loyal following, floating viewers had long found it easy to gloss over races in the TV guide.

To many, the farcical nature of the 2005 United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis – which comically saw only six cars start the race due to safety concerns over tires and the politics that came with that – left a mark.

It was the only Stateside race and reputationally the 2005 instalment had made a mockery of F1 across the Atlantic.

F1’s hopes of cracking America looked lost following the farcical six-car start at the 2005 United States Grand Prix held at the Indianapolis circuit that left supporters furious

Three years later Bernie Ecclestone, the previous shot caller in F1, scrapped the race and there was no US Grand Prix for 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011. Intrigue was, rightly, dwindling.

‘Let’s see if we miss America,’ Ecclestone told Reuters. It felt a challenge as much as a question.

‘We most definitely should have a race here and if you ask me, maybe two or even more in the United States,’ Mercedes motorsport vice-president Norbert Haug followed up in his own media briefing at the time.

‘For a world championship it is important to be here.’

Ecclestone, then, disagreed. Talk of a Vegas street circuit – more on that later – dwindled and races such as Singapore were propelled to top of the list.

The olive branch came in 2012 with the introduction of Circuit of the Americas in Texas, a circuit that drivers worldwide love racing at.

Even in Suzuka last time out the topic of Austin was on the lips of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel at one of the first media sessions. It shows the impact Austin made in winning people back round.

But as popular as the Texas track has become on the calendar, it was merely the first foundational block that Liberty used to take F1 to a stratospheric level in the States.

Eyeballs would be key to Liberty Media’s bold vision – and America has lots of them.

One of the first big deals they struck was ESPN returning F1 to its lineup in 2018. Back when it returned to screens estimates have that deal around $5million a year.

Fast forward to the last striking of ESPN’s deal and The Sports Business Journal reported that the popular network has agreed a deal worth around $75m-$90m a season. Make that a 1,800 per cent increase.

Former F1 CEO Chase Carey made expanding across America a key part of the long-term vision for the sport

The eureka moment was the collaboration with Netflix. It is a move that has governing bodies of other sports kicking themselves in offices across the globe.

Drive to Survive, now filming for Season 5, has been immeasurably important to F1’s growth in the United States. It’s had so great an impact it is actually borderline impossible to accurately quantify just how crucial its role has been in elevating the sport to a whole new tier of fandom.

‘Formula 1 now, I have to say, is an American sport,’ BBC radio presenter Ready told the New York Post earlier this year. ‘And as much as the things that are coming in from the US might be jarring to us, F1 did need them.’

But plainly, 74 million households are estimated to have a Netflix subscription in the United States. That’s more than twice the number of Instagram followers Lewis Hamilton has. Think closer to David Beckham social numbers.

It’s remarkably huge – and Carey and Liberty’s top brass knew it. Series 1, aired in 2019, gave F1 a personality to those who never previously cared for it. All of a sudden the paddock had personality.

Viewers really got an access-all-areas look at the sport’s biggest names – Ricciardo and Carlos Sainz among the early stars to be made – and Speed’s assertion that it was only for diehards reading an engineering mag was now obsolete.

From there it spiralled. Drive to Survive would trend, memes would go viral and bosses at F1, Netflix and Liberty immediately drew up plans for more seasons. They had discovered a jackpot.

It is undeniable that Netflix’s Drive to Survive has transformed views on Formula 1 in the US

A study by Morning Consult, published at the start of the 2022 season, found that ‘nearly three in four fans under the age of 45 (74%) attributed their fandom at least in part to Drive to Survive,’ highlighting the series’ breakthrough effect.

https://crossfitshoesexpert.com/soccer/england-injuries-to-force-southgate-to-recall-player-for-first-time-in-two-years/

‘Fifty-seven percent of US adults who identified as fans of Formula 1 said they became fans within the past five years, including 26% who said they became fans in the past year,’ the study continued.

‘Among fans between the ages of 18 and 34, 42% said they came on board in the past year. Fifty-eight percent of adult F1 fans in the United States are under the age of 45, up from 49% in 2020.’

It is ironic that Ecclestone scoffed at the idea of focusing on younger audiences and even dared to turn his back on the States. Liberty leaning into America has proven an overwhelming – particularly financially – success.

Increased fandom means increased demand to see the product outside of their ESPN-installed TVs.

Austin alone was not going to cut it and when a 10-year deal to race in Miami around Hard Rock Stadium – the first instalment made its debut this season – wheels were turning for expansion.

Formula One agreed to a 10-year contract to race around the Hard Road Stadium in Miami

The Miami race attracted many stars as Michael Jordan (second left), David Beckham (second right) and Tom Brady (right) stand alongside seven-time champion Hamilton

Tennis star Serena Williams was also a keen observer at the Miami race earlier in the season

‘It’s going to be huge for the series, especially here in the United States,’ ex-driver Michael Andretti said, as per CNBC.

‘The USA is a key growth market for us, and we are greatly encouraged by our growing reach in the US which will be further supported by this exciting second race,’ said F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali added in a statement of his own in 2021.

Sure, there was a groan of disgruntlement from some long-standing fans in Europe. Fears of Liberty ‘Americanising’ the sport had been fuelled not just from Miami but also the loudening talk of Vegas.

The figures are undeniable though. No market is rocketing for F1 quite like America is right now.

Adding a night race in Las Vegas, going through the famous Strip past iconic spots like the Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace, is only going to take F1 to greater heights once more. No country now has as many races in the calendar as the US does.

Even those not scrambling for tickets, the eyeballs fixed on races shows that Drive to Survive has done its job in bringing new fans across to the sport.

Formula One is also set to race in Las Vegas next season as its US influence increases

Take the 2021 series opener in Bahrain. Figures from ESPN detailed than an average of 879,000 viewers tuned into the ESPN2 to watch it.

The second race of the season, in Italy, followed and that attracted 905,000 average viewers, one again as per ESPN data.

Fast forward a little and a reported 1.3million viewers have tuned in, on average, come the 2022 summer break. A year prior that same period was averaged out around 934,000 viewers on ESPN. The growth is undeniable.

The aforementioned Miami Grand Prix, making its debut in May with Bucs quarterback Tom Brady and tennis icon Serena Williams among those swinging by, claimed an average viewership of 2.6 million on ABC.

That staggering figure is worthy of competing with NASCAR. It ranked as the largest audience for a live F1 broadcast ever on US television.

The question now is: what’s next?

That answer is an American drive – prominently – on the grid.

Haas have filled out the back of the field as an American team, ran by owner Gene Haas, but if America is to really cement itself then a prominent American driver is the next ceiling to shatter.

Alexander Rossi, the last US racer in F1, participated in just five races in 2015. The only way is up, surely?

With so many young fans following from the States, few will have the name Mario Andretti on their radar – which should speak volumes.

Andretti Snr is the most successful American driver to ever race in F1, winning the 1978 world championship.


Mario Andretti (left) was the last American to win the world championship back in 1978, while Scott Speed was the last full-time driver following his Toro Rosso stint that ended in 2007

An American world champion is to be the crescendo of the Liberty era, no doubt, but for now they need to wait for a US driver to land on the grid.

There are just two seats left to fill for the 2023 grid – one at Haas and one at Williams – and both of those are expected to be little more than back-markers once again next season.

Logan Sargeant, 21, is the one with the highest hopes.

The youngster, who is currently third in the standings in the Formula 2 championship, will make his FP1 debut for Williams in Austin.

Each team must complete mandatory rookie outings throughout the season and Williams are using Austin as the playground to take a closer look at Sargeant.

More than 400,000 fans descended on Austin last year and more are expected this season.

So, as Ecclestone said, ‘let’s see if we miss America…’ Safe to say F1 wouldn’t ever be without it again.

All eyes will be on American driver Logan Sargeant in first practice when he drives for Williams




Share this article

Source: Read Full Article