From a “messy” Grand Prix to one of the best-attended in history, in a country where Formula 1 had a very hard time establishing itself before it became a kind of Eldorado. Or the intense history of the United States Grand Prix, at Austin in Texas, which will take place this weekend for the 2022 edition. But also the Formula 1 race with the USA.
This year, Grand Prix promoters are hoping to repeat their attendance record for the 2021 edition with nearly 400,000 spectators gathering over the weekend, one of the best attendances in F1 history. , as the former team manager present in 2012 recalls, the date of Formula One’s return to the USA after several years of absence.
At this Austin circuit, built specifically for discipline, many feared failure. Arnaud Remy, founder of us-racing.com that specializes in motorsports in the USA, remembers and attended the first edition of this Grand Prix at Austin. The attendance of 265,000 people over three days in 2012 gradually decreased to 224,000 in 2015.
And for good reason, motorsport culture in the United States is radically different from ours, with “ovals, NASCAR.” “It’s the #1 motorsport out there and by far, while the Indy car [souvent décrite comme la F1 des USA] Combines highly informed fans, but with an anecdotal audience. I often imagine saying that the number of NASCAR fans in the United States equals the number of people in France,” the American motorsport specialist explains. The former team manager believes that F1 is often seen as an “expensive, very technical and very elite” sport in the United States.
“Always the same driver who wins in the end”
The difficulties F1 is having in establishing itself in the US shows this well. In the 1950s, almost no European driver came to compete in the Indianapolis 500, which was on the Formula 1 calendar from 1950 to 1961. The discipline then developed in the 1980s under the impetus of former president Bernie Ecclestone, before disappearing again during the 1990s. Indianapolis, but on a circuit that was put into the heart of the 2000 Oval in 2007, is still in its infancy until installation at the Austin Circuit, in 2012.
“There is a lack of access. In NASCAR, everyone is rubbing shoulders with the drivers, exchanging with them, taking pictures, without having to pay an extra fee to get there. Many Americans have come to watch Formula One races without really understanding it, explains Arnaud Remy, With brands they didn’t know and always with the same driver who won in the end.
Freedom of the media revolution
The arrival of the American Haas F1 Team in 2016 made the discipline a little better known in the United States. But above all, Formula 1 was taken over by Liberty Media, a large US media conglomerate in 2017, making it change its dimensions across the Atlantic. In order to “penetrate” the American market, they decided to create a series with Netflix, campaign to surviveDevelop social networks on a large scale to make F1 more accessible and, above all, more exciting. This aspect is essential in the United States. That’s what saved the Austin Grand Prix from a gradual decline in attendance with a “genius idea” in 2016: a massive concert by Taylor Swift.
The best example of this transformation is the Miami Grand Prix, which is being contested on a street circuit built into the parking lot at Hard Rock Stadium, the first of which was held last May. Arnaud Remy asserts that the race is “not really great for people who love motorsports”, but a success in terms of “hype”, with “many celebrities and a circuit in town”. The results, very good audiences “among those under 30”, but not yet “the level of those in NASCAR”, where spectators are over 60 years old.
In the face of this success, a third race in the United States has been added to the 2023 calendar, the Las Vegas Grand Prix. Liberty Media has achieved its goal, to the point of organizing the race itself, without the use of a promoter. This is the first time this has happened! With the aim of demonstrating its experience in the local market,” the former team leader believes.
When you make F1 evolve Nascar
And this success and this astonishing development has begun to cast a shadow over the outcast NASCAR, which is considering adopting the same strategies to shorten the lifespan of its audience. “They can’t reach a young audience with races that last between 3 and 5 hours, so they’ve been testing a lot of things for five or ten years. The specialist lists what the races look like, communicating, by approaching cities with a race on the streets of Chicago, in an unknown championship format. The winner is until the 36th and final races of the season.”
But Formula 1 should not be outdone, and it will be on its way to fulfilling one of American spectators’ greatest dreams: to have one of its drivers behind the wheel of an F1 car. If Colton Herta, the youngest IndyCar race winner, was destined to replace Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri, he was finally rejected by the FIA for supremacy. “But it will happen much faster than we can imagine,” the former team boss warns. There appears to be a seat available in Haas with the possible departure of Mick Schumacher, while the US team has just announced MoneyGram, a US company, as the main sponsor. All that is missing now is the pilot.