The Formula1 appeal has grown drastically over the past few years, most notably in America. The popularity of the sport has exploded overseas and shows no sign of slowing down any time soon. This increased interest has been reflected across the sport as one glance at this years calendar reveals that there will now be 3 races in the US, as well as a US driver joining the grid but this blossoming relationship between Formula 1 and America has not always been the case.
Racing in America is nothing new for Formula 1, but the new audience that it has managed to draw in is. The first United States Grand Prix in the World Championship era was in 1959 at Sebring International Raceway. Similarly, F1 has welcomed 57 American drivers since its inception, including the world champions Mario Andretti and Phill Hill, so if F1 already has an established history in America why did it take so long for the US crowd to embrace the sport? F1 has always been centered around Europe making it tricky for any American fans who want to watch the races due to the differing time zones. As well as this, F1 had to complete with the much beloved Indy 500. Prior to Liberty Media’s take over, the sport remained relatively closed off from fans and carried an aura of exclusivity that kept those watching at a distance, in addition to this the singular US race was not enough to build up a loyal following who would be willing to stay up into early hours of the morning to watch the majority of the European races. With F1 already on shaky ground in the US, the infamous 2005 Grand Prix in Indianapolis put the final nail in the coffin and firmly closed this chapter of Formula 1 in America. The Grand Prix was a disaster from start to finish, it saw only 6 cars compete much to the dismay and anger of the fans. It’s safe to say that once Formula 1’s contract in Indianapolis expired in 2007 there was no chance that it would be renewed which led to an F1 hiatus in America until 2012.
Seven years after the 2005 failure, F1 returned to COTA in 2012 and has been building up its presence in the States ever since.
Fast forward to 2023 and Formula 1 is as big as it has ever been in the US, we’re seeing this be reflected in the sport as this year F1 will race in Austin, Miami and Las Vegas – two of which have only been added onto the calendar over the past couple of years. The 2022 season was the most watched F1 season ever in the United States and with the viewership set to increase even more in 2023, what exactly has caused this F1 boom abroad?
Since Liberty Media’s purchase of F1 in 2016 the sport has seen its biggest increase in America in such a short period of time, the Colorado-based media corporation were the ones that greenlit the hit Netflix show ‘Drive to Survive’. This has been one of the biggest factors that have contributed to Formula 1’s astronomical rise, the show has hooked millions of new viewers and has made the sport much more accessible than it has ever been. With the addition of the Miami Grand Prix – which debuted in 2022 – and the Las Vegas Grand Prix, which will join the grid this year, it’s fair to say that Formula 1 have managed to successfully reintroduce themselves to the United States. It’s not only F1 and the FIA that are pushing Formula 1 in the US teams, such as Redbull, are also on board as they launched their season in New York and will have special fan designed liveries for the 3 US GPs this year. When asked about the significance of America in the sport team principal, Christian Horner, stated that “The US is playing such a big role in F1 these days” so it only seemed right to launch their 2023 season in the Big Apple.
The American expansion of Formula 1 doesn’t end there as Logan Sargeant will be the first American driver to join the grid since 2015 and whilst Formula do already have an American team, Haas, this could be set to increase as there has been much talk of a possible Andretti x Cadillac deal that could potentially see an 11th team join Formula 1 and become the second American team on the grid.
Although Europe is still the centre of Formula 1 for the time being, if the current developments in the US continue it could signal a shift towards a more Americanised Formula 1. This shift towards America has already been hinted at as a long term plan as the Clark County Commission – who passed the motion for the Las Vegas Grand Prix to take place – have suggested that the current 3 year partnership with Formula 1 will in fact be a “lifetime in partnership”. On the face of it, this is great for the sport as fans will be treated to more thrilling races in new locations however, with an already jam packed calendar, European races may have to be cut to make room for the US. This would certainly cause problems further down the line as despite F1’s increasing fanbase in America, the majority of the F1 audience remain in Europe.