Column: F1’s high-profile first trip to Miami is a money-losing success

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Grand Prix was hot, from the party scene to the weather, but faced near impossible expectations.

The celebrity sighting was top notch, certainly for a motorsport event. There was Paris Hilton, using a portable fan to cool off as she danced outside the McLaren garage on race day. Serena and Venus Williams holding hands as they cruised the pre-race grid in sundresses. Puerto Rican entertainment icon Bad Bunny makes a dazzling entrance in an all-pink suit while hanging out with Mexican Red Bull driver Sergio Perez.

There were also tons of bells and whistles, food halls, art installations, hammocks, cabana loungers, and a man-made beach. But was the debut of Formula 1 in this elegant and cosmopolitan city worthy of a good event?

It all depends on personal expectations. Expectations were so high, after all.

F1 wants to tap into the wealthy North American sponsorship market as the series’ popularity has grown over the past three years. The United States had two F1 races this season for the first time since 1984 and next year there will be three, with Las Vegas – the glitziest city of them all? – playing the host.

Miami was given a 10-year contract for its Hard Rock Stadium extravaganza, where promoters built a 3.36-mile circuit through the parking lot and then shot off the charts by building the stage around it. Tickets never went on sale to the general public due to early interest and capacity was capped at 85,000 to create an enjoyable and exclusive customer experience.

The track snaked around the stadium, under a freeway overpass, and around a mock marina that featured 10 yachts and a mini-Monaco backdrop. There were gondolas to ferry fans around the sprawling circuit and a beach club that featured musical acts throughout the three-day weekend.

Many at the event were hooked on F1 by Netflix’s behind-the-scenes docuseries ‘Drive To Survive’. Each episode covers an entire storyline – sometimes multiple races – and has been credited with exposing the glamorous world of F1 to Americans. Netflix and F1 even waited for the show to arrive in Miami last week to announce that “DTS” has been renewed for two more seasons.

The race, alas, was just okay, 57 mostly uneventful laps on a track the drivers didn’t like. Fernando Alonso says drivers have complained to the FIA ​​governing body that “the tarmac is not up to F1 standards” and promoters had to repave portions of the track twice before the start. Sunday race.

The asphalt “almost feels like gravel”, said Max Verstappen, the reigning world champion who won the first five races of the season for the third time. He also said the chicane was suitable for kart racing and not an F1 car.

“In the four laps I did on Friday, I almost knocked myself out because I hit the first curb and your head just bounced left and right, at least five, six times, but really badly,” he said. said Verstappen. “It’s so slow and I think our cars are much better if it’s a bit more of a smooth combination.”

The good news is that promoter Tom Garfinkel said ahead of Sunday’s race that organizers would listen to all feedback and make any changes needed to improve the event, including track changes.

He was also aware of other areas that fell short – the hospitality inside the F1 paddock was not up to series standards on Friday’s opening day; pedestrian bridges across campus were blocked; the shadow might be hard to find – and said that everything would be solved even if the race would not make a profit in the first year.

“Spending far exceeded our expectations,” Garfinkel said. “But that was because we were trying to do everything we could to be first class, to live up to what Formula 1 is and the kind of event we wanted to deliver.”

The event still had some of that classic F1 behind-the-scenes drama, with the FIA ​​insisting it will enforce its ban on drivers wearing jewelry during competition. Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton protested by wearing three watches, eight rings and several necklaces, but eventually removed all but a few piercings before getting into his car.

The FIA ​​has granted Hamilton a waiver for the next two races so he can plan to have any piercings he cannot be surgically removed. The Brit must have all his piercings removed by the Monaco Grand Prix on May 29 or risk a $308,000 (250,000 pounds) fine.

Hamilton is having a terrible season by his standards. His spat with the FIA ​​has created speculation that he will quit F1 and he suggested he may not bow to the issue, saying on Friday: “If they stop me then too bad. We have a spare driver.

Jewelrygate is the type of off-track drama that drew fans to “DTS” and helped F1 win over an American audience. Hamilton finished sixth on Sunday, one place behind Mercedes teammate George Russell and the fourth time in five races he has finished behind Russell this season.

If anything doesn’t change, the next time fans see Hamilton racing in Miami might be the recap on Netflix in Season 5.

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