The Miami F1 Grand Prix Was an Overwhelming Success, Like It or Not
Fans who paid big bucks to attend the inaugural race walked away happy. Not only is that a good thing, but that hardly ever happens.
Yes, the marina was fake. Yes, it was built around an NFL stadium's parking lot. And yes, the guy everyone loves to hate took home the win. But this weekend's inaugural Formula 1 Miami Grand Prix was a major score for the sport, for America, and most importantly, for all racing fans.
For the first time in my nearly three decades of following the sport and attending races all over the world—some of them also first-offs—a race track managed to deliver a top-notch fan experience in its very first year. And while no race is perfect (whether in person or on TV), the Miami GP set a high bar for Las Vegas in 2023 and essentially every inaugural race to come regardless of location.
Like I said upon arriving at the track last Friday: Yes, all aspects of the Miami GP were curated for an ultra-premium audience. F1 has always been a rich man’s sport; it’s expensive to watch on cable TV or to stream, it’s expensive to attend in person, and even the souvenirs have always been expensive. Miami, however, has taken this concept to a whole new level.
Tickets weren’t cheap, with most folks reportedly paying an average of $1,790 per person for a three-day ticket in a variety of grandstands, all the way up to $5,897 to sit along the main straightaway. (And in case you're wondering, team hats were at least $70, with some going as high as $130.) But that’s not where the money was at this weekend, however. The real Miami Money was in the hospitality suites, experience areas like “The Beach,” and of course, the fancy Paddock Club that sits above the pits.
Turns out Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was right: "That is the most important thing and so you want to create premium experiences, and Formula One is one of the most exciting sports experiences, if not the most exciting sports experience, on the planet."
I watched the race from the Red Bull Energy Station inside turn 11. It was an amazing pavilion with mostly outdoor areas, viewing decks, around-the-clock catering, and an open bar. It was by far the best hospitality I’ve ever enjoyed in any race in any series. I was a guest of Acura, but after talking to a few folks who were more than happy to flaunt their buying power, I found out that a three-day pass to the Energy Station was around $15,000 to $20,000 per person. A Sunday-only pass was about $6,000. Lots of glamorous people were there, including the families of both Red Bull drivers and even Mexican business magnate Carlos Slim Jr., one of the richest men in the world and a major backer of Red Bull driver Checo Perez.
Other corporate suites were available, which is nothing new in the sport, but Miami still stood out in the sense of just how many of them were erected for the event. There were suites, villas, pool decks, and more. If you wanted to watch the race in style—or just have a good time with your fancy friends while a race was taking place around you—you could do so to the tune of anywhere from $30,000 to $200,000 for the weekend, according to some folks I talked to. Some of them you couldn't even pay to get in, as they were purely invitation-only. Many F1 venues do the same; places like Monaco and even Austin have no shortage of extreme exclusivity. But Miami's race brought a unique vibe to it all; in an international city already awash in new money, where every tenth car on the road is an Aston Martin for some reason, F1 just felt like a perfect fit for this crowd, locals and visitors alike
But vibes wouldn't count for much if the execution wasn't there. For this first race weekend, it assuredly was, so it's impossible to call the Miami GP anything but an overwhelming success. Everyone I talked to, whether they were sweating it out in the grandstands or rubbing elbows with the Slims, was absolutely ecstatic. Even today, at 6 a.m. at a Miami airport packed with racegoers flying back home, everyone I talked to was absolutely thrilled with their experience. And I can't disagree, really. The areas of the track that I explored (outside of the fancy Red Bull area) were well-kept and clean, bathrooms were aplenty, and I noticed many water stations for folks looking to cool down without dropping $10 on a water bottle. Perhaps the most impressive thing, however, was organization. Employees were, for the most part, very well trained, directing hoards of spectators to the right grandstands or facilities. This is essentially unheard of for a venue hosting its first race. From Austin's Circuit of the Americas to Mexico City and even Magny-Cours in France, I've never experienced this level of organization at an inaugural race, whether it be F1, IndyCar, MotoGP, IMSA or anything else.
There is one major drawback, however, and it was one echoed by everyone I talked to at the track and at the airport: the track is extremely compartmentalized. Likely because there's a massive NFL stadium right in the middle of it, or because most fancy people paying big money for an air-conditioned suite don't want to stroll around the track in the extreme heat and humidity, the Miami International Autodrome lacks the walk-ability of other tracks. You can easily walk COTA's infield or outside perimeter without having to bust out a detailed map. That's not the case out here.
This made the Miami race feel pretty stuffy (in Miami? Nah!), and it lacked that sense of community that most racing tracks are known for. You were either a lowly general admission ticket-holder camping out on a sun-soaked dirt mount, or you were a dude driving in in a Ferrari who beelined it from the parking lot to a swanky suite. There really wasn't a middle ground; no people having picnics on lawns or tree-lined corridors, no real sense of F1 fans coming together for the joy of the sport.
Outside of this not-insignificant detail—and the fact that there's work to do on the track after drivers complained heavily about the surface and other vital safety features—the 2022 Miami F1 Grand Prix will go down as a great success for everyone involved. Every single person I talked to is looking forward to coming back next year, and a large majority are ready to plunk down big money for Vegas next year. Formula 1 is in the United States and is here to stay, baby.
Don't forget it; the sport needs more fans, and more importantly, it needs new fans in order to secure its future. If all I have to do is put up with fake marinas and Hollywood star-studded grids in exchange for a few more decades of racing at venues like Miami and Monza, I think I can do that—and so can most lifelong fans of the sport.
See you in Vegas, folks.
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