Formula 1 believed

Formula 1 believed: The way Stefano Domenicali sees it, there are two races this weekend. One on the track, and one in the VIP section.  

“All the VIPs, the singers, actors, stars,” will appear at the inaugural Miami Grand Prix.

Domenicali, the Formula 1 CEO, and the president doesn’t know who will win, but he’s aware of the overall winner come Sunday evening. 

“The winner for sure will be Formula 1,” Domenicali told USA TODAY Sports on Friday, about an hour before the practice session at Hard Rock Stadium, the home of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins. 

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The race’s debut, the course itself, and the natural celebrity attachment in a place like Miami (technically Miami Gardens) are signs of how fast Formula 1 has moved in the past two and a half years, Domenicali said. 

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“We were still disputing. Are we going to make the breakthrough here in the U.S.?” Domenicali said. “Suddenly, for many reasons of course, now it seems that the interest in Formula 1 has never been so high.” 

To borrow a line from “The Godfather,” Formula 1 and its owner, Liberty Media, believed in America. A small audience found it on weekend mornings on ESPN. Netflix took it mainstream with the “Drive to Survive” series in the United States, where a younger, passionate fan base emerged. Embracing social media seems to have heightened the attachment. 

According to ESPN, the U.S. rights-holder, 963,000 viewers tuned in to the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final installment of the 2021 season, and the Max Verstappen (Red Bull) vs. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) battle. Verstappen prevailed – but not without controversy. The network also revealed it averaged 934,000 viewers per race throughout the 2021 season.

“You can feel it. You go around the city, everyone is talking about Formula 1,” Domenicali said. “We are international. And that’s the beauty of the connection between the American community and Formula 1. We bring that together, and this is super-positive.”

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Another positive is the “spectacle” of Miami, an event worth celebrating, but also exactly what Formula 1 saw in America. 

Storylines like the ‘Real Housewives

Stuart Taylor helps Formula 1 fans under the technical side of the sport, but the longtime Formula 1 fan who has 525,000 subscribers on YouTube said the reason for growing American awareness has a lot to do with the drivers themselves. 

“Formula 1 has always had these interesting storylines going through it. And I think that’s the biggest thing in any sport. You can enjoy a sport for the athleticism, or in terms of motorsport, the technical prowess, all manner of things – but I think the thing that keeps everybody hooked is the storyline part of it.” 

“Ongoing soap operas” among athletes, team bosses, and even the media intrigue people, Taylor said. 

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“(Drivers) are no longer professional sportspeople. They’re not just athletes. They’re soap stars, too. These are the ‘Real Housewives of Monte Carlo,’ ” Wall Street Journal sports reporter Josh Robinson said on “The Ringer F1 Show” this week. “Netflix has taken them to a different level and created a secondary persona for them that’s kind of overtaken the fact that these guys drive cars fast for a living.”

That’s something Formula 1 didn’t realize for a long time. Under previous ownership headed by Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula One Group had little interest in broadening its audience. 

“His opinion was, we’ve kind of locked in the people we want watching this, which is essentially old, rich people,” Taylor said. “People who buy Rolex watches.










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