It will be the tenth time that the Circuit of the Americas in Austin has hosted the United States Grand Prix, so his big birthday party promises to be unforgettable.
Formula 1 estimates that 440,000 fans will attend the venue from Friday to Sunday, which would mean a record weekend. At a time when the glamor of Miami and, from next year, also of Las Vegas, attract a lot of attention, the great reality is that neither can boast the numbers of Austin.
Earlier this week, the series shared a video on its social media of the 2017 race. That was the event where, in its first United States GP since Liberty Media had completed its takeover of the series, F1 tried to inject a bit of American sporting pizzazz into the pre-race proceedings by hiring celebrity commentator Michael Buffer to introduce the drivers one at a time.
Lewis Hamilton – then three-time world champion – and Daniel Ricciardo were the only ones who took it seriously, getting into the atmosphere. With Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen looking like they didn’t even flinch.
Watching it now feels like a huge step back in time. There’s the old F1 logo on the fences, the girls on the grid etc. But back then, this was F1’s first big effort to appeal to American fans, trying to fit in with their ways.
At the time, the move divided opinion. Those who feared the impact Liberty would have on F1 saw that as an Americanization they didn’t want for their Eurocentric championship. But many took it for what it was: yes, maybe it was a bit corny, but it was also a clear sign that F1 didn’t take itself so seriously, after many years with Bernie Ecclestone in which YouTube or social networks were not considered worthy of attention.
It also showed that the new F1 management was aware that it could not continue to do things in the same way if it wanted to succeed in the United States. He had to try something new, designing a new logo, trying to hype the grid presentations, or getting his own anthem. It wasn’t until the start of 2018 that F1’s much-loved intro debuted, which also faced some criticism in its early days.
It was around the end of the 2017 season that plans really started to accelerate with Drive to Survive. Then-business chief Sean Bratches quickly saw the need to create a docuseries after seeing what it had done for other leagues and sports.
And it was also a big turning point in Austin’s fortunes. After F1’s woes at the end of 2014, when only 18 cars turned up for the race at COTA, a flop that affected the following year’s race, the United States Grand Prix seemed to be on shaky ground once again. as fan interest waned.
In 2016, the circuit landed Taylor Swift her only concert in America that year, which was a huge boost to ticket sales and helped turn many Swifties into Formula 1 fans. It was an unconventional approach, but again, the top flight had to do things differently to appeal to a very different audience.
Since then, F1 can only go one way in the United States. The idea of “destination cities” like Miami or Las Vegas was outlined from day one by Liberty Media and the new bosses of F1, but it is difficult to understand that these venues have arrived without COTA showing the way forward and the hunger of American fans.
The idea of F1 playing a key role in promoting a race and even paying out of its own pockets in the high millions for a piece of land in Las Vegas to help a race take place on a Saturday night seems like an impossibility. from the days before Liberty.
But F1 realized that this was the only way to achieve a great effect, getting its long-awaited event on the Strip.
The estimated crowd of 440,000 for this weekend will be another record for F1. It is clear that the demand is there to far exceed this figure. It is simply a question of circuits ensuring that their infrastructure and facilities can adapt to this increase in fans without compromising their experience.
The Circuit of the Americas in Austin has had to adapt, as evidenced by the fact that the 2019 spectator figure was “only” 268,000 people across the three days.
Reaching 10 years is something that seemed impossible for COTA during the deepest depression of 2015. But now it is not only still part of the calendar, it continues to move forward and remains the barometer of the health of F1 in the United States.