Miami Deserves Its Spot on the F1 Calendar

Miami Deserves Its Spot on the F1 Calendar photo
Miami Deserves Its Spot on the F1 Calendar photo

I’ve been to two Formula 1 races in my life. The first was Canada 2019; you know, the one where Sebastian Vettel crossed the line first, but was handed a track limits penalty that gave the win to Lewis Hamilton, prompting Seb to switch the position boards at Parc Ferme. Tough to beat, and yet Lando Norris notching his first win on Sunday afternoon in Miami might just take it.

Lando's long-awaited triumph did a lot of heavy lifting, as it should. I don't think anyone left the gates disappointed in the on-track show, even if the result was prompted by a perfectly timed safety car-provoking crash. That's racing sometimes. Nevertheless, if you asked me to choose between Montreal and Miami, I’d take the hike up north every time—which is exactly why F1 needs both.

Let me explain. As a function, the whole event was perfectly competent. Having never gone to this race before, I've heard Miami’s first try in 2022 was more than a little rough for fans on the ground, owing to poorly organized access points and pathways, and generally the sort of logistical hurdles that tend to arise when the F1 circus descends on a city for the first time. None of that was present for the third run, which you'd hope.


But then, that was never really the case against the Miami GP by its most fervent detractors. Their ire was about F1 losing its soul, the balance sliding away from sport toward superficiality and spectacle. The thing is, now having walked among the $200 veggie platters and past the infamous plywood marina, I'm less convinced of that than I ever was before.

I've been a skeptic of F1's rapid American expansion, so that impression surprised me too. I've been reflecting on it. F1 has always been a billionaire boys club. If it's access and grassroots you want, any other discipline of motorsport on the planet is more inclined to give it to you. It’s not purely a cultural thing, either; when I went to MotoGP in Austin in 2022, another championship that has its roots in Europe, I effortlessly passed into spaces I wasn’t allowed to go and half the time I wasn’t even aware I’d done it. (Surely you can bet Liberty Media will be looking to change that, now that it owns MotoGP, too.) But in Miami, I couldn’t access the paddock with my Paddock Club pass, where I was hosted by Pirelli; and people I needed to speak to on the paddock weren't allowed to reach me either, without passing through two sets of NFC-sensing turnstiles. This shit’s locked down—but then of course it is. It’s F1.

All the velvet rope, the comical ticket prices, the pomp and circumstance, the crypto title sponsor, is as much F1 as Prost and Senna or Hakkinen and Schumacher. All the nouns have changed, and alcohol and cigarettes gave way to big tech, but that’s about it. And if there really is a new guard, it hasn’t come at the expense of the old. Nobody’s taking Spa or Monza away from anyone. That’s literally not happening when the calendar’s continually grown and street circuits have supplemented the classics, not supplanted them.

When I was relaying all this to my colleague Jerry Perez, he asked me if Miami and races like it were a "necessary evil." Now I realize they’re necessary full stop for the sport to grow, or at least have any hope of continuing its ascendancy at a stable clip. It's so easy to forget that this championship was in shambles 15 years ago, and Ferrari was ready to walk. "Evil," well, is a matter of opinion—at least so long as we aren’t talking about all the flags F1 has planted in human rights abuse hotspots. But that’s another story.

F1’s hubris has always been its obsession with its own prestige. That’ll never totally go away, of course—just ask the Andretti family. But the difference between F1 in the age of Miami and Vegas compared to the stuffy in the Bernie days is that today, F1 knows it needs to reach people where they are, in the language they understand. For some folks, that’s gonna be the breeze on the Île Notre-Dame in June; for others, it’s an Ed Sheeran concert staged in front of fake water, on a peninsula surrounded by actual water. That’s just life.

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