Zak Brown has been one of the biggest proponents of expanding Formula 1’s footprint in the U.S.
F1 races in North America could soon make up nearly one-quarter of F1’s schedule.
With the addition of Vegas next season F1 will have three races in America.
You can’t blame McLaren boss Zak Brown if he’s walking around Miami this weekend with his chest pumped out a bit.
By all indications, Formula 1’s Miami Grand Prix is on target to be not just an inaugural success by the time the race finishes Sunday, but actually a rather huge success.
“Mega, mega!” Brown responded when asked about the success potential for this weekend’s event, which is expected to draw several hundred thousand fans at-track for Sunday’s main event. “I'm American, so I got to go bigger! It's an awesome venue. I think Tom Garfinkel, Formula 1, the Miami Dolphins, the promoter have done an outstanding job. It's a proper racing track. You know, I think when you first hear something's going to go around a stadium, people then start talking about Caesars Palace from what, 30-40 years ago? This is definitely a proper racetrack.
“The demand from sponsors and fans has been off the charts, unlike anything I've seen since my time in Formula 1. Great to see just the atmosphere. So, I think in America, you’ve got to give a lot of credit to Austin (Circuit of the Americas), who also built a fantastic venue to get Formula 1 back in America.
“And now we have Miami, (and) soon to have Vegas (in November 2023). So, I really like where we are in North America as far as Formula 1's popularity.”
A native Californian who now lives in England, where he took over as McLaren Racing’s CEO in 2016, Brown has been one of the biggest proponents of expanding Formula 1’s footprint in the U.S.
That belief was further enhanced when U.S.-based Liberty Media purchased the entire F1 series for $4.4 billion in early 2017.
The combination of Liberty Media and Brown’s influence has resulted in the international series adding a second American race to the schedule this weekend in Miami and will see a third race added in November 2023 in Las Vegas.
All told, unless F1 does not renew its expiring race agreement with Mexico City after this year, races in North America will soon make up nearly one-quarter of F1’s schedule: the three American races, the Mexico City event, and the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal.
No other single country will have as many F1 races as the U.S. will have once Las Vegas comes online next year.
There have even been rumors F1 may even add one more race in North America in the coming years – among cities mentioned are Vancouver, Indianapolis, Chicago, and New York City – to make it an even six events in the northern hemisphere, with the potential of a North American championship-within-a-championship possibly in the offing as F1 moves toward a potential 24- or 25-race yearly competition schedule.
But that is all just speculation for now.
What is real is Miami is here and the eyes of the racing world will be on it all weekend. The key will be to make Miami not only a success this weekend, but also to keep it an ongoing success that will continue to grow with each passing year, particularly with all the buzz and anticipation Las Vegas is already producing nearly 18 months ahead of time.
It will only help Las Vegas that F1 is committing nearly $250 million in promotional seed money to spread the word of how great an event and what a fantastic host venue it will produce.
“Liberty's commitment to Formula 1 has been awesome,” Brown said. “And we'll pull off Miami. Vegas, I think the fact that Liberty is putting skin in the game in certain parts of the business shows that they're doing that because it'll grow to the next level.”
Thus far, while there have been only a few minor problems that have crept up, for the most part Miami has done just about everything right in F1’s newest market.
“Putting on a good first year event, which is a challenge to get everything right, given the size and scale and newness to it,” Brown said will be the key benchmark once it comes to evaluating Miami’s first-year success. “But if you look at Austin (Circuit of the Americas), 10 years on, they had record attendance last year, Silverstone has been around for 50-plus years and is already a sellout. So, I think putting on a great event, and then having it be sustainable over decades, is (one of the biggest keys).
“If you look at the grand prix calendar, the Italy’s of the world, they've been popular for decades and decades. So, I think let's just get it right, put on a good show for the fans, and I think there’s a tremendous amount of runway here.
“I think Liberty has done an outstanding job with Formula 1. And they're trying to build their business, our business, and the fact that they're making investments to build Formula 1, I think you can only applaud them for that. Take a look at what they've done. The revenues are growing, the race markets are growing, so they're putting their money where their mouth is, and I think it's great. We all benefit from it.”
Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski