Prestige put Miami on the F1 map, but are ‘traditional’ fans the way forward?

The Miami Grand Prix might only have been on the Formula 1 calendar since 2022, but it has very quickly earned itself a reputation of being a race where people want to be seen.

Not everybody by any stretch, but the image of the South Florida race has had a major focus on being unashamedly Miami, and providing high-end entertainment and opportunities. A-listers flocked to it in the opening two years, and ticket prices remained high as the organizers put on a festival in Miami Gardens.

That’s not something that has been lessened heading into the third iteration of the grand prix, but the race’s president Tyler Epp says there has also been more of a leaning into the core culture of racing and automobile fandom as Miami has become more accustomed to putting on the event.

“We’re ready to go,” Epp told RACER in the paddock shaded by the Hard Rock Stadium on Thursday. “I think the team has done a really good job of jumping into year three here, and we’ve learned a lot in years one and two. We just finished up the track walk this morning, and I was spending some time with the race director, and we’re just talking about how quickly you get to year three, and how much more comfortable we all are with each other personally.

“We know each other, we know where we can go. We know when there’s an issue, there’s someone there to handle it. So I think, as in so many businesses, but I think especially in motorsports — and maybe specifically Formula 1 — relationships are so important, to make sure that we’re pulling these off at a high level.

“That then goes two ways. On the front part, it’s a bit more comfort, and so on all sides of our stakeholders, there’s more comfort that we’re going to deliver, and we’re going to deliver at the level which F1 and the FIA expect.

“On the other side of it, it does put you in a place where you get to be a little more creative, and you get a little bit more freedom to say, ‘What about this? And let’s try this.’ And I think you’ll see this year, we really came into the year thinking, number one, the things that we did well, let’s try to do them even better; the things that we weren’t quite as happy with, let’s make sure we adjust and fix.

“Then the third thing is, let’s try some new things, and let’s make sure that we’re not forgetting that we’re building a fan base here. We’re building a fan base in South Florida, in Miami, but also throughout the country and throughout the world.

“We want Miami to be a destination. So you’re seeing a bit more of a commitment to what we would consider car culture in South Florida, even just walking around the campus. There’s more car displays, you’re seeing more action on track.

“Obviously, we’ve got the Porsche Carrera Cup series back, we’re so excited to have Suzie Wolff and F1 Academy here with us, and then you’re also having events like a Bonhams auction on Saturday night. So there’s an increased amount – and it’s intentional – of including autos and cars in what is considered to be an auto racing event. We shouldn’t forget that.”

The Miami race joined the F1 calendar at a very different time for the sport in North America compared to when Austin became the standalone U.S. race back in 2012, making comparisons at the evolution of each a dangerous game. But from the third year onwards it became more challenging for Circuit of The Americas to maintain interest and attendance figures — a scenario faced by many races globally that needed to work hard to continue early momentum.

Miami sold a destination and the promise of a special experience to carve out its place on the F1 calendar in its first two years, but CEO Tyler Epp believes that bringing elements of traditional automotive and racing culture into the fold will help the event to take the next step. Jerry Andre/Motorsport Images

So far there’s been no drop-off in interest from ticket holders according to Epp, even if the organizers are trying to speak to its fanbase in a different way.

“We will be packed to the gills this weekend,” he says. “Sunday especially, will surpass last year’s attendance numbers, we feel confident with that. We’re right right on the cusp here today and that is by design.

“I would tell you this, it’s a different challenge. And as we start to storytell about the circuit and about the event and about what’s happening at the event, the thing that we’re thinking most about is making sure that those fans who have come to us now for three years, that we recognize them, we thank them.

“We asked them to help us build that core fan base, not only in Miami, but domestically, and then work with the other promoters in North America to make sure that we’re doing the right thing for the sport as a whole and continue to invest in our fan base.”

A local Miami television crew was at COTA earlier this year to highlight the differences between the two races and their setups, which are clear. But the arrival of Las Vegas appears to be much more in Miami’s wheelhouse, leading Epp to admit he was initially concerned that there could be “pressure” on the race in terms of the luxury space.

However, having not seen that trepidation lead to any tangible challenges, Epp says the way that Liberty Media and Formula One Management (FOM) have given race promoters as much freedom as possible have helped protect a unique selling point that can complement other events.

“I think Greg [Maffei, Liberty CEO] and Stefano [Domenicali, FOM CEO] get a lot of credit for allowing each promoter to really represent the market in which they they operate. And we are encouraged to do that, we’re asked to do that,” Epps noted. “And so when you go to Austin, it’s a different feel than coming to Miami, or going to Vegas, or going to Montreal, or going to Mexico City.

“Look, the product is still a very high-level, wonderful fan experience — the product itself. And that’s what everyone does so well. But I think the promoters are given that freedom to say, ‘Yes, but this is the Austin version of it, and this is the Miami version of it.’

“And that’s certainly how we feel; that we’ve always been wanting to have people come here and feel like they visited Miami, and they get the art and the culture and the food and the entertainment. It’s more than just a race.

“For those who are motorsports fanatics, it can still be a wonderful motorsports experience. But it allows us to put experiences together that engage multiple different segments of the population. And that’s what we have hung our hat on here for the last couple of years.

“But our ability to work together with other promoters, not just in America, but North America, to make sure we’re cultivating that fan base, and giving them things to continue to engage with us — that’s part of our responsibility, too.”

Miami will be the first example, but if all of the races in North America can continue to attract the same attendance figures even amid an extreme period of dominance at the front of the field, then they must be doing something right.

Story originally appeared on Racer