Sporticast: How Formula One Became an Overnight Sensation in America

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On the latest Sporticast episode, hosts Eben Novy-Williams and Asli Pelit discuss Formula 1’s rapid growth in the U.S. The open-wheel racing circuit, which is owned by Liberty Media, has its first Miami Grand Prix this weekend.

Liberty purchased F1 in 2016 for roughly $4.5 billion, and immediately made a few dramatic changes that have propelled the property in new markets. It approached F1 more as a social and digital media property, it changed the rules to create a bit more competitive balance, it expanded the footprint of its races, and it emphasized the festival nature of those events.

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The media approach included the creation of Drive to Survive, a Netflix docu-series that drew a large audience in the U.S. Many credit the show, which took viewers inside the lives of the drivers, technicians and team directors, with helping U.S. consumers better understand a sport that has largely played second fiddle to NASCAR. Hoping to achieve some of the same buzz, governing bodies in sports like golf, tennis, cycling and surfing, have launched similar series.

The U.S. is one of just two countries that F1 will visit twice this season, which shows how important this market is to Liberty Media. That’s before a 2023 event in Las Vegas, where cars will race on city roads down the Las Vegas strip.

An estimated that 300,000 people could be coming to Miami for this weekend’s race—the 2020 Super Bowl, by comparison, attracted about 200,000—and hotels and restaurants are already reporting massive interest in expensive hospitality packages.

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