For four seasons, between 2008 and 2011, there was no US Grand Prix. Interest in the sport was waning and with the Indianapolis Speedway failing to agree a deal with the FIA beyond 2007, the unthinkable happened.
It wasn’t until 2012, when the FIA agreed a deal with the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, that the race returned Stateside. But it was worth the wait.
2012 Classic in Austin
The 2012 race was one for the ages with the race boiling down, after much to-ing and fro-ing, to a two-way battle between the two of the season’s main protagonists, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.
Vettel started on pole with Hamilton in P2, but the Brit, in his final season with McLaren, produced a trademark drive that saw him make up for an indifferent start with a couple of thrilling overtaking manoeuvres on the Red Bulls of Vettel and Mark Webber.
Vettel was not done and stuck with Hamilton for the remainder of the race but the Brit hung on to take victory at the chequered flag by just 0.6 seconds.
The FIA and the race organisers will be hoping for something similar this weekend in round 2 of F1's 2023 USA tour.
Stop one was Miami in May, when the Red Bulls made it a 1-2, and round three will be in the penultimate week of the season when the race returns to Las Vegas for the first time since 1982.
The Impact of Liberty Media
This year’s three-race series in the US ultimately comes down to dollars and cents, but also reflects the States’ renewed love of F1; something that has been the core aim of the sport since Liberty Media bought a controlling interest in the Formula One Group in 2016 and then acquired the rights for a behind-the-scenes F1 documentary.
The initial plan was for a Netflix All or Nothing type series, which took the viewers behind the scenes at Arsenal Football Club during their 2021-22 Premier League season, but the FIA’s wish was for something that looked at all ten teams, not just one.
As a result, Drive to Survive was born – a 10-part fly-on-the-wall series that was to have a massive impact on the sport. In the words of Renee Wilm of Liberty Media, “We saw that opportunity to really open up F1 to the world, to a younger demographic, to a more American audience.”
Alongside the documentary, the F1 drivers and teams were encouraged to engage with the sport’s fans via social media and video; something that tied in perfectly with the desire to target that younger audience.
Drive to Survive Boosts US Profile
Ironically, the Netflix series also gained extra traction as a result of the Covid pandemic with TV boxsets the go-to for many in the periods of lockdown, with the US audience, in particular, finding itself drawn into the politics of F1 and its myriad characters.
The upshot was Liberty Media’s plan for growth in the US was achieved and some, with their target audience expanded even beyond their own estimations. The next step was to add another US Grand Prix to the F1 calendar
Bound for Miami
Such was their success, another Grand Prix did materialise – one in Miami on a newly built track that snaked around the stadium of the Dolphins.
It debuted in 2022 with such success that it remained in the calendar for 2023, and is now contracted for a further eight seasons.
F1 is, it seems, set to stay in the US for the foreseeable future and with the Las Vegas Grand Prix now added to the schedule for a minimum of three years, that positioned has been further strengthened.
The mix of Liberty Media and Drive to Survive have heightened the sport’s profile and all that’s needed now is a driver to start dating a US pop superstar in a Kelce/Swift-style and the sky’s the limit.
And if they can dish up more duels like the Hamilton/Vettel version of 2012, then there’s nothing for US fans not to like.
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