Las Vegas F1 return a step closer?


As COTA boss welcomes the prospect of Las Vegas joining the schedule, one cannot help but feel that much of what we saw and heard over the weekend was a sales pitch for Netflix' benefit.

Over the decades, the United States has had a difficult relationship with F1. While Indianapolis 2005 has to be the absolute low, there are plenty of other reasons why American fans of the sport have a right to feel short-changed over the years.

The arrival of Liberty Media however has changed all that, for courtesy of the more open approach beloved of American sports fans, F1 is seeking new venues.

While the future of F1 at the Circuit of the Americas has yet to be officially confirmed, it's a popular venue with drivers, teams and fans and a great advertisement for the sport so is likely to remain.

And in 2022, following a couple of years of 'will it, won't it', Miami is to finally host the pinnacle of motorsport.

While iconic American tracks like Watkins Glen and Laguna Seca are unlikely to ever witness the likes of Hamilton or Verstappen, for as long as anyone can remember there has been talk of a return to Las Vegas, which hosted two Grands Prix in the early 80s.

However, the race was held on a temporary track in the car park of Caesars Palace hotel, which pretty much tells you all you need to know.

No sooner had Liberty received the keys to F1 than they were talking about "Destination Cities" they intended taking F1 into, and over the COTA weekend it appears the dream took another step towards reality.

It's understood representative of the Silver State visited COTA at the weekend and were treated "like VIPS" by F1 bosses, including Stefano Domenicali.

"I've had the opportunity to meet with F1 leaders and I've appreciated their time on this topic," Nevada governor Steve Sisolak is quoted as saying.

"I've said it before and I'll say it again, the Silver State is quickly becoming the entertainment as well as the sports capital," he added.

Naturally, there are hurdles, one being that F1 bosses are said to be seeking a track layout that would include part of the legendary Strip.

One might assume that with its future yet to be officially confirmed, and competition from Miami, organisers at COTA might be concerned at the threat of another race for fear of diluting interest, but nothing could be further from the truth.

"We're already paired with Mexico City," said COTA boss Bobby Epstein. "We're a lot closer to Mexico City than Vegas would be to Miami. So I think if Vegas and Miami came in May and Mexico City and Austin come in the fall, that could be a great complement in helping it grow.

"I don't know if Vegas, Austin, Mexico City is as great a platform as splitting the four races into a two," he added.

Epstein's welcome for a potential Las Vegas race is a complete turnaround in terms of the Miami event, an event which he previously fiercely opposed.

However, that was then. Other than the fact that the Miami race will take place in May and is therefore entirely separate to the COTA event, the Circuit of the Americas previous financial woes now appear to be a thing of the past, not least courtesy of the move that saw the venue combine headline music acts with the race weekend.

"They're gonna be sold out if they're not already," he says of Miami. "I don't think we're competing for the same customer. They're different types of events. I think that will become evident over the course of time as they develop their own personality and their own character. I think there will be differences.

"Their first few years are pretty well guaranteed sell-outs," he adds, according to ESPN. "That's what we experienced. Because I think the first couple of years we did this, compared to how it is now, it's not to say those events weren't really good, but they stink compared to what we're doing now. We've learned a lot.

"Nevertheless, we sold those first two years out as people came and checked it out. So I think they'll sell for the first couple of years and then hopefully the F1 audience will have grown and they can bring Vegas on and continue to grow the sport in the U.S., because I think we're on the right path."

With this all in mind, it's easier than ever to transport vehicles from anywhere in the country (and even overseas) with companies like A-1 Auto Transport Inc who have been carefully transporting even the most expensive vehicles all around the world.

Over the course of the COTA weekend we were constantly informed that after decades of trying, F1 has finally broken into F1, big time.

Of course, the proof of this will be in the balance sheets over the coming years.

Much of the credit for the sport's increasing popularity in the US is said to stem from the Netflix series Drive to Survive, and over the course of the weekend broadcasters made much of the series' impact, while also reinforcing the various intense rivalries within the sport that the series suggests and plays upon.

Last week Netflix reported record global subscriber numbers of 213.5 million, while in September the company's CEO, Reed Hastings admitted that he would be willing to make a bid for the sport should Liberty consider selling.

Fact is, Liberty is considering selling, and has been considering selling for some time, all of which might leave some feeling that much of what we saw and heard over the weekend was a sales pitch.

Smoke and mirrors in F1 didn't end with Bernie.

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Published: 27/10/2021
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