Liberty Media's promise that it would increase F1's profile in the US has proved true so far, with two new venues in as many years.
Miami was declared a resounding success, artificial beaches and all, and from that we can surmise that Vegas will probably go down a treat, too. But fans in California want to know what happened to all the talk of taking F1 to Long Beach.
An iconic track with a proud history
Racing enthusiasts in California must be a little frustrated to see F1 administrators going to such extraordinary lengths designing new street circuits when they have one that’s tried and tested in Long Beach. Today, we are familiar with the street circuit being used in Indycar, but between 1976 and 1983, it hosted the annual US Grand Prix. Among the legendary names to have won at this legendary track are Mario Andretti, Nicki Lauda and Gilles Villeneuve. How we would love to see the likes of Max Verstappen, Lewis Hamilton and Charles LeClerc added to that illustrious list!
California's restrictive sports betting laws could prove to be a fly in the ointment, and will certainly be a factor in the decision making. F1 is one of the world’s most popular sports for betting and millions are wagered on every race and on the overall championship. Yes, California online gambling is possible via offshore providers, but the situation is a workaround until such time as state lawmakers vote for reform.
The other potential issue is a financial one. Long Beach pays about $2m to host an Indycar race. Just how much it would have to stump up for F1 depends on several factors, but would certainly be more. Just to give it a little context, in 2021, Baku agreed to pay $55 million to host the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in 2022, 2023 and 2024. Long Beach would not be expected to pay that much, but it would probably be in the $5 -10 million range per race.
A competitive market
The other obstacle is that F1 can only fit so many races into one season. The Circuit of the Americas has renewed its contract and will definitely be on the calendar till 2026. Miami signed an historic 10-year deal last year. As for Las Vegas, F1 has just invested $240 million in a 39 acre plot and is now busy working with designers on the track, pit complex, paddocks and supporting infrastructure. Liberty Media has not shared its projections regarding total cost, but it will not be cheap.
Realistically, a fourth US race seems improbable with so many other countries eager to spend big money on hosting races. These include China and Vietnam - also, Russia will return to the international fold in time. It means Long Beach’s best hope is to put in a bid for 2027 with a view to edging out Austin. In the meantime, however, California race fans can comfort themselves that as commentator Murray Walker used to say, "Anything can happen in Formula 1 - after all, F1 is IF spelt backwards!"