Since Liberty Media took over F1, races returned to France and the Netherlands, with new additions in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the USGetty Images
F1’s popularity has “now soared to such an extent” that there is “more interest from new venues than there are available dates on the calendar,” according to Ian Parkes of the NY TIMES. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali said, “If we had the chance, it would be easy to fill the calendar with 30 Grands Prix. It’s not that I want to do 30 Grands Prix, but it really shows the level of interest that Formula 1 has all around the world.” However, there is currently a contract that “limits the number of races per year to 24.” This season there will be a record 23 races, with a new race in Miami in May. Next season, F1 will return to Las Vegas after a 41-year absence. Domenicali said, “It was very important to do this deal because Vegas has a global footprint, and it’s another step in the right direction of the think-big approach F1 needs to have for the future.” With three Grands Prix in the US, including one in Austin, the “next major hurdle” for F1 is a “return to Africa.” A new deal to return to Kyalami, a circuit north of Johannesburg, is “close to being completed.” Since Liberty Media took over F1, races have returned to France and the Netherlands, as well as the new additions in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the US Domenicali wants to “preserve Formula 1’s heartland in Europe, but has warned that races there have to keep pace with the rate of development of events in other countries.” Drivers and team principals “feel it is important that Formula 1 finds a balance between welcoming the new and preserving the old” (NY TIMES, 4/22).
HIT SHOW: In NY, Luke Smith writes Netflix’s “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” series has “been a hit for the sport, attracting droves of new fans by highlighting the personalities of the drivers inside the cockpit.” Red Bull driver Max Verstappen has become the “only driver to refuse to be interviewed for the series” because he thought it “faked rivalries and exaggerated incidents.” Driver rivalries are “central to the narrative of the show.” A season 3 episode featuring McLaren drivers Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz “sought to depict tension in their relationship.” However, Sainz felt it was “pushed a bit too far,” as the two are “known to be good friends.” F1 has “spoken with the producers of the show and the teams after Verstappen’s complaints.” F1 Director of Media Rights & Content Creation Ian Holmes said that the producers “need to be mindful of his concerns” and that it was “important for teams and drivers to feel comfortable participating in the series.” Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner said, “At the end of the day, it is a television show. They’re taking snippets from a season-long battle and turning that into a television program. One has to remember it is designed ultimately to entertain” (NY TIMES, 4/22).
LACK OF AMERICAN FLAVOR: In NY, Gregory Leporati writes as F1 “increases its footprint” in the US, there is “one puzzling question: Why are there no American-born drivers?” American drivers have “been virtually absent from the series over the past two decades.” The last American to race in the series was Alexander Rossi, who drove in “five unremarkable races for the now-defunct Marussia team” in ’15 before moving “full time to IndyCar.” However, fans hoping to see an F1 driver from the US “may not have to wait much longer,” as Michael Andretti in February announced that his racing organization, Andretti Autosport, had “formally launched a bid to create a Formula 1 team.” “By ’24. Andretti made it clear that the team would “prioritize signing an American driver,” something that Haas F1 Team — currently the only American-owned F1 team on the grid — has “never entertained.” F1 broadcaster and journalist Will Buxton, though, “remains on the fence” about whether an American driver would “necessarily impact Formula 1’s popularity.” Buxton said that today’s potential drivers “do not carry the same type of name recognition” as some of the US’ “previous motorsports heroes” (NY TIMES, 4/22).