Las Vegas, March 31, 2022 — It’s been 40 years since Formula One last ventured into Sin City for back-to-back Las Vegas races staged in the parking lot of the Caesars Palace hotel.
The European-headquartered series raced in Las Vegas in 1981 and 1982, then packed up with little incentive to return. Then came new ownership, slick marketing, a Netflix docuseries and a historic championship battle that all helped F1 explode in popularity throughout the United States.
The U.S. will be the only country on the 2023 calendar to host three F1 races in one season following Wednesday’s announcement of a Saturday night race down the famed Las Vegas Strip. F1 has raced at Circuit of the America’s in Austin, Texas, since 2012, and in May it will make its debut in Miami.
Barring any surprises, existing races in Mexico City and Montreal will bring F1 to North America five times next season.
Is it too much for one market?
Bobby Epstein, president of COTA, believes there’s enough interest to sustain three U.S. races. He could barely draw 100,000 spectators over a three-day weekend five years ago; COTA had more than 300,000 last year and is already sold out for its October race.
F1′s first race in Miami this May sold out in one day.
“Before we opened, there was very little interest or awareness in America about Formula One because they had no presence here,” Epstein told The Associated Press. “The first few years, it’s hard to know if you have a bright new shiny object or you have something that people really love and come back for and aren’t just curious about.
“What you can’t buy is history and you can’t buy tradition. You have to make it and earn it. The crowds here have told us we’re absolutely doing something right.”
NASCAR is the top U.S. series and already races 13 miles away from The Strip at the oval at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. NASCAR last week made its second appearance at COTA.
IndyCar is the American version of F1 and the most diverse series in the world with its mix of road and street courses, as well as ovals. But the open-wheel series has never challenged F1, even as European drivers are now migrating to IndyCar.
F1 didn’t much focus on the U.S. until Liberty Media Corp. bought the rights to the series in 2017. The American company has since targeted U.S. expansion and received a massive boost from the Netflix docuseries “Drive To Survive.”
Season four dropped ahead of the F1 season opener this month and Netflix said the behind-the-velvet rope peek inside the series ranked No. 1 in 33 countries its opening weekend. ESPN, meanwhile, said viewership for Sunday’s race in Saudi Arabia broke the week-old record for the network and was ESPN’s largest F1 audience since 1995. – AP