Column: Miami ready to showcase the glitz and glamor of F1
Post Malone asked to play on Saturday, wanting race day to be free so he could celebrate at this year’s most anticipated sporting event.
Formula 1, one of the hottest entertainment properties in the world right now, roars in Miami this weekend as “Drive to Survive” hits South Beach. The first Miami Grand Prix is here and ready to dazzle an American audience who finally caught wind of the glamorous, globe-trotting series.
It was mostly NASCAR around those areas for the past two decades. IndyCar goes up and down. F1 is so far away, on TV at the hardest times for sleep, and so much glitzier than anything the American racing fan can afford or relate to.
F1 races in Australia and Azerbaijan, Monza and Monaco, Singapore and Saudi Arabia. Its riders face moral dilemmas when racing in countries with questionable human rights records and deplorable restrictions. A missile hit an oil refinery in March during F1 practice in Saudi Arabia and the drivers drove on as flames and smoke billowed into the sky several miles away.. They ran the next day.
And while it’s so different from what American racing fans are used to, Netflix and its behind-the-scenes docuseries have won over a new audience. Tom Garfinkel, Vice President of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium, is co-owner of the Miami Race. He started racing after a second F1 stop in the United States – alongside Texas – in 2017.
What was finally created was a three-day event – five if you count the parties leading up to the events – which is the highest-profile Hard Rock stage in quite some time. The cheapest entry point was a Friday general admission pass for $300, and the suites never even went on sale to the public because Garfinkel had over 5,000 deposits of $5,000 each through early investigations.
The United States went four years without F1 racing after the series withdrew from Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2007. The series was revived in 2012 in Austin, Texas, and the explosion of ‘Drive To Survive’ helped this race turn into a three-day race. festival which last year attracted more than 300,000 people.
Garfinfkel’s group capped the Miami International Speedway’s capacity at 85,000 so those “on campus” can really get a taste of that fabulous life captured on the Netflix show. It was originally hoped that the track would be built in downtown Miami, but it was replanted 15 miles north to incorporate Hard Rock Stadium.
South Beach will be open all night and the F1 campus will be the place to be during a busy week that also features two Miami Heat and Florida Panthers playoff games each in the area.
The “campus” which includes an artificial beach and a marina. If Post Malone goes, for example, to the Yacht Club to watch the race, anyone with a campus pass can follow him to the first floor. There’s a VIP experience on the third floor, and Garfinkel has created an exclusive playground filled with F1 sexiness that has caught America’s attention.
“Celebrity dating is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” Garfinkel said in an interview with The Associated Press. “It’s the Grammys meets the Oscars meets the ESPYs meets the Allen & Co. event,” he said of the annual Billionaires Summer Retreat.
“They are CEOs, artists, famous athletes, private equity, real estate and industry executives,” he said. “Miami is a cultural curator for a lot of things – art, food, it’s the center of hospitality – and we expect people to enjoy all of that while looking at the highest form highest level of motorsport in the world.”
Garfinkel’s roots in motorsport date back to his early days as executive vice president of Chip Ganassi Racing. He was a co-owner of a NASCAR team when he was CEO of a team in Major League Baseball, and now he runs the sports properties of billionaire Stephen Ross. Their vision for Hard Rock was to make the home of the Dolphins a global stadium, and as Garfinkel chases the 2026 World Cup matches, he’ll clear a major goal on his slate with Sunday’s run.
Miami is pushing the United States to two events in one F1 calendar season and a 2023 Las Vegas night race on the Strip was announced in March, increasing the upcoming calendar to three stops in the United States.
More than half of the IndyCar paddock was heading to Miami this weekend, including Pato O’Ward, a Mexican resident of Texas who will celebrate his 23rd birthday as a McLaren ambassador and pick up a win on Sunday.
Former F1 driver Romain Grosjean, now a Miami-area resident, is a racing ambassador, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves lives in Ft. Lauderdale and Indy winner Alexander Rossi 500 the year he moved from F1 to IndyCar, will be there with his fellow competitors as a fan.
“I’m just excited for Formula 1 and America. There have been several races in the United States for a long time; it’s a big country and there’s no reason not to have three” , Rossi said, “There are going to be a lot of rookies there and I think they are going to be treated to an amazing show.”
That was the idea behind this weekend’s final product. Initial interest lists garnered 300,000 names of interested ticket buyers, but capping the number, the freshman event has strong demand on secondary market venues; a pair of start/finish line seats cost just under $14,000 each.
F1 is hot and Miami is ready to show that it can keep pace with cars screaming at 198 miles per hour (318.65 km/h) around concerts and beach partying and champagne from yachts at inside the marina.
“We have a lot of high-end hospitality and luxury suites and people are spending a lot of money on very high-end tickets,” Garfinkel said. “We wanted to make sure it was a fantastic experience. Open the map. You want to go to North Campus and eat Harry’s pizza? Do you want to take a gondola ride to the racecourse? Do you want to go see the yachts or the DJ’s? People are going to be able to experience the racetrack from different places in different places, that’s what we tried to create.
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