Miami’s proposed F1 street race

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Formula One has confirmed it is on the verge of securing a street race around the city of Miami for 2019. Here we explain everything you need to know about Miami’s upcoming vote on the race and the wider implications for F1’s calendar and its existing races.

Why Miami?

Miami ticks several boxes for F1’s American owners. It’s a “destination city” — an iconic one at that — on the east coast of its home nation, which also happens to be one of the biggest sport’s markets in the world. Races in New York and Las Vegas have also been mooted in recent years but Miami’s proposal is currently the most advanced.

What is the next step towards a race being confirmed?

The Miami City Commission is due for a vote on May 10. This will ultimately be the key in deciding whether a race goes ahead — the city has the blessing of F1, so a ‘yes’ vote would appear to be all that is required at this stage for Miami to join the calendar.

Who is behind the bid?

Stephen Ross, the owner of the Miami Dolphins, was the man named in Formula One’s original statement about the race. Ross said: “From football and soccer to tennis and motorsports, Miami deserves only the best in music, food, art, fashion, and sports and entertainment, and that is exactly what we plan on delivering with a Formula One race.”

How long would the deal be for?

According to the proposal being voted on next week, the deal will run for 10 years.

What would a Miami Grand Prix look like?

The race proposal centres around the south of the city, in the Biscayne Bay area. City councillor Ken Russell has shared a view of the proposed layout of the street circuit, which runs around the American Airways Arena — home of the NBA’s Miami Heat — and past the city’s Freedom Tower, before going across the harbour and doubling back towards downtown.

Has Miami hosted a motor race before?

Yes. In March 2015 it hosted its one and only Formula E event on a circuit similar to the one outlined above, albeit without crossing over the bridge. That configuration was also similar to the one used to host CART’s Grand Prix of Miami in 1995. But the Grand Prix of Miami name is more synonymous with an oval circuit in Homstead, Florida, which hosted CART/Indy Racing League events between 1996 and 2010.

When was the last street race held in the U.S.?

Before its current stint at Austin’s Circuit of the Americas, and the previous one at Indianapolis, the U.S. Grand Prix was held on the Phoenix street circuit between 1989 and 1991. That race replaced the Detroit Grand Prix, which ran between 1982 and 1988, held around the streets of the Michigan city.

California also hosted a street race at Long Beach between 1976 and 1983, while Las Vegas was the venue of the infamous Caesers Palace Grand Prix — held in a car park behind the city’s most famous hotel — in 1981 and 1982.

Why is F1 so determined to expand in America?

At the start of 2017 American company Liberty Media completed its takeover of Formula One. Since then the sport’s bosses, chairman Chase Carey and commercial chief Sean Bratches, have made little secret of the desire to have multiple races on home soil. Expanding in the United States is not a dream exclusively held by Liberty Media — former boss Bernie Ecclestone, who presided over the sport for more than 40 years, spent much of his time in charge trying to crack America.

F1 management is convinced there is potential for big growth in America, but its national racing scene is dominated by NASCAR and IndyCar, while the wider sporting scene is saturated by NFL, NBA and MLB. Carey has criticised the short-term view taken by Ecclestone in regards to U.S. races and believes an aggressive approach to the American market goes hand-in-hand with the identical mindset Liberty has adopted for social media and fan engagement.

Last year, Carey told ESPN: “Adding a destination event in a city like New York, Miami or Las Vegas; that raises the profile and helps people engage. Doing more online, so people can get closer to the sport; realistically at the core that is engaging fans and it’s engaging in different ways.”

What would Miami mean for the future of Austin’s race?

It is hard to imagine F1 letting one U.S. race drop off the calendar just as it found another one to add to it. COTA’s contract runs until 2022 and last year’s race featured the most elaborate of F1’s new fan-friendly initiatives — including an appearance from sprinting legend Usain Bolt and boxing announcer Michael Buffer’s driver introductions — as Liberty Media pulled out all the stops to ensure a memorable debut home race.

After several years of disappointing ticket sales and uncertainty over local government funding, COTA’s future appears safer. Attendances saw a boost in 2016 and 2017 with concerts for Taylor Swift and Justin Timberlake, a practice which looks set to continue in 2018 and beyond.

That then leaves the question — where would Miami fit in? The proposed race date of October would also see it added to a month already crowded with races and which traditionally finishes with the Austin-Mexico City double header. Turning that into a triple-header is not out of the question, but finding a space after the awkward Singapore-Russia-Japan leg will be a challenge.

Would a Miami race put any existing circuits at risk?

Some initial reports this week suggested Azerbaijan’s Baku City Circuit could make way for Miami, but sources have told ESPN this is not the case. Baku would be an odd candidate to drop off the calendar; it has seven years left on its deal but later this year can trigger a break clause so that the contract would be up for renewal after the 2020 race. Either party would risk high costs to terminate the contract before then.

The circuits which do seem to be more at risk would be Germany’s Hockenheim, Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps and Japan’s Suzuka circuits. All three have contracts expiring at the end of the current year. Given F1’s recent history of cancelled German races, Hockenheim would appear to be the most vulnerable.

F1 would risk a huge backlash if it dropped a venue as iconic as Spa-Francorchamps after all the talk of trying to preserve the sport’s historic races, while Honda’s backing of Suzuka should be enough to keep it on the grid for another contract cycle at least.

Will there be any other new races in 2019?

It seems increasingly likely a Vietnamese Grand Prix, held in the city of Hanoi, will also join the calendar for next year. If both Hanoi and Miami are added for 2019, F1 will either face the prospect of holding an unprecedented 23-race calendar (which is likely to create a logistical headache for teams already stretched by the existing 21 races) or be forced to cut one or more from the existing bunch. This increases the pressure on the races listed above.

Liberty Media has previously talked up the possibility of expanding to as many as 25 races a year, but this has been an unpopular suggestion to many teams. Regardless of whether other races disappear or not, F1 bosses face a challenge making sense of next year’s schedule as it looks to expand to new venues.





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