Mario Andretti feels a combination of Netflix’s Drive to Survive and a younger audience have helped Formula 1 grow in America.
Since the easing of restrictions, F1 has seen tremendous growth in the United States, with the last two United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas selling out along with newer races in Miami and Las Vegas joining the calendar.
The inaugural Las Vegas GP will take place later in 2023 on November 17-18 with a Saturday night race.
“Well, all the experts are giving credit to Drive to Survive,” Andretti exclusively Total-Motorsport.com.
“I think it has awakened what was already, to me, massive support for F1; it was somewhat dormant [previously].
“But, you’ve seen a lot of the younger generation taking to it, and they created this balloon, which is wonderful to see.
“Let’s face it, F1 did suffer in years past. That started with the situation, with the tyres at Indianapolis, and then on and on.
“Even when they had some of the events on street events, like in Dallas, Phoenix, and so forth, they just didn’t work out.”
Construction of COTA a game changer for F1 in the states
Although it’s no longer the sole race in the United States, the construction of COTA, located 15 miles away from downtown Austin gave F1 fans in the states a world-class circuit they could call home.
COTA’s continued presence on the calendar also helped the sport gain fans in the country, which sowed the seeds for Liberty Media to invest in facilities for the Miami and Las Vegas GPs.
“All of a sudden, after COTA was built in Austin, you had a solid home,” said Andretti. “The interest was there because the foreseeable future was assured by having a proper facility to host F1.”
“From there were some questions about whether another race, such as Miami, so close to Texas, would be as popular, and it certainly turned out to be and exceeded all expectations.
“I think all the things are happening in the right direction here in the States at the moment, and the fact that you have this tremendous support. Austin had the biggest crowd ever, so the fact it’s growing is a great sign.
“Now, with the prospect of Las Vegas coming on this year, we’ve seen F1 making an incredible investment, thereby creating the paddock facility, which will be there for the foreseeable future.”
Sargeant will have plenty of backing.
For the first time in 16 years, America will have a full-time driver on the F1 grid as Florida’s Logan Sargeant makes his F1 debut with Williams after a successful feeder series career.
When the lights go out in Bahrain, Sargeant will become only the fourth American to race in F1 and Andretti believes the US fans will be firmly behind the Floridan.
“Logan has earned his way there quite properly,” explained Andretti. “We all wish him well, for sure. F1 is so international; there’s a lot of national pride.
“When you have a home race in the United States, many fans will look at Logan and say, okay, you’re carrying our flag, let’s see how you will do; we’ll be behind you.
“The beautiful thing about F1 is it’s the Olympics of motorsports because of its international flavour. So there’s a lot of pride for any driver to perform well at their home Grand Prix.
“I look at myself when I look back how fortunate I’ve been to win my home Grand Prix and also my native Grand Prix, so these are some of the things that stay with you the rest of your life.”