The eulogies were all written after the Miami Grand Prix – here lies F1 in America, 2012-2023. It had a good run, but the bubble has burst, viewership is on the wane, back to the nomadic lifestyle of the previous 60 years.
The cause of this supposed cataclysm? TV ratings for the race were down 24 percent from the previous year’s edition which, combined with general fan apathy towards yet more Max Verstappen dominance.
However, we’ve now seen all three of this season’s races in the country after the 2023 United States and Las Vegas Grand Prix just a month apart, so how is that bearing out?
Mixed signals on 2023 US races
Zak Brown was bullish in Austin. The McLaren CEO was speaking at the Circuit of the Americas, F1‘s stronghold in the world’s biggest economy for over a decade now and the seed that allowed the glitz and glamour of Las Vegas and Miami to even be possible.
Yet despite an entertaining weekend in Texas, it was Sin City that provided the best action on the track as well as off it.
The sold-out Las Vegas GP was a qualified success for F1, Liberty navigating the hiccups to find its own Monaco in the Nevada desert and an event that’s likely to be a centrepiece for their vision over the next decade at least.
The weekend brought an estimated $1.2 billion to the local economy – slightly down on forecasts but still a massive impact – and the charms of the simplistic yet spellbinding Strip Circuit won over the majority of F1 fans too. Provided they didn’t just have Thursday tickets.
The TV ratings for Las Vegas haven’t been released yet but will make for interesting viewing given the 2023 United States GP actually saw a dip from 12 months ago.
Down from 1.34 million in 2022 to 1.17 million this time around, it’s even further away than the event’s 2021 peak of 1.41 million, despite the sport’s TV audience as a whole growing significantly between the two seasons.
Hopefully that’s not indicative of wider apathy towards what’s always a fantastic event in Texas, but there was also a drop in circuit attendance.
“I think F1 is going to continue to grow,” Brown told the media in Austin. “Our TV ratings, we have a new television partner. There’s of course the Brad Pitt movie coming out next year, which will be global but will no doubt have big impact here in North America.
“So I don’t see any reasons why the sport can’t just go from strength to strength and if you look at the size of our TV ratings, compared to the major sports in North America, there’s a lot of room for growth.
“So I’m quite bullish on Formula 1 globally and specifically in North America, there’s a lot of room for growth.”
Where does the US go next?
Time will tell, but after over a decade of pushing for expansion in North America, F1‘s entering a period of consolidation. The true test will be how F1‘s popularity measures up to 2021 when there is a real title battle, because the mood around Las Vegas and Austin appears to be a positive step even if the numbers don’t fully back that up.
And Brown had an interesting response when asked whether the United States could expand even further, with a New York Grand Prix always just over the horizon.
“I think the US could,” Brown added. “But I don’t think the Formula 1 calendar can.
“Or you wouldn’t want to add a fourth race to the detriment of another part of the world. I still would love to see us in India and South Africa and another race in Asia, etc.
“So we don’t need a fourth race here and I think that would compromise some other territory where Formula 1 can continue to grow. If we look at Americas, Canada, Mexico, Brazil here I think we’re in great shape.”