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Circuit of the Americas Is Formula 1’s True Home in the U.S.

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Photo: JIM WATSON/AFP (Getty Images)

With its skyrocketing popularity in the United States, Formula 1 is more poised than ever to take advantage of the diverse audiences this country has to offer. Last weekend’s race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, though, proved one thing: The sport needs to preserve its proper racing heritage in the U.S.

This year brought the introduction of the Miami Grand Prix, and 2023 will see the addition of Las Vegas to the F1 calendar. Three races in the country could seem like overkill — especially considering the fact that Miami and Vegas are both street races designed to highlight the destination, not the racing. The atmosphere at the track was unmistakably keen on racing.

“Miami was a party,” Cristiano Fiorio, leader of the Alfa Romeo F1 team, told me during the United States Grand Prix weekend. “Vegas is a show. Here, we race.”

That vibe was present throughout the weekend. The sprawling grounds at COTA were packed with fans as early as Friday morning, everyone taking advantage of the festival atmosphere and the countless stands of F1-related merchandise, and it all felt so distinctly different from May’s race in Miami.

There are legitimate reasons why F1 is using two of its races in America as essentially massive promotions of glitz and glamor, but it does leave out the folks who can’t shell out thousands for a sport.

I’ve written about the way F1 has approached its American races before, but the sport seems to perceive this country more as a money-making opportunity than a legitimate sporting destination. Even in the past, F1 hosting multiple events in America generally featured one event for the diehard race fan and others designed to attract and milk a few extra dollars out of a new audience. It has never quite understood that the American race fan just needs a damn good venue that folks can (mostly) afford.

While on-site this year, I talked to some wonderful fans who were at their first race ever, despite being fans for over a decade. I talked to others who found the sport through Drive to Survive and wanted to experience an event in person. I talked to still others who have attended the United States Grand Prix at several of its different venues. These are the people that COTA attracts, the ones that a Miami or a Las Vegas may simply overlook because they’re not the highest spenders or the biggest celebrities. These are the American fans that F1 should be seeking, and at COTA, they have their home.

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