F1 Festival, Miami, 2018

The less obvious reasons why Miami matters so much to F1

2021 F1 season

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Having long beavered away after being serially rebuffed, Formula 1’s commercial rights holder Liberty Media has reached an “agreement in principle” for a grand prix in Miami.

If “in principle” gets transformed into practice, the 2021 F1 season will feature two rounds in America, which in itself is no given if the PR activity on the race’s social media feeds is any indication.

Why, though, the insistence on Miami in the first place? After all, the Land of the Automobile offers numerous potential venues if the price fits, and the word is that the Miami Grand Prix attracts minimal hosting fees at best.

Furthermore, why F1’s insistence on negotiating with the owners of the Miami Dolphins NFL franchise despite numerous setbacks? Finally, why a May date when that month is packed with European races – three in 2020?

Ever since Miami was first mooted as F1’s second US host, folk have linked the Dolphins tie-up to a key date, namely September 2016, when Liberty was in the final throes of making a final offer for the sport’s commercial rights.

While paddock speculation then had it that the media company had sealed the deal for the remainder of F1’s commercial rights lease, Donald Mackenzie, boss of F1’s then-owner CVC Capital Partners, let it be known that another entity was still in the running.

That company was said to be RSE Ventures, an investment firm controlled by Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who had submitted a bid in conjunction with a Qatari sovereign wealth fund-backed consortium and an unnamed private equity firm. The net effect is that RSE’s interest upped the ante, in effect causing the price to spiral much to Liberty’s dismay.

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The obvious solution was for Liberty to persuade RSE to drop its interest in F1, with the payoff believed to be the hosting rights to a Miami Grand Prix on a profit-sharing basis (with Liberty). Once the profit-share deal entered the public arena, existing promoters demanded similar treatment.

Planned Hard Rock Stadium F1 circuit for 2021 Miami Grand Prix
The planned Hard Rock Stadium F1 circuit layout
Although said demands were largely thwarted, the net result was pressure on hosting fees. Still, RSE’s withdrawal is said to have saved Liberty a packet and gained it a race in the USA, with CVC being the overall loser.

Another surprising aspect to the announcement is the suggested May 2021 date for the inaugural race, for this points to two Atlantic crossings in as many months given that Canada’s round is generally staged in June, a fortnight after the Monaco Grand Prix.

Clearly, then, Liberty hopes to persuade the principality to move the race forward from its traditional Ascension Day long-weekend slot, enabling Miami to be twinned with Montreal

Intriguingly, Monaco’s contract also expires after 2020, and given its zero-fee status one wonders whether Liberty hopes to exert some form of pressure on the Automobile Club de Monte Carlo to accept an earlier date – and perhaps also drop its wasteful Wednesday-Sunday format in the process – in return for retaining its bargain basement status.

This, however, raises further questions, particularly about the future of the Spanish Grand Prix. Not only does the Catalan round have a mid-May 2020 date, but it only secured a one-year deal for next season at the 11th hour. The obvious question is: having been close to extinction his year, will Spain’s race disappear after 2020?

Either way, if Formula 1 does in fact crisscross the Atlantic four times in the course of a single season – once each for Miami, Montreal, Austin/Mexico and Brazil – another hike in air miles would make a mockery of the sustainability project which is said it will launch by year-end. All that waste for arguably amounts to a vanity race on Liberty’s home ground.

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55 comments on “The less obvious reasons why Miami matters so much to F1”

  1. As far as the idea of moving Monaco forward to accommodate Miami goes, surely they wouldn’t be stupid enough to try hosting Miami on Monaco’s weekend. Its not just Ascension Day weekend, but memorial Day also. US Motorsport is…rather preoccupied that weekend. The last Sunday in May for a Miami Grand prix wound be beyond stupid commercially for everyone involved.

    Surely is Baku that moves? That’s a key change for next year. Monaco and Canada are 3 weeks apart for the first time in ages. So logically Miami should go 2 weeks after Monaco as a back to back with Canada?

    But that’s first weekend of June not May. How required is ‘literally’ May in these negotiations, as opposed to roughly May?

    Also where to for Baku then?

    1. Those are good points Hosford90, and indeed I also cannot see an F1 race being a big draw on memorial Day in the US.

    2. I think you misunderstood the idea there Hosfor90 – I got it that the idea is to move Monaco so that they can put Canada on the weekend the Monaco GP is normally held instead of after that instead of having Miamo on the Memorial Day weekend.

  2. @Hosford90 Yes, put Miami in early-June with Canada seven days later, and regarding your last question: Baku could move to September, for example. That month is more than decent there, temperature-wise. If anything, it should already be there for next season.

    1. If I had to pair another Americas round with Canada, then it would be Mexico. The weather temperatures there is more or less the same all year round, it would stop the COTA fan losses and the race start time would avoid the late afternoon rain storms there.

  3. Can Monaco. It’s useless as an actual race.

    1. Agreed, for these modern heavy-boat-like cars yes. id watch a kart race go round Monaco tho :)

      1. Monaco is such a better place to watch a race than Miami. The Miami layout makes Valencia look amazing.
        COTA is a great track. If Murica needs another GP, why not go to a real track like Barber or Road America?

  4. At 8 Billion, I’d hardly call CVC a loser. That title surely must go to the buyer at that price.

    I wonder what the actual market value of F1 would be today, orvfor that matter how one would even work it out.

    1. @dbradock, You do know that it’s a publicly traded company NASDAQ;FWONK, it has stock to trade, files financial reports quarterly and annually ?

      1. Yep, know that.

        Share price & actual value can be two very different propositions though. Pretty hard to find 8 billion worth of real assets in it.

        1. “Actual value” is share price. For publicly traded companies, you have market cap (share price aggregate) and book value (value of hard assets, more or less). Book value doesn’t really matter unless you are winding down the company and selling off those assets, since it doesn’t look forward at revenues, growth, etc.
          Market cap is the starting point for the sale of any publicly traded company, so it is going to represent “actual value.” FWONA has a market cap/value of $9.6 billion as of today, the stock at almost $40 after going public around $23. I’d say Liberty has done just fine so far.

          1. I’ll be honest I can’t totally understand everything you’re saying but I’m loving it.

        2. What do you call a real asset? As long as there is future cashflow, there will be value.

          1. A real asset is cash or something you can sell, like machines or property, future revenues mean nothing.

  5. Liberty media wants to change everything for the sake of money.

    They almost make Bernie out to be a man of norms and values…

    1. Almost.

    2. Bernie wanted to change everything for the sake of whatever was swimming around in Bernie’s noggin. At least Liberty’s endgame is clear.

      I do miss seeing him wander about the paddock though.

    3. Its like they are a publically traded For Profit company or something……..

  6. Pedro Andrade
    17th October 2019, 10:49

    I like new circuits, but at this point we are getting way too many races already… This isn’t the same thing as football or other sports in which you fly a team of 30-something people across a country or max, across a continent. You’re moving around hundreds of people and tonnes of equipment, constantly back-and-forth all over the place. Ans as fans, many of us don’t have that many weekends to devote to F1. 20 races per season, maximum, is a good number. Also, a grand prix win is supposed to be special, if you have 50 races per season it no longer is…

  7. Bruno Verrari
    17th October 2019, 11:17

    It’s Automobile Club de Monaco, Dieter – not Automobile Club de Monte Carlo.

    1. I didn’t realise the Monaco Grand Prix, organised by the Automobile Club de Monaco, was 90 years old this year. I have a vague idea that was publicised and I wasn’t paying attention.

  8. LOL! Move the Monaco date and have a US F1 race the same weekend as the Indy 500? Yeah… that’ll happen.

  9. They should move Baku in 2021 to replace Sochi on the calendar. Drop the race there which is an awful circuit.

  10. Miami in June? They’d have to hold the race fairly early in the day to avoid the afternoon thunderstorms which would result in the race being halted and the grandstands cleared. A late season race would probably be better suited to the area.

    1. Meh, 5-20 minutes of rain and clear skies to follow. Better than hosting it during Hurricane season. They would have to host it early anyway since Europe is the biggest viewing market

    2. Define late season – anything from August onwards would then have to avoid the NFL (pre)season so Mr Ross would have other sports on his mind at that point. We’ve already had one race in Austin moved to avoid the college season some years back so late season isn’t going to work when fitting the race around the NFL season.

  11. Another great article. I thought there must be something going on with Ross and Liberty. It seemed strange that they were trying so hard to put a race in Miami.

  12. GLENN MARTINEZ
    17th October 2019, 15:16

    Some more insight, Memorial Day Weekend in Miami is traditionally been known as Urban Week here in Miami. South Beach is full of tourist and all hotels are booked full years in advance. There are many Hip-Hop performers that fill up the night clubs and have exclusive club performances that draw in the Hip-Hop Enthusiasts from around the country. Trying to put a race during this week would lead to not enough Hotel Rooms to accommodate everyone and an interesting mix of people from all walks of live on South Beach during the weekend.
    Although City commissioners have been trying to drive out the Hip-hop Stigma from Memorial Day Weekend for a couple of years now, so if they struck a deal where F1 gets a block of hotels that would supplant the existing Hip Hop Crowd with Wealthy World Travelers, the City Commission might want to insert themselves right into Memorial Day weekend.
    Personally I would like to see the Race either the second or Third Weekend of May. Weather is great during that time and the F1 Crowd can experience the best that Miami has to offer.

    1. Memorial Day Weekend is the Indy 500, not much else to say

  13. Dave (@davewillisporter)
    17th October 2019, 16:28

    The local residents in the Miami Gardens area do not want this. Lots of protests and town halls.

    1. Lots of F1 fans don’t want this either. Liberty should make more of COTA, it is a great track.

  14. Irrespective of whether Miami gets a place in the calendar, something i could not understand over the years that i watch F1, is why the Canadian GP is scheduled in early June as a single overseas trip and then back to Europe for the rest of the summer.
    Wouldn’t make more sense to have most of the Asian rounds around March-April (like we do now), then have all the European rounds from May till August, and once the summer break has ended, at the start of September all the North American rounds (i mean Montreal can’t be THAT cold on the first week of September…). After that, on October maybe a Singapore-Japan back-to-back and closing the season in Brazil and Abu Dhabi (hopefully the latter gets dropped in favor of another South American round, namely Argentina).
    And if Miami gets a spot on the calendar, it would fit just after the ‘new’ Canada date, early-middle September.

    1. @black

      Montreal isn’t significantly further from the UK than Baku or Sochi.

    2. Miami in September is just asking for Hurricanes to destroy a Grand Prix weekend.

      1. @Dave Baku can be held back-to-back with Bahrain or Russia around April or May based on proximity. Canada on June on the other hand is a single trip across the Atlantic for no reason.

        @Darron Ok maybe then we have Canada – Austin – Mexico – Miami, meaning Miami is around early October. I don’t know how far into autumn hurricane season lasts, but early October seems ok to stage the GP i guess.

        1. Having Mexico City, Austin and Miami in the same quarter would split the ticket sales all of these venues, and would work against the hype that Liberty is going for.

        2. Hurricane season extends into late October

        3. I personally would have Montréal right after Monza, and move Singapore to Brazil’s current slot.

          1. Australia (February 28)
          2. Vietnam (March 7)
          3. Bahrain (March 21)
          4. China (April 5)
          5. Japan (April 12)
          6. France (April 26)
          7. Azerbaijan (May 10)
          8. Monaco (May 24)
          9. Hungary (June 8)
          10. Austria (June 22)
          11. Holland (June 29)
          12. Britain (July 13)
          13. Germany (July 27)
          14. Russia (Igora) (August 3)
          15. Belgium (August 31)
          16. Italy (September 7)
          17. Canada (September 21)
          18. Mexico (September 28)
          19. Brazil (October 12)
          20. USA (Austin) (October 26)
          21. USA (Miami) (November 2)
          22. Singapore (November 16)
          23. Abu Dhabi (November 30)

          1. Actually (to remove the clash with the Dutch TT):

            Belgium (June 29)
            Britain (July 13)
            Germany (July 27)
            Russia (August 3)
            Holland (August 31)

    3. F1 back in the day used to have the Canadian GP 2 weeks after Monza, which is pretty much the end of decent weather in Montreal. The first weekend of October is when it drops below 60F (16C)

      1. It snowed the first year of the CDN GP in Montreal in Oct

  15. Kent Phillips
    18th October 2019, 3:06

    Too many races on the calendar as it is. The ICE (internal combustion engine) is going to go away in the automotive manufacturers’ world sooner than later. Costs are not being controlled as we add more races and more technology.

    Go backwards. Get rid of hybrid technology. Get rid of DRS, fancy aero, turbo- and supercharging, and that awful looking halo that will stop a wheel but not much else. Oh, and lets get away from the engineering and manufacturing exercise that F1 has become and get back to having a DRIVERS’ championship, where any team with any driver could win on any given Sunday. Relegate manufacturers to the role of powertrain supplier, if they so choose to participate. Use a basic chassis design with limited space for development. Run a normally aspirated V8 at 18,000 rpm to bring back the exotic, screeching sound we miss. Keep some traditional races and rotate the rest: somewhere between 15 and 20 races seems right. Refuelling would be a nice touch. A power-to-weight formula? My thoughts…

    1. This sounds like Indycar.

    2. “Get rid of………that awful looking halo that will stop a wheel but not much else.”

      Ummmm stopping a wheel alone is more than worth it. It deflected a wheel on a another car from hitting someone’s head already. (Can’t remember whether it was this year or last year’s race.)

      Also get rid of supercharging? Done since you know, there’s no supercharging in F1………

  16. roberto giacometti
    18th October 2019, 6:20

    Why Miami??
    So that all the moolah from the cocaina can be laundered bro !!!!

    1. +1, How do you spell Dade county? : C O R R U P T I O N.

  17. Who sets the prices for entry to the Grand Prix’s. We went to the Spanish GP this year and it was cheaper to fly out and attend all three days than attend Silverstone. That’s including flights, all inclusive hotel for a week and daily transfer to the circuit. Facilities were far superior as well.

  18. From the link on the racefans homepage:

    Miami has obvious appeal but why has Formula 1 been so desperate to locate a race in the USA’s sixth-biggest city, asks Dieter Rencken.

    Miami isn’t the 6th biggest US city by population. It’s the 40th.

    1. It may be so, but it is #5 on the most corrupted city in America and the shenanigan described by Dieter all fit the “Profile” of my next door neighbor city. Ever wonder why, Imsa, Indy, formula E etc never went back after one year? : to many pockets open, not enough money to fill them all.

    2. The city itself is the 40th largest but the metro area (Miami/Ft Lauderdale/Palm Beach) is the 6th largest in the country, with 6.8 million.

  19. Tim Wood (@GPAmericas)
    19th October 2019, 18:05

    if Formula 1 does in fact crisscross the Atlantic four times in the course of a single season – once each for Miami, Montreal, Austin/Mexico and Brazil

    Isn’t that 3 crisscrosses of the Atlantic? Maybe I’m not seeing it.

  20. Having more than one US Grand Prix is a huge mistake. This is supposed to be a “world” event. These drivers, popping around the world racing in different conditions and exposing the rest of the world to what makes each country special. Having more than one race in the US sends the false message that the US is somehow “special” or “better” than other countries. This is categorically false in every way. What happens when China or Russia take offense to this and demand a second race there? There needs to be ONE race per country. Period.

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