Packed US Grand Prix tipped to be “biggest F1 event in history”

2021 United States Grand Prix

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The Circuit of the Americas is predicted to welcome the largest ever three-day crowd for an F1 race weekend at the United States Grand Prix.

Six-figure attendances are expected on all three days of action in Austin. “They’re telling me it’s the biggest F1 event in history,” the track’s chairman Bobby Epstein told RaceFans.

Ticket sales indicated around 120,000 fans came to the track yesterday for F1’s two practice sessions. A similar figure is expected today and 20,000 further tickets have been sold for Sunday.

The British Grand Prix previously held the title of most-attended three-day F1 event, with 351,000 fans coming to its event in 2019. The 380,000 attendance projected for COTA would therefore be a new record.

Epstein said the United States Grand Prix may well have the most attendees of any event across the globe since the Covid-19 pandemic began.

“I think it’s the biggest sporting event in the US in a long time,” he said. “I think it’s the biggest sporting event in the world right now, given the Olympics weren’t able to have crowds, unfortunately.”

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown praised the gains F1 has made in America. “The crowds are phenomenal,” he said in yesterday’s FIA press conference, “the city is buzzing.”

“We’re not quite yet back to normal – hence the mask – but it certainly feels like a giant step forward. Formula 1 is best consumed with hundreds of thousands of people at the facility, and that’s what we have here, so really pleased to see the excitement in the city.”

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2021 United States Grand Prix

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Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...
Hazel Southwell
Hazel is a motorsport and automotive journalist with a particular interest in hybrid systems, electrification, batteries and new fuel technologies....

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30 comments on “Packed US Grand Prix tipped to be “biggest F1 event in history””

  1. What … And they are going to do this without a “Sprint Qualifying Race”.????
    How can that be.?

    1. Now we know where one of next year’s sprint qualifying races will be.

  2. Very impressive achievement from COTA. Shows just how much F1 is gaining popularity in the USA. I wonder exactly how much IndyCar and NASCAR are suffering as a result (if at all).

    1. Indycar is also growing very fast. NASCAR is the only one losing fans and ratings right now. Indycar is looking to have the biggest car count in decades next year and the ratings have been up by a lot all year long. Some by almost 30%

      1. Nascar has the worse management in sports history aside from when Trump tanked the usfl

  3. Only a matter of time before all European race starts are pushed back 2 hours to accomodate the US. This also all but confirms Vegas in 2023.

    1. Hope this doesn’t happen.
      In a twisted sort of way, I rather like getting up before 6:00 am to watch races. Gotta luv living on the Wet Coast of NA.
      House is quiet, hound still asleep, you can watch the race, get breakfast, finish with coffee and start your day with a spring in you’re step, all by 8:30 am.
      Vegas … sounds like Road-Trip.

      1. @rekibsn It’s a great feeling, probably not great economically for any sport. My favourite Champions League matches are not the ones spent in a bar in Europe, but instead on a quiet sofa in West Australia. Quietly getting up at 4.30am, putting a small lamp on in the living room, keeping the dog quiet, making a big mug of tea, and trying not to get too excited and shout at the screen. The sunrises and you start the day on a high.

        The most exciting grand prix I’ve ever watched was Adelaide 94′, my dad waking me up after promising mum he wouldn’t. I stumbled down the stairs all sleepy to a big bottle of Coke (we never had ‘pop’ in the house) and chocolate, we watched Schumacher and Hill collide in near silence for fear of waking the rest of the house. I feel in love with F1 that morning.

        Sometimes the sneaky early morning hours are the best. Not big crowds or friends, but pyjamas and trying to keep the dog calm whilst the sunrises behind the action on screen.

        1. @rekibsn @bernasaurus I would probably get irritated if I had to your F1-routine every race weekend but I do enjoy those rare times when it happens. Australian GP usually starts around 5 AM my time and GP’s like China, Japan and Malaysia (R.I.P.) were a bit later but still relatively early. It was always good fun and a nice change to the usual schedule.

          The only difference is I already had beer in hand at that time instead of Coke or tea.

          1. @huhhii I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had a cheeky 5am beer or wine in more recent times. All the more reason to keep quiet!

      2. Apologies. I just pressed the report button by mistake.

        Yes, I would expect a lot of folks in US find the early hours more convenient. I’d say the same for myself when we have the early Australian GP and Suzuka or late evening Canada, Brazil and COTA. Still the 3:00 PM race is classic especially if you watch it with friends or visit the event ;)

      3. As a fellow Westcoaster I dont necessarily disagree but I could use at least one hour to watch an hour of pre-race and get the kidos ready to go.

        Having said that, a 6-8 am starting time for CST to PDT will always limit the growth of F1 in the US and I think Liberty has probably already realized this. It makes no sense to give a country 3 races a year where the vast majority of the other races start before most people wake up.

    2. Miami and Austin are enough. No need for a third one.

      1. Austin contract is still pending for 2022, so I think there’s a chance for Miami and Vegas only. Austin cannot handle this many people – I was at COTA this weekend and there was not one aspect of it that wasn’t a mess.

    3. some racing fan
      23rd October 2021, 23:30

      The races in Long Beach, Vegas and Phoenix all back in the day started at noon local time, which is 8pm UK time and 9 pm Western Euro time. What’s wrong with starting the races at noon?

      1. some racing fan
        23rd October 2021, 23:40

        Also I don’t think the European races will be pushed back to start at noon- that doesn’t make any sense.

  4. I’m here for the weekend and it’s very badly organised. Both parking and the shuttle service (all paid for in advance at sizeable expense) were appalling yesterday; taking some people 2.5 hours to leave after final practice. COTA doesn’t seem to be set up for the number of tickets they’ve sold. Once inside it’s great fun and a good atmosphere, but arriving and leaving is a an absolute joke.

    I’ve been to a number of races but feel increasingly ripped off each time. It can be such good fun, but with travel, accommodation, tickets, food, drink, parking etc. it does leave a slightly sour taste. All that said, I knew what I was signing up for and I keep coming back for more…!

    Looking forward to a great race tomorrow!

    1. some racing fan
      23rd October 2021, 23:38

      I went for the 2019 race, and yes the shuttle was ludicrously expensive- I managed to sneak on with an already used ticket twice, and on Friday morning it was 38 degrees F. There weren’t as many people at this race as there are this year (although I was surprised at how many people from Europe, the Middle East and Oceania there were there- flying to Austin from any of those places is not cheap or a short distance at all), but all in all it was a fantastic experience, and it was nice to see Hamilton win the drivers championship.

      1. Sounds like they could be expats. Oceania(Australia and New Zealand) currently ban international travel unless approved. Attending an F1 race is unlikely to be approved.

  5. I never understood this. They say “351 000 fans”. And as far as I understand those who are there all three days are counted as 3 people. It’s like saying that 24 billion people lived the last 3 days, isn’t it?

    1. But then again with that logic, if there were 150,000 people there yesterday just for practice, wouldn’t you think if those numbers continued today and tomorrow they’d be projecting at least 450,000 people? I know they sell individual tickets as well as 3 day tickets, so it’s really tough to gauge how many people bought the cheap Friday ones and won’t return the rest of the weekend, the people who bought the 3 day ones (which I’d assume count as one person), and the people who decided to buy separate tickets over multiple days so they could experience different parts of the track. I wish they’d judge the race attendance just by the Sunday numbers to simplify things!

      1. Sorry *120,000 people which would be 360k over 3 days with that counting (and that makes a bit more sense)… But if they just added each day together, I’m surprised there wouldn’t be more people only showing up for Sat or Sun

    2. They had to buy a ticket for each day and calculation is the same for other GPs. I don’t see any issues with it, this is fairly normal calculation for events that require an active purchase for each day. Most events that have multiple days usually use this type of calculation too.

      1. And I find that strange for all those events. They would not do that if the added numbers went above the population of the Earth. It is the same with YouTube view count. Journalists say “One billion people watched that video” Well, no. There were one billion views on that video.

  6. 120.000 is big but not the biggest for F1. But i guess it’s big for USA

  7. Ironically, as someone living in America I couldn’t see FP3 or Qualifying because ESPN put them on their third tier channel, ESPN News and have college football airing on ESPN and ESPN 2 instead. ESPN News requires a separate subscription in my area that I won’t pay for. So while the event may be attracting large numbers, ESPN has buried the Saturday events behind an additional pay wall beyond their normal pay wall making it even more difficult to view the race than any other round of the championship.

  8. While F1 has defo attracted more fans in the US. I would bet that a lot of Mexican fans have come to cheer Checo in his first return to North America driving for Red Bull. Mexico race is going to be mental.

    1. some racing fan
      24th October 2021, 7:37

      I completely agree. We may actually see something like a repeat of the 1970 race- when the Pedro Rodriguez fever was so high that the race had to be delayed because people actually sat on the grass outside the barriers- and Rodriguez and Jackie Stewart semi-successfully were able to get the massive crowd to move back.

        24th October 2021, 12:17

        The first F1 race at Indianapolis had 250,000 people just on race day!

  9. Incredible and in US of all places.

    Of course after covid people want to go to events, but still.

    Was this because of cheap ticket prices?

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