We’re going to Miami (Gardens).
OK, so Formula 1 has had to shift its focus about 15 miles north of where it originally wanted to race, and the downtown venue has been replaced with parking lots around the Hard Rock Stadium, but a grand prix in Miami is GO.
It has taken years of work, and some pretty serious negotiating with local residents and elected officials, but 2022 will see F1 cars racing in South Florida, and hopefully two grands prix in the United States for the first time in 38 years.
I have to say “hopefully” because Circuit of The Americas does not have a confirmed contract running beyond this year’s edition of the race, but all of the signs point to an extension. F1 is keen to return to Austin and wants to keep the two venues apart on the calendar to give them space to thrive, so it would be a bit of a PR disaster if their U.S. expansion turned out to be a simple replacement of one race for the other.
But now is a time to celebrate the addition of Miami, because it is a project over three years in the making. And while it might not be downtown, the race is headed to a venue that is set up to host major sporting spectacles.
“I think we have a vision to create a global entertainment destination,” Miami Grand Prix managing partner Tom Garfinkel said. “The site exists to bring in the biggest events in the world and now with the Super Bowl, the National Championship game, international soccer, Miami Open tennis and really, there is no bigger event in the world than Formula 1 racing.
“So this is something we have worked on for a while and, frankly, while maybe it took a long time, if you look at the amount of diligence that goes into it, taking the time to listen to the community, putting that diligence through a global pandemic we have all been dealing with, it actually wasn’t a long time when you put it in perspective.
“What it takes to put one of these things on is pretty significant and there’s a lot of diligence that went into it. It was the right time to ask the question earlier, but there was never a time when we didn’t want it to happen or didn’t think it would happen. Sometimes you just will things to happen and when you have great partners you are able to get that accomplished.”
Switching the venue to Hard Rock Stadium does initially seem like the second choice, and in many ways it is. There’s no denying it would look so much better to see cars racing along Biscayne Boulevard among the skyscrapers, and across Port Boulevard to provide the full backdrop.
But how it looks doesn’t necessarily have an impact on how good the racing is, and Garfinkel thinks the track design in Miami Gardens is a better offering from a sporting perspective.
“I think that it’s going to be a lot better in certain respects,” he insists. “When we originally looked at the city design, you have a lot of constraints around a racetrack.
“The first priority was creating a great racing circuit for the drivers, for the fans, multiple passing opportunities… and when we looked at the Hard Rock site we had basically a blank sheet of paper to work with — designers to work with, Formula 1 and obviously the FIA who I would like to thank as well — to put together a racetrack that is dynamic in a lot of ways, hopefully.
“And secondly, to be able to put on great experiences that are uniquely reflective of the diversity of Miami and everything we do. And again, having existing infrastructure there, having things in place, we think we’re in a better position to be able to do that.
“If you look at what we did with the Miami Open tennis tournament, for example, what we’re going to be able to do is completely transform into a campus with landscaping, and all kind of different opportunities, with food and beverage areas.
“We want to create an environment where people are blown away when they get there, and I think starting with sort of a blank sheet of paper, to design a circuit with the designers and F1 and the FIA that has a lot of passing opportunities.
“There’s going to be vistas from the stadium which sits at the center of the circuit, you can walk around the top deck of the stadium and see every turn on the racetrack –a pretty unique opportunity. The infrastructure we have in place, the club spaces, the things we can take advantage of in and around the campus, it’s going to be beautiful. I don’t really see any limitations; in fact I just see opportunities.”
From F1’s perspective, the culture aspect is not being overlooked, either. Chase Carey used to talk about “destination cities” that he wanted the sport to race in, and Miami is exactly that. His successor as F1 CEO, Stefano Domenicali, says the city’s identity is something that can be incorporated regardless of the precise track location.
“It’s not a compromise,” Domenicali said. “As always, when you look for different solutions you need to consider all of the elements that make everyone happy. I am sure that the track you are going to see around the Hard Rock Stadium and Miami Gardens will be fantastic.
“We will build up something that will be spectacular — you will see Miami because we are in Miami, and that will be really the right choice.
“The community is really happy and one of the things that we as Formula 1 want is to be really integrated. Not only as Tom was saying before, about the fact that there will be a business opportunity for everyone — we want to take the opportunity to get into the culture with the people, with the schools, with the people that are living close to the track, This is really something that will give an added value to the cultural meaning of what Formula 1 is.”
It’s an event that should work for the city, and will almost certainly work for the sport from a marketing point of view. But as well as being a business success it does need to provide the right sporting challenge for F1 drivers too, and Domenicali is certain Miami has that potential.