The United States Grand Prix on Sunday in Austin, Texas, is the last race in a contract that Formula 1 signed with the Circuit of the Americas in 2012, but the Grand Prix has become so popular that the track’s chief executive, Bobby Epstein, is confident. that the new deal will be signed.
“We’ve proved that this is a phenomenon that has a tradition now, that you can’t buy, and it takes years to set up,” Epstein said in an interview. “When you find a formula that works, you don’t want to lose it.
“Anything that halts that momentum will be potentially irreversibly damaging. Given that we begin this as a settlement point, I am quite optimistic that it will continue for a long time.”
Formula 1 officials would not comment on the future of the race.
The United States Grand Prix returned to the Formula 1 calendar nine years ago, after a five-year hiatus. It was last held in Indianapolis in 2007 and spent most of the 1960s and ’70s in New York. The Austin Circuit, a purpose-built track, was unveiled to great acclaim.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo is a fan.
“Everything Austin I love,” he said. “The first year we went there, I really didn’t know much about it. I went very open-minded, and was amazed at how calm the people of the city were. The atmosphere on the track was fantastic.
“The track is fun and good. I love it all. There are points on the track you can go through, which isn’t always that easy in F1 these days, so it’s really cool. You get to be creative. can.”
Like any business, the track suffered during the coronavirus pandemic. The race was canceled in 2020, with “a 96 percent drop in revenue,” Epstein said.
“We couldn’t have done less than the spring of 2020, when we had to lay off many of our employees,” Epstein said.
The Grand Prix has become popular, with attendance increasing by almost 20 percent since 2015. More than 350,000 people are expected over the weekend this year.
“We’ve certainly seen that there is demand for tickets,” Epstein said.
“We probably could have sold another 100,000 more than what we’ve sold this year.”
“Lakhs have been invested in infrastructure,” he said. This includes new permanent and temporary grandstands with 37,000 seats.
There is a new bridge that connects the fans to the infield, leading to what is called the Track Rodeo Driveway, an area with high-end shops and restaurants as well as amusement rides.
“The improvements have allowed us to increase the number of tickets we are able to sell and, in turn, significantly increase our budget for entertainment at the event,” Epstein said.
The growth of American fans has also been influenced by Netflix’s “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” series.
“There’s no doubt that the Netflix series has had a massive impact,” Epstein said. “Where we see repeat buyers, we now see a higher number of tickets bought per transaction, which indicates to us that more families are coming.
“At the same time, the number of new ticket buyers and new inquiries has propelled us from prior attendance levels into this new stratosphere. It’s the Netflix effect of bringing in new people.”
Before the pandemic, the race had to overcome the impact of the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix, when Mexican fans who had come to Austin in the past bought tickets for their home event.
Epstein said the first year was “definitely a punch, and the second year to a lesser extent.” This was eventually offset by the growth of the American fan base.
The following year, the two races would take place in the United States for the first time since 1984, when they were held in Dallas and Detroit, if the Austin contract was signed. The Miami Grand Prix will start in May.
“There’s absolutely room for both,” Epstein said. He is confident that the Miami race will be “very complementary to our event, given the difference in timing and experience on the calendar.”