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Formula One Appears To Be Taking A Turn For The Better In The U.S.

Formula One driver Fernando Alonso (ESP) during practice for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Prevost/Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports
Formula One driver Fernando Alonso (ESP) during practice for the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix. Photo Credit: Jerome Prevost/Presse Sports via USA TODAY Sports

When you think of Formula One, You think of the great racing countries like Italy, Germany and Great Britain. Each has a rich history, and each is a staple of Formula One and of racing in general. In the United States; however, the rich history just is not present.

In fact, the sport has never been very popular here. Take, for example the 1990 US Grand Prix in Phoenix. On the same day, there was an ostrich race in the nearby suburb of Chandler. According to the Prescott Courier, the Grand Prix was heavily outdrawn by the ostrich race, which attracted 75,000 fans.

Since those bleak days in the early 90’s, things appear to have taken a turn for the better. The new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas is the very first purpose-built Formula One racetrack in the United States. Not since Watkins Glen in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s has Formula One had a permanent home in the United States. With the Circuit of the Americas, that appears to have changed.

An estimated 265,000 spectators were in attendance at Formula One’s first year at the $400 million racing complex. The high attendance rate is encouraging for the young venue. However, in a country whose racing scene is already dominated by NASCAR, one may come to the conclusion that the barrier to entry for a racing sport in the United States is still quite high.

Quite the contrary.

Jon Miller, President of Programming at NBC Sports called the sport a “very attractive property,” citing the broadcast of the Monaco Grand Prix as evidence. The race took place at 7 a.m. on May 26th and still managed to attract more U.S. viewers than any other F1 race in the last 6 years. The potential is there; all that’s left is attracting new fans.

Though pulling fans of NASCAR over to Formula One seems it would be an obvious strategy, the fact of the matter is that the two sports attract totally different audiences. F1 fans tend to be highly affluent individuals, and rightfully so. According to Best Tickets US Grand Prix tickets range in price from $202 to $6,436 for the final day of the event with an average price of $761. Parking alone costs as much as $202. Compare that to the next NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, which has tickets ranging from $41 to $103 and an average price of $56, and it’s not even close.

The US grand Prix starts on Nov. 15th. If you can’t afford the hefty price tag, be sure to tune in and watch it from home. Lewis Hamilton, the winner of last year’s iteration of the race called it “one of the best, if the best Grand Prix” of the season. By the looks of things, there are many more great races to come.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

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