Lacklustre Miami now under the spotlight after Las Vegas GP success

Elizabeth Blackstock
Miami Grand Prix track

Miami Grand Prix track

The dust has settled on Formula 1’s third American race of 2023, the Las Vegas Grand Prix, and many fans have found themselves surprised by the success of the event — especially when compared to the event in Miami.

Both races may be American street circuits, but the surprising success of Vegas has left many wondering why Miami felt so lackluster in comparison.

Having attended both events, I’ve seen firsthand how the two events differ, including what has made the Las Vegas Grand Prix feel like a greater spectacle than Miami.

Location, Location, Location

There are very few tracks on the Formula 1 calendar that are easily accessible by foot or by public transportation, and Las Vegas is one of them.

While the temporary circuit caused frustration for locals due to its location through the main artery of the city, fans leaving the action could simply walk back to their hotels or take advantage of one of the plentiful rideshares.

The great location also meant that F1 fans flew in from around the world with the sole intention of sneaking glimpses of cars through cracks in the fence or from vantage points on pedestrian escalators.

By contrast, the Miami Grand Prix is actually located about 20 miles outside of downtown proper; during the race weekend, roads were clogged with traffic as fans tried to leave the circuit and head back to their lodgings.

Fans I spoke to after the Las Vegas event were pleased that they were able to walk out of their hotel on the Strip and access great racing by foot.

Engagement everywhere

Walk down the Las Vegas strip during Grand Prix weekend, and you’ll be greeted with countless opportunities for engagement.

Not only did teams like Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, and Williams establish official F1 activations around town, but nearly every bar or restaurant was celebrating the race.

Many establishments offered race-day watch parties while some sold special tickets for outdoor seating that faced the track. Others had special meals or drinks inspired by Formula 1. And, even if a certain location didn’t fully embrace the F1 theme, they likely had decorated for the event. Motorsport was everywhere.

Because the Miami Grand Prix takes place so far from Miami proper, it was totally possible to attend the South Florida event without running into any significant race weekend activations. I spoke to countless fans throughout the Sin City weekend; over 21 people had flown to Vegas without any race tickets, simply because the city offered so many F1-adjacent activities.

As one fan told me, it was like the entire city had transformed into a “Formula 1 convention,” unlike anything they’d seen in their decade-long fandom.

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The city vibe

Las Vegas is a neon-soaked oasis in the middle of the Nevada desert, a place where people flock to get a taste of a lifestyle that may not be accessible to them at home.

It’s a city unlike any other in the way it can cater to both the ultra-rich as well as the traveler on a budget, and it’s also one of the only cities in the world that can still facilitate a street race down its main thoroughfare. In many ways, that makes it the perfect city for Formula 1.

Miami may be a hot-spot vacation destination, but its purpose as a city isn’t founded around the transitory nature of travel. That makes it far more difficult for an organization like F1 to turn up and essentially take over the city for a weekend.

Part of F1’s growing appeal in America is its novelty; fans who have grown up with American sports like baseball or NASCAR have turned to F1 to experience some of the European-style luxury the sport brings with it everywhere it goes.

F1 still feels a little foreign, and its ability to take over a city known for its chameleon-like ability to adopt new personalities depending on the big event in town means that Las Vegas feels like a more natural home for the sport than Miami.

Compelling racing

While Formula 1 might love a good show, at the end of the day, it’s the racing that matters — and Las Vegas provided compelling racing in spades. The Las Vegas Grand Prix provided 99 overtakes and seven lead changes while the podium battle went down to the final lap. The 2023 Miami Grand Prix, by contrast, provided 60 overtakes, only one of which was for the lead.

Of course, many of those Vegas overtakes likely had to do with slick track conditions, cool temperatures, a shuffled starting order, and penalties — but those variables are also a critical part of motorsport.

The Las Vegas track is wide and features plenty of long straights for DRS activation and slipstreaming; paired with diverging strategies, viewers were treated to an exceptional show that managed to convert even the most skeptical of the bunch into cheering fans.

All the pressure to deliver was on Las Vegas, now it has shifted to Miami after this successful Sin City spectacle.

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