Williams: US sponsors have doubled in F1 boom

Henry Valantine
Williams driver Alex Albon in front of the Miami crowd. Formula 1 May 2022.

Alex Albon drives around the left-hander in front of a packed crowd. Miami May 2022.

Williams commercial director James Bower has said there has been a more than two-fold increase in the number of American companies involved in Formula 1 since Liberty Media took control of the sport.

Formula 1 is enjoying arguably the most popular time in its history Stateside at the moment, with the success of Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive coupled with the entertainment on track combining to create a spectacle which is finally taking off in America.

The sport has been popular in Texas since it came to Austin and the Circuit of The Americas for the first time a decade ago, with a 400,000 sell-out crowd in attendance last season.

And the number of races in America will grow to three next season with the arrival of Las Vegas, alongside the recently-debuted Miami International Autodrome.

‘Cracking’ America has been a key target for Liberty Media since they took over the sport at the end of 2016, and their significant effort has appeared to pay off.

With that, a swathe of companies have joined the sport, says the Williams commercial director.

“In 2015, the count was there were 45 US-headquartered companies in the sport – the current count this year so far is there are 108, so it’s a double increase,” Bower said at the Business of F1 Forum, organised in part by the Motorsport Network.

“Mentioning tech partners, I think Formula 1 is undeniably the most data-driven sport on the planet, so we’re seeing this huge influx of tech companies, particularly from North America.

“Interestingly for us at Williams, we have new ownership with Dorilton, and not a lot of people understand what Dorilton do but they’re essentially a New York-based private equity house that have a portfolio of companies.

“One of the things they do actually have is a venture capital arm, Dorilton Ventures, that you’ll see on the car and the drivers. They’re leveraging Formula 1 with the founders of these early-stage tech companies, because you kind of find that these founders all love F1, even if they are in the US.”

Chloe Targett-Adams, Formula 1’s global director of race promotion and a key architect in bringing the sport to Vegas and Miami, thinks there are many reasons to be cheerful about the future of the sport in America.

She believes Formula 1 has “finally managed to crack that beautiful combination of great racing product, this amazing generation of young, hero drivers, and the Netflix effect, all coming together at that time.

“Miami as a location was something we started working on in 2017 with the Dolphins, and to see that finally come into play, and US audiences of 400,000-plus in COTA, having developed that after 10 years, it just feels like that right time where that engagement is there across that generation,” she added.

“It’s just the combination of it all coming together and seeing that growth in the future.”

With the rising interest in America comes the clamour for an American driver to come into Formula 1 for the first time since 2015, and prospective team owner Michael Andretti wants to see a “legitimate path” for such a move to happen in the near future, with IndyCar star Colton Herta linked with a possible move to McLaren in 2024.