The Struggle of Being an F1 Fan in America
Formula One is one of the biggest sports in the world, so how can Liberty Media grow the sport?
The first F1 race I watched was the British GP in 2015. I knew what F1 was but had never watched a race or even heard of Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso. I was scrolling through the channels early one Sunday morning and decided to check it out. I tuned in just as Will Buxton was doing his grid walk for NBC Sports and it was like nothing I had seen before. It was simply overwhelming, with cars scattered along the grid, mechanics and media personnel scurrying about frantically with a handful of celebrities mixed in.
I had a general passion for cars and I had watched other forms of motorsport before so I wasn't totally lost, however, I quickly learned that Formula One is a totally different animal.
The lights went out and the Williams of Valterri Bottas and Felipe Massa split the Mercedes into turn one. I barely understood what was going on but whatever it was I loved it. The safety car was quickly deployed and the restart produced more battles at the top as Hamilton locked up attacking Massa and fell victim to Bottas.
The race continued to nonstop action as Hamilton took the lead in the pits while Rosberg battled the Williams and rain began to fall. I witnessed Hamilton and Vettel's world champion instincts as they both stopped on the perfect lap for intermediates. The scenes from the podium were incredible as the British fans displayed their passion
All of this left me in awe of Formula One, but watching the cars through Maggotts, Becketts, and Chapel was mesmerizing. I can remember staring at the TV with my mouth wide open absolutely in awe of what I was seeing.
To this day, I haven't met anyone on this side of the pond that follows F1 as closely as me, and even finding someone who knows what it is can be difficult. I constantly find myself talking endlessly about F1 to other people who think I'm talking in another language. That's how writing became my outlet to express my opinion.
I quickly found that F1 coverage in the U.S. is extremely limited. All qualifying sessions and races are televised but only select practice sessions make the cut. There's no additional coverage on any sports talk shows or news channels, which means you have to rely on the internet for the vast majority of additional news.
This is part of the reason behind Formula One's lack of popularity in the U.S. but the all time low was the 2005 U.S. GP. Only six cars started the race due to the Michelin tyre failures in turn 13. Michelin failed to find a solution to the problem prior to the race and advised that all of their teams withdraw from the race. This left fans attending the race, and around the world, extremely underwhelmed and asking for some form of compensation.
Since Liberty Media bought the sport the U.S. has been one of their main targets for growth. This weekend is a perfect example of that as the F1 Fan Festival takes place in Miami on Saturday while the US GP is in full swing in Austin. Both events aim to attract non-F1 fans with pop stars like Bruno Mars and Britney Spears headlining.
There are some advantages of being an F1 fan in America though. Every race and qualifying session is televised commercial free on ESPN which is included for free with nearly every TV subscription, unlike Sky Sports. Americans also have access to F1 TV which is new this year and has massively improved in the past few races, offering live onboards and full race replays.
Despite all this, access to F1 races can be difficult due to the size of the U.S. While Texas is one of the most central locations available, and it provides a great site to host the race, it's still difficult for a large number of fans to make it to the race. For example, from where I live it's a 15 hour drive to Austin with no stops and airfare can be too expensive for most.
A race in Miami is heavily rumored to make the calendar in 2020, but access to either race would still be difficult compared to the much larger number of races in Europe. This is why other racing series like, NASCAR and Indycar are much more popular since there are so many more races in the U.S.
Formula One is simply geared towards Europe since that is where the sport began and where the majority of the fanbase is. On the east coast of the U.S. I have to wake up at 8 a.m. for the majority of the races. Most people new to the sport aren't going to wake up that early on a weekend especially if you live on the west coast where that would be 5 a.m.
Despite all this it's an exciting time to be an F1 fan in America as the sport noticeably grows in popularity. For more coverage on the U.S. GP this weekend join F1 Addicts and don't forget to bump. Comment your favorite U.S. GP moment below.