How did F1 crack the US market? Exploring Liberty Media's impact on the sport's meteoric rise in America

F1 Grand Prix of Miami
F1 had its first race in Miami last season

F1 finally appears to have cracked the US market. The calendar will have as many as three races in the United States this season. As many as 400,000 fans notably attended the 2022 F1 US GP over the three-day period.

This wasn't always the case, and there was even a time when F1 did not even have a single race on the calendar in the United States. However, ever since the Liberty Media takeover, there has been a concerted attempt at cracking the American market, and voila! It has worked.

So, how did this happen? Well, this was something that couldn't be pinpointed to a single step taken by the F1 owners. It was a gradual process where certain steps contributed to increasing the F1 fanbase in the United States.


Netflix's Drive to Survive Docuseries planted a seed

Drive to Survive has become a phenomenon that no one had initially expected it to be. The behind-the-scenes footage covering an F1 season as a concept was interesting, but the dramatic theater that came with it was a surprise.

There were so many things that were never reported in the media or said by a driver publicly that were shown in the series. While stuff like this made the series enticing for any hardcore fan, the series was interesting for people who did not even follow the sport at all.

With drama, storylines involved, and the way the series humanized the drivers resonated with the viewers and brought new fans to the sport. Drive to Survive was especially a huge success in the United States. Viewers got to know more about the drivers and the teams than they would in a normal broadcast.

A huge proportion of the new fans have started watching the sport after following the Netflix series and have loved the behind-the-scenes stuff in F1.


The increasing popularity of F1 drivers in the US market

Lewis Hamilton has been a household name globally because of his image that transcends the sport. The Mercedes driver is a global celebrity who often finds himself mingling with Hollywood personalities. He's close friends with Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Samuel L. Jackson, Rihanna, and so many others.

Hamilton's spearheading of the F1 grid made the sport more palatable for the new fans as well. To add to that, drivers like Daniel Ricciardo are superstars in the United States, primarily because their interest in various 'American Sports' resonated with the audience.

Daniel Ricciardo is a huge fan of MMA and the NFL and continuously talks about it on his social media. It was this link that landed him an interview with Ariel Helwani, one of the most prominent journalists in MMA.

While the Netflix series did give behind-the-scenes access to the drivers, it was the drivers' affable nature that helped Formula 1 gain such a following. Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Carlos Sainz, and others have now become stars in the American market because of their personalities.


The edge-of-the-seat 2021 F1 title battle

The final straw that broke the resistance in the American market was the spectacular 2021 Formula 1 season. The new fans who joined the sport in 2019 and 2020 saw a rather lukewarm title battle in those respective seasons.

Mercedes were a runaway winner and Lewis Hamilton was cruising to the title without breaking a sweat. This changed in the 2021 season when Red Bull turned up with a title-contending car for the first time since 2013.

Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen were embroiled in a title battle all season that kept the fans on the edge. There were action, drama, crashes, shouting matches, twists and turns at unexpected moments, and there was everything and more that you can expect from a title fight.

The season left fans addicted to Formula 1. As a result, two new tracks were sanctioned in the United States -- Miami and Las Vegas.

At the end of the day, what Liberty Media did was 'marketing 101'. It improved the product, packaged it better, and reached an untapped audience across the world. As a result, new fans joined the sport and helped Liberty unlock the door to the American market.

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Edited by Nicolaas Ackermann
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