Miller: The Undeniable Appeal of Formula 1 Racing

Formula 1 has grown in the U.S. in the last several years due to partnerships with ESPN & Netflix

Posted on February 24, 2023

  By Dane Miller, SuperWest Sports

It’s 5:45 am on a Sunday morning and the alarm clock on your phone is buzzing incessantly.

Barely awake, you pull yourself out of bed to make your way into the kitchen. As the electric kettle boils the water for your coffee, you flip on ESPN and hear the Formula 1 introduction music blaring to life.

It’s race day.

Such is the routine of an American fan of the world’s premier international auto racing series.

The sport of Formula 1 has grown in the U.S. over the last handful of years thanks to its partnerships with ESPN and Netflix. For some, the shorter races, lack of commercial interruptions, and appeal of brands like Ferrari and McLaren have drawn them in.

Others may point to the variety of tracks and driver rivalries that implore them to wake up early on Sundays. For more, it’s the danger of driving a car at high speeds through narrow streets in faraway countries.

Whatever the reasons are, there is something undeniable about the appeal of Formula 1.

Car racing in the United States has historically been dominated by NASCAR. But as the fanbase of the sport has aged out, a new series has garnered a foothold.

The followers of F1 in America are generally younger, more middle-class, and somewhat fed up with NASCAR’s way of doing things.

Max Verstappen drives in the 2022 Italian Grand Prix. | Eric Alonso/Getty Images

A stock car race on FOX could take up to four hours with at least a third of the event spent watching commercials.

In Formula 1, a race is automatically over if it’s not finished within two hours, and not a single commercial will interrupt the action.

Combined with the regularity of races held on city streets around the world, the differences between the two series are stark.

Similar to the increased popularity of European soccer leagues, there is a guttural, instinctual feeling that draws Americans into the action.

Most of the teams in F1 are based in England and ESPN simulcasts coverage of the events from UK-based Sky Sports. All the commentators are either English or Scottish, and the entire production is biased toward the British drivers.

The sport truly emerged on the American scene in 2021 when Max Verstappen and Lewis Hamilton had an all-time fight for the championship. The battle came down to the last laps of the final race and was marred by a controversial decision.

That decision put Verstappen in a position to win and resulted in F1 changing its rules while firing the Race Director that made the call.

Still, that season saw the series come out of a niche and into a greater spotlight.

The following year, Miami hosted its first race and Americans set the league’s all-time attendance record for a race weekend with over 400,000 people at the event in Austin.

Formula 1 racing is scheduled to return to Austin in 2023 | Circuit of The Americas

With a third race coming this year along the streets of Las Vegas, Formula 1 is poised to grow even further.

An American driver is returning to the grid for the first time in nearly a decade and there is a forceful push to bring another American team into the mix by 2026.

Gene Haas is the founder, owner, and bankroller of Haas F1 Team—the sport’s only truly US-owned organization.

Bursting into Formula One in 2016 with a partnership with Ferrari, Haas provides American fans with a homegrown team to cheer for.

As one of the most underfunded and smallest organizations in the series, the team is the prototypical underdog that’s easy to root for.

Not close to competing for wins like the big dogs—Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull—a successful weekend for Haas is finishing in the Top 10 to score points.

Led by Denmark driver Kevin Magnussen, the team is on the cusp of returning to the success it enjoyed in its early years. US-based companies are coming on board, with MoneyGram and Chipotle recently signing deals.

With a factory in North Carolina and satellite facilities in England and Italy, the budget for the team is set to expand with the newly injected cash.

Few drivers in 2023 will have raced as many grand prix as Nico Hulkenberg. |

German driver Nico Hulkenberg has been brought in to replace Mick Schumacher, creating a veteran one-two punch that substantially raises the team’s expectations.

No longer will Top 10 finishes be a somewhat unrealistic hope that happens a few times a season. Now, points finishes are the expectation.

With a substantial push to enter F1 from Andretti Autosport backed by General Motors, the time for the Haas-Ferrari partnership to reach new heights is now.

An American team hasn’t won a race in Formula 1 since 1978. As a comparison, Austria’s Red Bull had 17 victories last year alone.

But what would be the point in cheering for a well-established, dominant team that wins every weekend? Similar to the appeal of the U.S. Men’s National Team in soccer, it’s the underdog nature that creates so much pride.

As the saying goes, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”

Although a win in 2023 may be a dream, Haas should have the car to capitalize on rainy races that balance the field. Nobody expected Magnussen to secure a pole position last season, yet the Dane got the job done in the wet in Brazil.

It may take a miracle, but like the 1980 Olympic hockey game against the USSR, the seemingly impossible can happen.

Regardless of which team you cheer for, the buzz of Formula 1 in America is in full swing. The first race of the season is just around the corner on March 8th and it’s anyone’s guess what storylines evolve as the year goes on.

With increasing eyes on the series each year, the American era of Formula 1 has arrived.

—More from Dane Miller—