Sport

The Miami Grand Prix has been compared to the Super Bowl after an epic event

MIAMI – Last weekend there was only one place on earth to see and be seen, and it was a small access road behind Hard Rock Stadium in South Florida.

The paddock at the Miami Formula One Grand Prix — which Lewis Hamilton compared to the Super Bowl and Max Verstappen joked that he needed protective headgear to navigate — rivaled the star-studded Oscars red carpet.

Paris Hilton and Bill’s quarterback Josh Allen were seen rubbing shoulders with David Beckham and DJ Khaled in the McLaren garage, while future Fox Sports analyst Tom Brady met Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union at Mercedes.

Elsewhere, Venus and Serena Williams strolled past golfing legend Bubba Watson and posed for a selfie with singer-songwriter Pharrell and watchmaker Richard Mille.

Venus and Serena Williams were among the A-listers taking part in the weekend's F1 Miami Grand Prix
Venus and Serena Williams were among the A-listers taking part in the weekend’s F1 Miami Grand Prix
Formula 1 via Getty Images

If anyone needed one more sign that Formula 1 had captured the imagination of American viewers, this was it.

The epic event signaled a shift in historically Europe-centric esports, which struggled to capitalize on the $73 billion North American esports market.

Although original plans for the race would have called for F1 cars on the streets of downtown Miami, the event encountered logistical obstacles and was relocated to Hard Rock Stadium thanks to a reported $60 million cash injection from the billionaire entrepreneur and owner of the Miami Dolphins, Stephen Ross.

Organizers were so keen to create a carnival-like atmosphere to live up to the pre-race hype – fueled in part by the popularity of the Netflix series Drive To Survive in the US – that they decided not to host one financial stake to assume loss this year.

“We know what we have to deliver now is the expectation. That’s probably the biggest challenge,” Miami Grand Prix CEO Richard Cregan recently told The Post, while Dolphins President and CEO Tom Garfinkel confirmed that spending “far exceeded expectations.”

“It will take two or three years before we are satisfied with the product [and] pleased with profitability,” said Cregan.

David Beckham and LeBron James were spotted chatting on Carbone Beach in Miami on Friday May 6, 2022
David Beckham and LeBron James were spotted chatting on Carbone Beach in Miami on Friday May 6, 2022
Getty Images for Carbone Beach

With a 10-year deal, it’s clear that 2022 was about putting on a spectacle, with the gains arriving later.

However, the glitz and glamor of the weekend wasn’t just reserved for the likes of LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Matt Damon watching from the hospitality suites – which happened to be catered for by Carbone’s parent company, Major Food Group. and celebrity magnet David Grutman—but also for the average fan.

Indeed, on Wednesday, more than 10,000 spectators – mostly young people – descended on the stadium for an opening party that resembled rock concert mania, as the drivers and team bosses, who were relatively unknown in the US, had only been introduced on the stage for a few years.

DJ Kygo performed a set and brought Brazilian superstar Anitta on stage alongside Joe Jonas to give attendees a taste of the star power to come in the days to come.

Elsewhere, fans could also have bought tickets – albeit expensive ones – to see the action on the track at the Hard Rock Beach Club or aboard a yacht at the MIA Marina, which was fitted with aquamarine plastic sheeting designed to look like real water should.

Barton and Gray co-founder Doug Gray, whose boats occupied two of the 10 slots in the dry dock’s marina, said the tickets sold out in less than three minutes and cost well over $9,500 a piece.

Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade compete ahead of the F1 Miami Grand Prix on Sunday May 8th, 2022
Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade compete ahead of the F1 Miami Grand Prix on Sunday May 8th, 2022
Formula 1 via Getty Images

“Our company does over 50 events a year: we made it to the Masters, we made it to the Super Bowl, and I can’t see how it’s done [the race] could have gotten better,” he told the Post.

Memes about the ‘fake’ Marina, which were all but inevitable on Twitter over the weekend, suggested the inland race had failed in an attempt to emulate the old-world glamor of the Monaco Grand Prix, which runs along the Mediterranean Sea.

However, Gray thinks critics are missing the point.

“It was very Florida and very Miami. I mean, Disney is in Florida,” Gray said, noting that attendees ranged from F1 superfans to conceded players in town to sip champagne and watch the spectacle.

“That’s a crucial element of the Florida experience: creating worlds from imagination. It was a world made for the bougie, glamorous, international lifestyle of South Florida, and I think they embraced it with a little tongue-in-cheek.

“Look at the fashion and party scene here, it’s always a bit absurd. And post-coronavirus, a little bit of absurdity felt great.”

Paris Hilton will play at the Evening with McLaren Racing event in Miami on Saturday, May 7, 2022
Paris Hilton will play at the Evening with McLaren Racing event in Miami on Saturday, May 7, 2022
Getty Images

Over at the Beach Club, well-dressed attendees lounged in cabanas or cooled off in the pool while sipping premium liquor.

The Post was told that A-listers like Tyga, Logan Paul, Maluma and The Chainsmokers also spent time in the area, while Zedd and Post Malone took the stage for appearances in between the on-track action. The latter even ended his set by drinking from a spectator’s shoe – a nod to McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo, who popularized the “Shoey” celebration.

Red Bull Energy Station also set up camp in Miami and played host to the likes of Dax Shephard, with the open bar and pumping tunes emphasizing as much as Verstappen’s stunning Sunday win.

As for the race itself, which became the most-watched F1 event in US television history, drivers and fans alike leveled criticism at the track.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez called it “a joke”, while other drivers like Ricciardo said there was only one line with enough grip on the newly built track, making the race “one dimensional” and making overtaking difficult.

Although Verstappen passed Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc on lap nine of 57 to take the lead, a relatively processual race ensued until a safety car was deployed on lap 41, messing up the order.

Red Bull Racing's Max Verstappen receives a trophy on the podium after winning F1's Miami Grand Prix on Sunday 8th May 2022
Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen receives a trophy on the podium after winning F1’s Miami Grand Prix on Sunday 8th May 2022
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

“Could be a bit [like] Baku,” said Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, citing the Azerbaijan Grand Prix and the punishment at a street circuit.

One has only to look at Baku’s spectacularly uneventful inaugural race in 2017, followed by some of the most dramatic F1 races of modern times, to see what Miami could deliver for years to come.

Many would argue that the less-than-exciting race did little to detract from the spectacle, with some fans spending the entire weekend in South Beach just attending side events.

Travis Scott, Snoop Dogg and Martin Garrix headlined parties across town, while celebs flocked to intimate offerings like the $3,000-a-head Carbone Beach Party or the Red Bull Guest House.

Even McLaren’s Lando Norris and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly, who clashed on track during Sunday afternoon’s race, appeared to have resolved all tensions in time to catch Miami nightlife at the E11 even a few hours later.

Teams were also present on the party scene, most notably McLaren, which hosted several sponsorship events, including an intimate Q&A with their drivers, followed by a Hilton DJ set.

Travis Scott performing during Miami Race Week 2022 on May 8, 2022 at E11EVEN Miami
Travis Scott performing during Miami Race Week 2022 on May 8, 2022 at E11EVEN Miami
Getty Images for E11EVEN

“We know we’re in the sports and entertainment business, and we know that the most important customer is the fan,” McLaren CEO Zak Brown told the Post.

“This really feels like the Super Bowl — celebrities everywhere, corporate partners everywhere. The city is buzzing.”

With Formula 1 heading to Monaco in a few weeks and inevitable comparisons drawn to Miami’s inaugural race, Gray urged fans to consider the events as entirely unique offerings.

“South Florida doesn’t have to try to be anything other than South Florida like Monaco would never try to be South Florida,” he said.

“They can both stand on their own two feet … and I can’t wait to get back to Miami.”

https://nypost.com/2022/05/12/miami-grand-prix-likened-to-super-bowl-after-epic-event/ The Miami Grand Prix has been compared to the Super Bowl after an epic event

JOE HERNANDEZ

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